Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Boatmen's ganseys


The boatman, Adrian Lovett, (above) on 'Elland' (the horse-drawn boat) was wearing a lovely traditional boatman's gansey, as was Mike Clarke (below) who is the Founder and President of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal Society.  The Society was set up in 1998 to help promote the canal, to encourage greater understanding and appreciation of the canal's history and environment and to ensure that its traditions and heritage are recorded and continued.  Both men have a wealth of knowledge and a huge enthusiasm for sharing and teaching.  They were a delight to talk to.


Mike was telling me about these ganseys.  They were worn with dark blue corduroy trousers and were knitted in dark blue oiled wool, making them shower-proof and very warm in winter.  They were often knitted by the boatmen's wives, who lived in canalside cottages, many of them over in Burscough in Lancashire.  They were similar in style to guernseys, the traditional fishermen's sweater.  Knitted without a seam, on five needles, they would have been very heavy to knit.  You can download* a knitting pattern for the gansey Mike is wearing, adapted to knit in pieces to make it easier.  The pattern is based on a gansey knitted in the 1930s by a woman in Bootle in Lancashire, which is now displayed in the Nationals Waterways Museum in Gloucester, and which is considered to be typical of this canal's style.

* Google 'gansey knitting pattern' and look for a PDF file at Mike's website: www.mikeclarke.myzen.co.uk

8 comments:

  1. I rather fancy a gansey, myself.

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    1. I'd offer to knit you one - except that I can't knit!

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  2. A very practical garment. I could use one.

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  3. You know, I'd say that these canal photos have such an 'Americana' look and feel to them if they were on this side of the pond. :-) Beautiful. Love them all!

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  4. Perhaps you already know, but the ganseys of the fishermen on the East Coast of Yorkshire each have a different pattern for each village they come from, so that if anyone was lost at sea they could be more easily identified.

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    1. I kind of knew that the patterns had local associations - but not the reason. That's very sensible really, isn't it? Though sad too - reminds us how dangerous open sea fishing is/was.

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  5. Terrific portraits and gorgeous ganseys... but I won't be knitting one in this lifetime! I own a couple of self-knitted pullovers, made in a very down period of my life, a place I never want to visit again. :-)

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