Monday, 7 November 2016
It is always a surprise and a delight when readers of my blog contact me. After I posted the photos I took at the recent celebrations of the bicentenary of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal, I received a lovely message from Peter, in Germany. He has kindly allowed me to reproduce (below) the recollections he shared, which I think paint a wonderful picture of a childhood in the 1950s and the history of the Canal.
My photo above shows the bridge over the Leeds-Liverpool Canal in Shipley, at the point where the Bradford Branch canal (to which Peter refers) used to fork off. The branch canal has since been closed and filled in. The bridge allowed boat horses to walk from one towpath to the other.
'Thank you for your blog with so many beautiful photos! They bring back such lovely memories for me. I remember the tramway behind Salt’s Mill and helping the last L+L [Leeds and Liverpool] boatmen. For me, a boy on his bicycle, the canal between Leeds and Skipton was my secret, perfect world. I am speaking of 1958 when I was 13 yrs of age. I attended Prince Henry’s Grammar School in Otley. After feeding my rabbits every spare second was spent assisting and talking with the Shipley boatmen. Glovers barges then carried 40 tons of coal from Allerton Bywater near Castleford up through Leeds to the mills of Shipley, Bingley and Skipton. Tate and Lyle’s sugar and the wool traffic from Liverpool had ceased. I witnessed the canal’s swan song.
The boatmen were so good to me. My special friend told me his first trip on the barges was up to Bradford with carbouys of sulphuric acid. Pumping water up the Bradford Branch using steam engines was always expensive and it finally closed in 1922. Billy told me of his horse, Peggy. One bitterly cold morning he brought her out of the stable in Shipley and attached the swingle-tree. She towed the barge as far as Hirst Wood lock. Seizing her opportunity, she broke free and galloped back to Shipley with Billy chasing after. He found Peggy standing in front of the stable door. Said Billy smiling, „that Peggy, she were nobody’s fool!“
If in Shipley you walk in the (Leeds) direction toward Dockfield Mill and the wonderfully iconic stone bridge [photo above] diagonally opposite, where new flats now stand, stood Ramseys boatyard where so many wooden barges were built. The famous Shipley barges were lighter and swam well.They were easier for the horses. Much later, sixties film star Lawrence Harvey filmed "Room at the Top" under that bridge. The cameras and lights were set up on Glovers coal boats. A boatman once said to me, "ah've allus 'ad a puir wage". Thus they really admired Harvey's style and gorgeous sheepskin coat!
I went to sea as an engineer with Texaco Overseas Tankship. Our regular routes were Saudi Arabia to Australia, America, Trinidad and Europe. Later I was responsible for the harbour repair work for a Bremerhaven shipyard. That was fascinating. Each day a new new type of ship: a Hull trawler, a Swedish 4000 car transporter from Japan, an Egyptian container ship, a British Cunard banana ship from the West Indies.
Now retired, I still live in Germany in the pretty Pied-Piper town of Hameln.
I thank you so much for your delightful photos of an area very special to me. So much pleasure!'
Isn't that lovely? Thanks so much, Peter.