Wednesday, 25 September 2013

At the heart of the waterways.Five Northamptonshire writers.

At the heart of the English waterway system, Northamptonshire has been the home for several writers of the canal scene. I think that none of them can claim to have been born in the county but they have all in their separate ways been influenced by,  or come to reside in, the county because of the Grand Union canal.
There can be few people who enjoy reading canal books who will not be familiar with this author. Residing beside the canal at Stoke Bruerne David has for many years been a lover and passionate advocate for the canal world and its way of life. Diametrically opposed  to some modern authors who seem to see a canal as little more than a linear pleasure park, David Blagrove has always had the true interests of the canal and its boat population at heart. A man with his heart in the right place. A sentiment that is true I think of all the five authors chosen.
Of his many books ‘The Quiet Waters By’ tells of his early involvement with Narrow Boats & of his time on the Kennett & Avon canal & River Thames. ‘Bread upon the Waters’ (1998) moves the story on to an early life spent carrying cargo on the Grand Union Canal. He has also written interestingly about Northamptonshire's Waterways (1990) and about the canal and his home village (1972)and also that of the canalside village of Braunston amongst others – ‘At The Heart of The Waterways’ (2002).
All these books are readily available.
Our Canal Population – A Cry from the Boat Cabins with Remedy.1879.
Another man from another era but with the same campaigning zeal published his first pleas for a reformation of the boat peoples living conditions in the early 1870’s. By the time the second edition of his book was published in 1879 his parliamentary act had been passed but it had taken nearly 10 years and wrecked his health and impoverished him in the process. He was a resident of Welton a village close to the canal and near Daventry.
First or second editions in various conditions can usually be found (£50 - £150) or a facsimile copy was published in the mid 1970’s.
‘Canal Holiday’ (1957).                     ‘Cruise of The Susan’ (1958)
Already an extremely successful children's writer with many titles to her credit, Winifred Finlay moved to a village just outside Northampton in the mid 1950’s. She e seems to have immersed herself in the canal world immediately absorbing all the influences that she would need for her next two books. Canal Holiday follows the adventures of children on a Narrow Boat voyage from Northampton to Banbury & cannot be faulted for authentic detail. Likewise for The Cruise of the Susan which is again a narrow boat adventure set on the Nene.
Such is the demand from collectors for these two books that neither of them is found easily and are consequently quite pricey. They were never republished so £50 - £75 can be the price for good copies.
still waterstroubled waters
First Edition copies of ‘Still Waters’1982 & ‘Troubled Waters’ 1987.
Margaret Cornish worked as a bus ‘clippie’ in Oxford during the second world war before leaving to join the war time women trainees of the Grand Union canal carrying fleet. She wrote her memoir of this time ‘Troubled Waters’  whilst she was living on the converted butty Alphons on the Grand Union Canal at Stowe Hill, Northants.
Margaret Cornish will be remembered for two very authentic and readable books which are still available & which can still be found in first editions with dust jackets for the very modest price of £10 - £15.
Last but not least and published in 2002 is  John Thorpe’s account of his early years accompanying working boats and their families on their journeys  around the system. A Northampton schoolboy, his parents had bought a canalside cottage at Stoke Bruerne and it was in this close proximity to the boats that he got to know the boatpeople.
Authentic and very readable – Published by ‘Warerways World’ and still I think in print.

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