Wednesday, 29 June 2011


At Braunston on Sunday, we were just mooring up Ling after the parade when we met Sophie and her carer (grand-daughter?). Sophie's family used to work Ling and the butty with which it was paired (not sure which one) in the days when the boat belonged to Fellows, Morton and Clayton (in the 30s). She was born on the butty and grew up working the pair with her family. There is a lovely photo in Tony Lewery's book The Art of the Narrowboat Painters, which shows Sophie steering Ling at the age of about 8. (I haven't got it to reproduce here but I've ordered the book.)

She was in a wheelchair, but when she saw Ling, you could see a change in her - she stepped on the stern quite nimbly for someone of her years, and you could tell she was born to it! From the smile on her face it was clear that she was happy to see the boat again. I wish we could have spent more time with her, hearing her stories - there aren't ever so many people left who grew up working the canals. 

Sarah and Sophie
Edit: Sarah looked Sophie up, and found that she was recently married at the grand old age of 86, to her second husband Dennis. Their sweet story is here, and gives a little more detail about her life:
"She can remember delivering "crump"-pebble-like cocoa extract - to Cadbury's factory at Bourneville, and also carried sugar and travelled the length of the Manchester ship canal.
Sophie has vivid memories of life on the canal, where she lived until 1955 when she moved to Low Hill"
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  1. Any relation to the late Kevin Scragg I wonder?

  2. What a lovely story :-)