I was fortunate to accompany Dad on what was, I think, his last major trip on his boat Dudley No 3. This went, with the NBCYC, from Nantwich north through Ellesmere Port and to Weston Point Docks and return.
I have only my late first wife’s diary to consult, but it seems that this took place at August Bank Holiday Monday. I think that the trip began on Friday 22nd or Saturday 23rd August at Nantwich; at any event, the boat was to be found moored at Mollington on the A41, in much the same place as on the Whit trip 20 years before, which had been our first cruise through Ellesmere Port. Brenda and I drove down to Mollington on Sunday 24th, joining the boat at 7.55 a.m.; we set off immediately. The canal locks at Ellesmere Port had been restored since our previous visits, now passing through the Boat Museum, and her diary records that we arrived at the Ship Canal at 8.30 [I suspect not, this was more likely the top of the locks].
The boats then passed in convoy up the Ship Canal, which was less busy than before – closure of the upper reaches, above Runcorn, had been mooted in 1984. Work to renovate and modernise the facilities at Weston Point Docks (confusingly, on the Weaver Navigation, owned by British Waterways) had been completed. Had closure of the Ship Canal taken place, it would have included the section beyond here, east of Runcorn.
What I recall is a large convoy, of somewhat larger boats than those that had taken this Ship Canal trip in 1966-8. We arrived and tied up, and there was some sort of welcoming ceremony by then then manager. I asked him about the traffic that Weston Point was handling, but he was cagey, lest the details leak out to competitors. Timber was certainly being handled at that time. We walked to the upper basin, where a large barge was moored up.
I recall little of the return journey, although Dad was unusually scathing and dismissive about his business partner; had he survived, I suspect there would have been ructions. Dad rarely talked work outside his workplace, even to me, so he must have been especially concerned. A personal memory is at the broad locks at Ellesmere Port, where the emptying of the top lock tended to flood the pound below.
Having returned to Mollington by the evening, we went home by car, and, after some thought, agreed to return the next day. August Bank Holiday Monday (25th that year) was the last day that I spent with Dad on his boat. Again there are few memories, bar the large numbers of boats queuing at locks, although some had dispersed by now. A lift back to the car at Mollington, and that was that. Less than 7 weeks later he was gone.
More may follow….
Begun 25 March 2017; further work 26 February 2018