Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Friends of Raymond

No, it's not a euphemism.

In the brief middle-class period of my childhood I had a bedroom that overlooked the canal in Boxmoor. And one of my strongest memories of those days - it can only date from 1969 and 1970 - is the Fellows, Morton & Clayton narrowboats that still carried cargo along the Grand Union. I now know that they were bringing coal from Leicestershire mines in the Ashby Canal down to London.

The first sign that they were coming was the thump thump thump of their diesel engines, which was could be heard well before they emerged from the mist. And the boat that I remember most of all is Raymond. I last saw her moored up at Braunston in the late 1970s.

You can read the boat's history on a website devoted to her:

Raymond was launched in 1958 and was mainly used to carry coal from the Midlands to London. She was initially towed by the motor Roger and later by Nutfield.

Throughout their working life they were operated by Arthur and Rose Bray and her son Ernie Kendal.

One of the more famous jobs was carrying coal from Atherstone to the Kearley & Tonge jam factory at Southall, known as the "Jam 'Ole Run".

Trade ceased in 1970 but the Brays continued to live aboard until, in 1980, they sold Raymond to Jim & Doris Collins who lived aboard until 1993. She was then taken to Runcorn where it was expected that she would be restored. However, she fell further into disrepair and sank.

But that was not the end of the story:
In 1996 she was acquired by the "Friends of Raymond" and in April 1997 was refloated and towed to the Black Country Living Museum at Dudley where decisions could be better made about how to proceed with the restoration.
As the Friends of Raymond website says:
By December 1999 (less than two years later) restoration work was under way and by the start of July 2000 Raymond was back in Braunston and moored just a few yards from where she had been built in 1958.
You can find out more about the boat and join the Friends of Raymond on its website.

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