The Canal Preservation Society
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The Annual Industrial Trip (1973) - The 'Official' Story
from the 1973 College magazine
Mike Evans hauling Jacky Green out of the water.
The Canal Preservation Society Annual Industrial Trip
This year a small, but dedicated group of 6th formers, under the guidance of Mr. Moss and Mr. Wood, spent the half-term holiday in the autumn term studying the Midland Canals and their role in modern life. Mr. Wood decided that the only way to appreciate 'canal life' was to participate; so a 50 foot barge was was duly hired, and we set off with some misgivings from our base on the Oxford canal. The barge, however, soon proved to be the major attraction of the trip, being built to accommodate 8 people full time, and the first day or so was spent by the menfolk in learning how to master our first 'ship of the realm' whilst the girls tried (with little success) to master the complexities of cooking while the ship was steaming at full speed down the narrow canals.
Although we found little of industrial importance (the voyage taking us through remote Oxford countryside), the canals themselves were extremely interesting, with their many locks (one can only truly appreciate the number of locks when one has to open them all), their tiny lock-keepers' cottages, and the hinged wooden road bridges which were lifted by hand to allow the canal traffic to pass beneath.
The whole exuded an atmosphere of serenity to be found in few other places in the industrial Midlands. Life seemed to have slowed down, with the few cargo barges chugging slowly to their unknown destinations, fishermen smoking lazy pipes on the green banks, and bridges and locks that were primitive to the point of obsolescence. Progress seems to have left England's canals behind, with the exception of the modern dredgers that are keeping the canals alive; and perhaps it is this 'olde worlde' flavour that makes them such an attraction to the modern city dweller.
The trip itself was extremely varied; pastimes ranging from playing 'conkers' on the 'ship's bridge' and football in neighbouring pastures, to trips to deserted villages, a detailed study of the architecture of Banbury and discussions in the evenings on entropy and high energy physics. The operation of the locks and maintenance of our ship (Ra III) were full time jobs in themselves, but in the dull moments we amused ourselves guessing at what the meals were supposed to be.
In all, the trip was a highly educational and gratifying experience, and if, as a result, we know little of Midland Industry, at least we can all manipulate 50 feet of barge, operate locks as if we had spent our lives at it, and can pinpoint with alarming accuracy every public house between Oxford and Banbury! What is more to the point, we all feel that now we can understand more easily what once made the canals a way of life in their own right.
It is with some regret that I report that our founder-member, Mr. A.S. Wood, is moving on next year, and so this little known society will be no more. I therefore use this opportunity to give our thanks to our able and dedicated captain, Mr. D. Moss, without whose leadership and brilliant seamanship, the trip would never have been possible (we only went aground twice); and finally thanks to Mr. Wood, the organiser of the affair, who never flinched in the face of fearsome financial losses, never panicked unduly when his crew were lost overboard (which they regularly were) and for his devotion above and beyond the call of duty at mealtimes when, instead of raising a cynical eyebrow and complaining (as was the ship's custom), he finished every 'meal' with a forced smile and "Very nice, that," a fitting epitaph to the whole historic voyage.
Ship's company were:
Ruth n' Jane Pearson
(written by Michael Evans)
The Annual Industrial Trip (1973) - The 'Unofficial' Story
What really happened, by Mike Evans.
The 'Canal Preservation Society' never really existed, and as such could not organise an 'annual trip,' industrial or otherwise, but the write-up for the magazine was a tongue-in-cheek parody of the general club and society blurb, with the added pleasure of recounting our week long pub crawl 'officially' but in such a way as to evade any reproach (the accompanying photo helped to set the scene...). I still wonder how the editorial committee let it pass ....
On looking back, the whole escapade was a tribute to the wonderful teachers we had then, and the opportunities which could be found to side-step the rules and relate as people - sixth formers coming to the end of their 'time' and young teachers, happy to relax in a different setting to the imposed Wycoll protocol.
I can't remember whose idea it was originally - none of us were even vaguely interested in canals, industrial history (I think we were all in the same science class, and Mr. Wood and Mr. Moss were respectively physics and chemistry teachers) or even boating, but somehow we organised ourselves to whittle away the half-term holiday, Autumn '72, with no particular project in mind other than to drift along a canal and watch the world go by.
Getting back into the stride of College after such a relaxed and natural experience was a bit stunning, but as whoever says - it grows on you (and probably left its trace).
I am afraid I've lost touch with the crew and officers, apart from Andy Rowland and Jacky Green (who I am shown to be gallantly rescuing from almost certain death), but I don't think the photos in any way could offend the subjects, to the contrary. As for Mr. Moss and Mr Wood ...
Speed Aground Jacky on duty Trickybits Equal rights Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum Captain and 1st Mate High energy physics
Any other survivors of the ship's company want to add their comments? If so, please let us know.
Wymondham College Remembered