Narrow Boats


Originally a BBC lp recording issued in 1969 (REB 56 M), it was re-issued in 1975 on Argo ZTR 142.

This record contains the recorded recollections of narrowboaters from the time when they were still carrying cargoes. A few songs and song snippets are interspersed and though they are not listed on the record sleeve they are believed to be those listed below. The album was arranged and produced by Desmond Briscoe with most of the music being sung and played by David Blagrove. The record was released to tie in with a BBC documentary 'The Narrow Boat Men'.

David Blagrove has provided the following additonal information : Much of the original 'Narrow Boat' recording was done in our sitting room at home by the late Desmond Briscoe, who in those days was both head of BBC Radio Enterprises and the Chairman of the London & Home Counties Branch of the Inland Waterways Association. The Bolinder sounds came from NB 'William' (ex GUCCC Royalty Class) tied up outside our window.




Play Side 1

Play Side 2

Hard Working Boater David Blagrove

Working Boatman's Way David Blagrove

Poor Old Horse

Single Bolinder

Keep Yer 'Ands Off

Willow Wren Bride

Boatman Cut Down in his Prime

Sleeve Notes :

This record is an attempt to capture, in words, sound and music, something of the fast disappearing world of the 'narrowboat' and the people whose lives were inextricably bound to the boats and the canals on which they worked and travelled.
Many articles associated with the boats and the boatman's way of life are preserved in private collections or waterways museums. Many of their stories, traditions and way of life have been captured in print. The unique and colourful decoration of their boats have been photographed and copied. Yet it is a fact that as these remarkable men and women leave the canals their world will die with them.
Many of the words of the narrow boat people have never been written down and the pronunciation varies as one travels. Almost impossible to write, they can however be captured precisely by the microphone and recording machine. The recent and increasing interest in the canals has come almost too late; already the owners of some of the voices on this record have gone, nevertheless it has been possible to use material from the BBC Sound Archives, together with more recent radio and television recordings, to weave this tapestry of sound.
Nostalgia is inevitable. For those who have known the canal some little time, there are familiar references, sounds and voices - for those who have just discovered our inland waterways, this is an opportunity to make the acquaintance of the people whose whole life was involved with narrow boats.
Birth, learning, courting, marriage, living, working, dying - and laughing, loading, locking, tying up - waiting; this was life on the narrow canals as described by the voices of boatmen, lock-keepers, lengthmen, tollkeepers and those who managed and looked after them.

Charlie Atkins Leslie Moreton
Harry Banister John Roberts
George Bate Joe Skinner
Alf Best Rose Skinner
Harold Garner Ernie Thomas
Joe Green Herbert Tooley
Tom Hickson Jock Venables
Jack James Sister Mary Wood
Sam Lomas John Wooley
Jock Moody  

and others, whose voices it has not been possible to identify.

Some images from the reverse of the original lp cover are shown below: