Voyage Into Britain — Mike Spick — 2nd September.

Mike Spick is a pop­u­lar speaker at Stumperlowe Probus having already spoken to us about “J G Graves” and “Salesman to the World”.  Today’s talk was about another pas­sion of both his wife and him­self who are part of a syn­dic­ate that own a long­boat.  It is moored to the south of Birmingham.

He star­ted his talk by describ­ing the lim­it­a­tions to industry during the age of pack horses and horse drawn wagons.  The latter were unus­able during parts of the winter because of the state of the roads.  It was no coin­cid­ence that Sheffield only man­u­fac­tured small items like cut­lery at this time that could be more easily trans­por­ted.

Whilst canals were prob­ably inven­ted by the Chinese and were built by the Romans, Lord Bridgewater was the first in more recent times to build one in this coun­try.  It was to con­nect the min­eral depos­its on his estate with the nearest indus­trial mar­kets.  There fol­lowed an age of impress­ive engin­eer­ing when canals were built over much of England and parts of the rest of the UK.  There are 2,200 miles of nav­ig­able water­ways and rivers in the UK and aban­doned canals are being con­stantly repaired and revived for the leis­ure industry.  When the Manchester Ship Canal was opened in 1894 it was the largest canal in the world.

Mike explained how the 7 feet wide and up to 56 feet long narrow boat had developed from a cargo trans­port with only a tiny cabin in which lived boatman’s entire family to a boat in which the entire cargo space is now living space with all mod. cons.  He explained how the boats were pro­pelled ini­tially by horse and man power and then by steam and then diesel engines.  He kept us enter­tained by the engin­eer­ing involved with aque­ducts, boat lifts, inclined planes, locks and tun­nels.

His talk was without notes.  It was fresh, lively and very inform­at­ive.  It was well received by the Club.