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Sheffield Canal boatmen & stories?

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Other than one small book of mainly photos I realise I have very little information on the building of the canal and the people who worked on it. Any songs or poems or stories? Any stories of the Navvies? Where did Navvies live? Any info will be gratefully received.   

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My thoughts (based on what I can't remember) - The Crofts and the area around Scotland Street is where they mainly lived.

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We lived and worked on the South Yorkshire canals for approx fourteen years .

We converted an old Leeds and Liverpool short boat [NIDD] built in 1936 iron riveted] into a live aboard while at the same time running a trip boat [Ashanti Gold] out of Thorne later moving to Stanley Ferry near Wakefield.

We visited Sheffield canal basin [Victoria Quays who thought that one up LOL] in Nidd on one or two occasions ,the last being just as the new basin along with posh offices and hotel opened.

We moored up in the basin to a welcome you would not believe as B.W.B staff descended upon us telling us we could not moor Nidd up in the basin as it was now being upgraded to a more upmarket image.

We let the cat and dog of the boat to do what cats and dogs do when one moors up any where in the World and told the job worths to pith of explaining that in 1941 Nidd and boats like her kept Sheffield supplied with necessities while dodging German air raids and also breaking the ice in winter so as to keep the canal running.

The new uniformed staff retreated to the corner office then came back and told us we could stay for four days but then we must move on [we stayed two weeks].

Now this may seem a little out of order to some but we had been part of the basin community for years and remember it when it was a close nit community of rag tag and bobtail boaters ,building repairing and generally messing about on boats.

No posh sixty thousand pound narrowboats [they were never part of the South Yorks navigation until the leisure boating fraternity started arriving in the basin], just ordinary often skint Sheffielders messing about on boats.

The posh solicitors offices as well as the Hotel had now taken over the basin and the very people who made the place a living, clanging,sawing ,hammering happy place to be were evicted.

Will continue if any one shows any interest.

 

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Sorry so slow to reply but do please continue I found a newspaper article that these drawings were taken from courtesy of a friend. Originally in Sheffield Daily Telegraph March 1st 1889.5666d6321e2e7_001(1).thumb.jpg.a7e2681b9

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I worked beside the canal from 1959 until 1971. At that time, the canal was regularly used by barges bringing ferro-alloys from Hull into Sheffield. They were heavily laden and slowly travelled toward the basin, whereas, after unloading they were high in the water and sailed much faster. In winter there was a wooden work boat/ ice -breaker ( nicknamed the Kista Dan) which kept the canal ice -free.

I once organised a shipment ,by barge, of around 100 tonnes of steel bars to meet an Ellerman Wilson Line sailing from Hull. It took so long to load the 2 craft that we almost missed the sailing...My boss applauded the use of environmentally friendly barges, but wasn't  so keen on the potential payment to our customer under a penalty clause. The experiment wasn't repeated even though Waddingtons of Swinton were anxious to increase traffic after some improvements to the canal.

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On 28/10/2015, 10:46:33, RichardB said:

My thoughts (based on what I can't remember) - The Crofts and the area around Scotland Street is where they mainly lived.

I'm not convinced that 'all' the Navvies lived in The Crofts area, most were people of the road, and were quite capable of creating/building their own temporary hamlets.

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From the newspapers they seemed to stay in canal basin in Tinsley or near by, when not travelling. No indication that they ever lived in Croft area. 

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I think the "Crofts" notion comes from the fact that many "navvies" were Irish and that the Irish had a large community around the Crofts.

One company I worked for had had their own barges which, at some point, were used to bring in coal for the furnaces...All that was left of them were a couple of semi-submerged wrecks in the Don... One old mill hand always told the tale of his being born on one of them and living there as a child.

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My ancestors were boat people on the Liverpool Leeds canal. Two things I noticed with them was that some actually went off and joined the navy, and that families gradually found somewhere residential which I think was probably because of the education act & needing somewhere stable for the children to go to school.   

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Extract from Mexborough & Swinton Times

Issue Saturday March 26th 1910

Groping his way along the canal bank at Swinton, a “Times” man, the other evening, stumbled upon the most interesting old couple it has been his good fortune to meet of late.  Their names are George Scholey and Elizabeth Scholey, and they live in a place called Kemp’s Yard, down by the water side.  As they have lived on and near the water the greatest part of their lives there is nothing strikingly peculiar about this.  George is 76 years old and his good lady will be eighty on Good Friday.  George, therefore is hopelessly the junior, and the missus calls him “my lad”.

George Scholey was born at Bolton on Dearne into a water-side family, and at the age of a few weeks he was taken on board one of the canal boats plying between Sheffield and Goole.  He has been connected with the water ever since, and a fine fresh healthy life it is.  His wife was born at Bramham, a little village near Tadcaster, and she went into service at Sheffield, where she met George Scholey and married him 58 years ago, going to assist him in the management of his boat.

There are hardships in the canal service if, as you lie on your back under the trees some warm, hazy summer afternoon, and watch the keels floating lazily down the water-way, you form the impression that the bargee’s life is the life for you, just put a question or two to George Scholey before you allow the impression to take root.  He will tell you that it is a constant round of tugging, loading, unloading, cleaning, and sleeping.  It is health, and the old men it produces are not old men before their time, because it is the fresh-air life, and whatever dissipation the boatman may go in for, is counteracted by the hard work he has to do.  George Scholey worked in a boat as soon as ever he had the strength to do anything useful at all.  At the age of nine his father set him to unload a boat along with a man.  That was at Lincoln, and it was a cargo of coals they were getting shut of, and he did his share.

The benefits of education never came his way.  He simply had to work until he could work no longer.  He retired from the water last August, but to-day he can be seen pottering about the locks at Swinton, helping through captains who were toddling infants when he himself was a captain of ripe experience.

And in return they gave him a bit of coal.  That is a great concession to George, for, as he explained to our man.  “You can’t get a deal of coal out of the Old Age Pension; it isn’t much to live on”.

“So you do get the Pension?”  our man enquired.  “Oh, yes, we get five shillings each”.  “It’s a grand thing is the pension,” broke in the old lady.  “The man that brought it out ought to gain Heaven, I’m sure.  It’s saved lots of decent old folks from having to go to the Workhouse”.

George Scholey is the last survivor of a large and well known canal boat family.  His brother, who kept the ferry at Mexbro’, died last year.  Mr. and Mrs. Scholey have also suffered bereavement in their own immediate family.  They have outlived eleven sons and daughters.  There are two daughters and a son remaining.  The son is a schoolmaster.  The father cannot read his own name.  At one time George Scholey was in fairly comfortable circumstances.  His wages as captain of a keel only amounted to a pound a week, but that was reckoned fairly good pay at the time, and by industry and perseverance, he acquired a boat of his own, which he called the “Industry”.  That was just about the time of his marriage.  But trade was not too good, and the Sheffield Flood settled his financial hash.

It carried away the big bulk of his moveable property.  He was lying on the canal on the night of the Sheffield Flood, that night of horror in March of 1864.  Curiously enough Mr. Scholey never knew anything about the flood at all until it was over.  He slept peacefully through it all.  The canal lay well away from the track of the terrible torrent.  The first he knew of anything untoward was a rude awakening from a mate of his.  “Come, get up, George,” said the man.  “You’ll lie abed while all Sheffield’s flooded out”.

George went and explored.  “I shall never forget the sight while ever I live,” he said. “It was fearful.  I saw dead bodies floating down the roads.  I saw dead bodies in the houses, just as they had been drowned.  It was terrible.  I did not stay very long, you can bet.  I came away with the vessel on the Monday morning”.  What food for gossip for the old cronies of the canal that Sheffield Flood must have been!

Scholey has been principally engaged in carrying coal, though he can remember the time when there was no coal around this district to carry.  The first pit he remembers being sunk around here was Charlesworth’s Warren Vale pit, the coal for which is now drawn out of Thrybergh Hall pit, while the old Hemingfield pit started shortly after.  Prior to that he used to do a good trade in limestone from Sprotboro’ to Sheffield, and he carried an occasional cargo for old Mr. John Lewis of the Swinton Potteries, which was then a prosperous concern under that management.  He also used to “run” over to Elsecar for hard coals in the Potteries.  It was in this direction that the old man met with the only accident of his career at Aldham Mills near Wombwell.  He was jumping ashore when he caught the mooring rope with his foot, and, falling full length, broke his wrist and he stood the excruciating setting operation without a murmur.  Unfortunately the bone was not properly set, and resulted in the partial disablement of the old boatman.  For he was an old man at the time, the accident occurring during the time he was working for Mr. James Beevers, of Mexboro’, which was his last period of service.

Mr. and Mrs. Scholey are, we believe, the oldest couple in Swinton.  They are an intelligent and happy pair, and are well content to spend the evening of their lives watching the boats go by.  Old George is neither a teetotaller nor a non smoker, and he has a grounds for thinking that his moderate indulgence in the luxuries of beer and bacca does him no harm.  An occasional gill of beer, a weekly ounce of tobacco – that is all.  But no doubt he would miss it if it were not there.

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I have just watched the film , what brilliant memories it has brought back of a mucky owd City who's  citizens loved the more simple pleasures available at that time, cheers .

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