The remarkable history of Allen Green

Allen Green, from our Grand Union North Construction team, is the seventh generation in his family to have worked on the canals; to us this is a special piece of history worth sharing.

Joe Green, Allen's great grandfather Joe Green, Allen's great grandfather

Allen Green’s family history

In this region we're proud and passionate about the work we carry out restoring and maintaining the canals we love and share.

We're a strong unit who work closely together, always striving to improve our canals to the best of our ability with the limited resources available to us.

Fortunately, we've so many hardworking, passionate people to help with maintaining our canals for everyone to use and enjoy everyday.

This passion has been passed down from generation to generation, sharing memories, knowledge and experience. Allen Green from our Grand Union North Construction team is the seventh generation in his family to have worked on the canals; to us, this is a special piece of history which is worth sharing.

As we explore his past and his family’s history, it becomes clear why Allen has dedicated his working life to ensuring that the waterways where his ancestors worked and lived can stay alive and in working order, for the benefit of future generations.

About Allen Green

Allen has been working with the Canal & River Trust (and previously during our British Waterways days) since 1982. He began his career working on Saturdays for the Boat Hire Fleet. When Allen first joined the team full-time, he started out as a bricklayer’s assistant, gaining new skills and a wealth of experience along the way. This experience enabled Allen to join the very first construction team. Allen is a valued member of the team with his varied experience and understanding of the canals, and he has since been promoted to team leader.

Allen lived on a boat until he was three years old. When his family decided to retire from working on the boats, they subsequently moved to a British Waterways home in Hillmorton. Looking into Allen’s family history – with records which date back as far as the late 1700s - it can be seen that the majority of his family were part of the boating community. 

The ‘boatman gene’ has certainly been passed down to Allen, who has also dedicated his working life to the canals. Amongst this extended family of boatmen and women, important trades and skills have been passed down from generation to generation, on both his mother’s and his father’s side.

There are also records of the working boatmen in Allen’s family dating from the early 1800s. 

Ron Green, Allen's fatherRon Green, Allen's Father

Allen’s Mother’s family history

  • John Meese was born in 1779. It is probable that he was himself a boatman, but we have no records to confirm this statement. He married a lady called Hannah and they gave birth to a boy in 1821, who they also named John Meese.
  • John Meese II went on to become a boatman; he also married a Hannah and they had six children together. One of these children was Allen’s direct ancestor: James Meese, who was born in 1861.

  • James Meese also had a large family, with nine daughters (our records do not confirm the number of sons). Three of his daughters married boatmen, and we believe that his sons also became boatmen. James Meese definitely had a son called John Meese; born in 1885, he was Allen’s maternal great-grandfather.

  • John Meese III also married a woman called Hannah (in 1907). They had seven children: six boys and one girl. One of these children was Allen’s granddad; born in 1913, they named him John Henry Meese.

  • John Henry Meese married Rose Clowes on Christmas Eve of 1938, in All Saints Church in Braunston. Allen’s mother was born in 1939, and she was named Elizabeth.

Allen’s Father’s Family History

  • in 1835, Henry Green was born. He became a boatman and married Maria Harris in 1842.Together, they raised nine children: five boys (four of whom became boatmen) and four girls (one of whom married a boatman). One of their children was Joseph Henry Green, born in 1865

  • Joseph Henry Green became a boatman and married Annie Grant on 23rd June, 1884. They had eight or nine children together. Of five boys, three became boatmen; of his four or five daughters, one definitely married a boatman. One of these children was Joseph Green, who was born in 1865 (Allen’s paternal great-grandfather)

  • Joseph Green was also a canal boatman. He married Sarah Matilda Worby on 26th March, 1907. They raised seven children together: four boys (one of whom became a boatman) and three girls. This particular boatman was named Joseph Henry Green II (Allen’s grandad); he was born in 1908

  • Joseph Henry Green II married Mary-Anne Rolph in 1929, and they had fourteen children: five boys (including Allen’s father, who also became a boatman) and nine girls

  • Allen’s dad, Ronald Green, was born in1934, and he married Elizabeth Anne Meese (Allen’s mother)

We also have the pleasure of Allen’s nephew Jordan Hirons working with us as a member of the Oxford construction team.

Allen Green speaking about his life:

"My mum and dad left their boating life in late 1968 / early 1969. I was three; nearly four. We moved to the middle-lock house at Hillmorton (owned by the British Waterways Board), as my dad got a job on the old Hillmorton section. He was from a boating family - his dad had boats, his granddad and his great-granddad, going back as far as to the beginning of the canals, almost."

"My mum’s family were the same too. My great-granddad had twenty-one children with his two wives, and my dad is one of fifteen who were born (but all did not survive). My mum is the only child from her side, with no brothers or sisters. When mum and dad left boating they still went on boating holidays and still owned pleasure boats of their own from time to time, up until the late 1990’s. I would imagine this is where my interest in the canals is from – that and all the different stories I used to hear mum and dad talking about with their friends when I was young."

"I couldn’t really see myself working anywhere else now; I suppose it’s in my blood, so it’s up to myself and my nephew Jordon to carry on our name in canal history."

Sarah Green, Allen's great grandmotherSarah Green, Allen's Great-Grandmother 

Allen and his family have dedicated much of their lives to maintaining the waterways for future generations, living on them and loving them. This connection is invaluable and will always be deeply appreciated by fhis colleagues at the Trust.

Other staff members’ connections with the waterways:

  • a number of our colleagues live on the waterways, including a member of our local construction team
  • our team leader for the Oxford construction team owns a boat for recreational use
  • our Oxford customer operations supervisor, Nigel Powell and team leader, Steve Powell are the great-grandsons of Charlie Atkins - a popular figure on the waterways, who was known as ‘Chocolate Charlie’; he used to transport chocolate crumb in his boat ‘Mendip’ from Staffordshire to the Cadbury Factory in Birmingham, twice a week. In 2011, his boat made the journey again for the first time in fifty years, following its restoration. The boat now resides in the National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port in Cheshire
  • George Bromley (from the Grand Union North Construction Team) also has a family history which is linked with the canals. His early years were spent on board boats, until his mother and father moved to the lock-house at Hatton. George's father was employed as a lock-keeper on the Hatton Flight

Special thanks to everyone who is mentioned in this article - particularly to Allen Green and his family, for sharing their history and personal details.

Many thanks also to Lorna (Boating Family Historian) for sharing her knowledge and for providing additional information regarding Allen's family.

Sincere thanks to Bobby Cowling (at Waterways World magazine) for taking the time to help us with bringing this article to life.

Last date edited: 6 June 2018