National Waterways Museum volunteer Di Skilbeck was announced as the winner of the Outstanding Achievement at the 2016 Living Waterways Awards ceremony, held at Birmingham Town Hall on 14 September 2016.
Launched by the Canal & River Trust in February, and sponsored by Kier, Arcadis, CPC Civils and Fountains, the Living Waterways Awards seek to recognise the most exciting and inspiring waterway-based improvement people and projects across the UK.
Richard Parry, chief executive of the Canal & River Trust, explains:
“The Living Waterways Awards celebrate the individuals, communities and organisations that have done the most to make a difference to the nation’s rivers, canals, lochs, lakes, reservoirs and docks, making them exciting places to live, learn and spend time.”
Di Skilbeck has been involved in the creation and development of the National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port for over 42 years.
A former head of The Queens School in Chester, Di was teaching geography and history at Wirral Grammar School for Girls when she found out about the former Victorian port at Ellesmere Port and went to visit it. Horrified by its sad dilapidation she decided to get involved and help the restoration efforts.
In 1974 she joined the North Western Museum of Inland Navigation volunteer group and took part in the very first working party at Ellesmere Port. Since helping to open the ‘Boat Museum’ in 1976, Di’s involvement with the museum has continued to grow and she frequently enlisted girls from her school to help.
One of the most important projects has been the restoration and continued maintenance of the 90-year old wooden horseboat ‘Gifford’. Di frequently dresses in period costume and gives guided tours for museum visitors to show how boat people used to live and work.
In 2012 Di was awarded an MBE for her services to heritage in and 2015 an Honorary Degree of Master of Arts (MA) by Chester University in recognition of her contribution to education in the County. In 1996 she became President of the Boat Museum Society.
Richard Parry, chief executive of the Canal & River Trust, adds:
“Di’s connection and commitment to the Museum stretches right back to the early days of restoring the site, and her inspiring dedication to the Boat Museum Society and its role in the conservation and education of the history of the waterways continues unstinted.
“Di has been a stalwart supporter and campaigner for the inland waterways and our industrial heritage. Through her work as a teacher and volunteer she has inspired countless children and helped ensure that these stories are not forgotten.”
Further details of the 2016 Living Waterways Awards can be found here