"I’m 82 years old. I’ve been a fender-maker for 40 years and the reason I started is very simple; we needed a fender. We were out boating when I saw Jack Monk, who ran two working boats, sitting on the towpath making one. I asked him ‘how do you do that?’ and he said, ‘If you really want to know, I’ll show you.’
Jack was worried that the art of fender-making would die with him, so he took me under his wing. After he went off the water I met up with Ike Argent who taught me everything he knew as well. I never looked back.
I worked as a miner back then and I used to take the ropes in to work with me so I could practice with them. People think that my hands must be all calloused, but actually they’re very smooth because the ropes take off all the rough skin. I make everything here in my workshop, which is in the garage. Sometimes my wife has to fetch me inside at 10.30pm at night. I don’t feel the cold when I’m working.
I supplied a hire boat fleet with ropes and fenders for 25 years, we sell from our boat when we’re travelling around and I’m always getting approached by people. At the moment I’m doing all the rope work on a full-size replica of HMS Pickle, the boat that brought back news of Nelson’s victory in the Napoleonic wars.
Now it’s my turn to worry about the art of fender-making dying out. In today’s world people expect everything to be done at the touch of a button. If it can’t be made on a machine a lot of folk aren’t interested in learning. But there’s no tricks to making fenders. It’s just one knot after another."
George, Master Rope Fender