On a quest for knowledge about our Leeds & Liverpool short boat George, Zofia and I (Hannah) paid a visit to Wigan Archive and Local Studies to see what we could find out. This meant negotiating the thick fog to figure out where to get off the bus in Leigh. Forty minutes and a few odd looks later I made it to the archives and met up with Zofia without any major mishaps.
At the archive we were pointed to a nice pile of boxes containing an array of information regarding different aspects of George’s life. Within these boxes we came across the Examining Officer’s Reports for George from 1910 and 1930, much to our delight! These reports gave us hard evidence about George’s cabin during her time working for the Wigan Coal and Iron Company and later under the Wigan Coal Corporation. More importantly this information backed up our own research on the cabin layout of Leeds & Liverpool short boats. These two reports also mention that George was originally employed as a fly boat in 1910 but by 1930 she was no longer working in this capacity. This explains why we’ve heard conflicting stories about whether George was employed as a fly boat.
The rest of our time we spent researching the Holidays at Home scheme which was established during the Second World War in an attempt to keep British transport links free to support the war effort. Earlier research at Wigan Archive and Local Studies had found an image of George in 1943 ferrying women and children on trips to Worsley. This indicated that she may have been part of the Holidays at Home programme in Wigan. After trawling through the archive’s collection on Holidays at Home we found no further evidence of George’s participation in this scheme. However, we did come across material relating to other canal cruises which were ran during this period and appeared to have been extremely popular. We believe the trips on George may have been provided by the Miners’ Welfare Commission who were also active in organising events during the Second World War although this theory needs more thorough research.
Whilst our visit to Wigan Archive and Local Studies provided us with some good leads and information on George, there are still plenty unknowns relating to her past. In the near future we hope to visit the National Archives to find out more about her employment at the National Coal Board. We also hope to find out about her livery during her time at the National Coal Board which so far has been allusive.
The National Waterways Museum is home to the most comprehensive collection of artefacts that tell the story of Britain’s canals and navigable rivers over the last 300 years. With sites at Ellesmere Port and Gloucester, the museum holds over 12,000 historic objects and 68 historic boats and is designated by the Arts Council England as of national importance. The National Waterways Museum Ellesmere Port is also home to the Waterways Archive including over 100,000 papers, drawings photographs, plans and books relating to the waterways – a vital part of our national cultural heritage.
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