We love and care for your canals and rivers, because everyone deserves a place to escape.

Alf Waterhouse

Past President of the National Federation of Anglers, Alf Waterhouse should be recognised for his ground-breaking conservation policies, leadership skills and extreme doggedness in transforming the coarse angling community into a co-ordinated body that could access government ministers and Parliament.

Alf Waterhouse, angling hero Alf Waterhouse, angling hero
“We have done much together to protect and improve our sport; let us keep steadily on with that worthy intention.”

A Birmingham lad and the start of the BAA

Born in New Street Birmingham in 1877, Alf came from a humble angling family. His father had assisted in forming the Birmingham and District United Anglers Association following the inaugural meeting on 7th June 1883. This meeting was held at the Old Green Man pub in Lancaster Street, Birmingham with the objective of obtaining reduced train fares for anglers at weekends. The United Anglers Association later became known the Birmingham Anglers Association.

By 1906 Alf had been elected to the BAA Executive, Alf took over from the first BAA president, Mr Thomas Coles in 1909. He served in the post for 37 years before finally retiring  in 1945.

Uniting anglers

The history of the National Federation of Anglers (NFA) began with the Northern Anglers' Association, a body which drew its membership mainly from Lancashire and Cheshire. Mr. T. W. Redford, one of its officers, wrote to Alf in 1903 making the suggestion that there should be a meeting in Bir­mingham of anglers to discuss a Fisheries Bill which was then before Parliament.

The meeting took place at Birmingham in May 1903. Present that day were representatives of the Northern Anglers, Sheffield and District Association, Sheffield Amalgamated, London Anglers Associa­tion, County Palatine (Lancashire), Provincial Anglers, Hull and Birmingham present. They represented a total of 46,000 anglers. Not only did they discuss the Fisheries Bill but at that meeting they also resolved to form a 'national' body of anglers.

Alf’s contribution to the National Federation of Anglers

Thus it was that the National Federation of Federation was born. Alf chaired the inaugural meeting which was held at the Birmingham Arms Hotel. John F Gorrill was elected as first president. Alf was elected as the fifth NFA President in1932 and remained in post until 1955 thus making Alf the longest serving of all the 14 NFA presidents by a considerable margin.  

In addition he served on the committee for 46 years, serving for 8 years as Secretary from 1913 to 1921and another 8 years as Vice President, thus contributing more than 50 years of national service to our sport.

Pollution fighter and pioneer of fish restocking

Alf was at the forefront of a protest against river pollution in 1927. He gave evidence at Whitehall prior to the establishment of the River Boards and then protested in the Commons about the major Witham pollution of 1929.

During his time, he led one of the greatest conservation crusades ever seen in British freshwater fisheries. In those bygone days, unwanted coarse fish were destroyed. Alf's stories of netting escapades to restock the Severn plus other rivers, canals  ponds from unwanted reservoirs, are encapsulated in his book With Nets and lines - and for those who enjoy a good read Few and Short.

The fish were transferred in large barrels by horse and cart covering many miles in the midst of harsh winters. There was no Environment Agency or Canal & River Trust sitting in the wings to assist.  It was fish preservation in the raw.

Media links and Alf the angler

Alf pioneered links with the media, giving a total of 122 angling talks on the radio from London, Bristol, Birmingham and other places. He was angling correspondent for the 'Birmingham Mail' for almost thirty years.

In his Presidential Address to the NFA Conference in May 1950 Alf said:

“We have done much together to protect and improve our sport; let us keep steadily on with that worthy intention.”

Alf  fished for the Birmingham Anglers Association in the National Championships at least seven times so he wasn’t a bad angler either. He often sported a waistcoat chain bristling with solid gold medals. Sadly Birmingham Anglers Association never won the All England during Alf’s tenure.

Honours

In the Queens Coronation Year of 1953 Alf was awarded an OBE by Her Majesty in her first birthday honours list for his 'Services to Organised Angling', becoming the first angler to receive official recognition for his connection with angling. The OBE presentation also coincided with the NFA’s fiftieth anniversary.

Interviewed in1964 during his retirement Alf had this to say:

“I am proud of all we have achieved for the working man angler over the years...(this) has been a life-long battle against pollution – the struggle to keep the waters clear of the fish-poisoning matter which ever-growing industry cast carelessly on a national heritage.”

Last date edited: 4 March 2016