Joan on Historic working boat Swift Joan on Historic working boat Swift

Joan, touring the canals of the Midlands

I think I could say I'm passionately involved with this historic working boat, Swift! It's one of a collection of four boats that the Heritage Working Boats Group maintains on behalf of the Canal & River Trust, and I'm part of the group of volunteers.

Joan and Swift at eventsWe take the boats to canal events throughout the Midlands for people to see and I'm also involved in the education side of taking the boat to venues where adults and children can climb inside and see how working boat families lived in the past. I'm in charge of showing people around Swift today.

historic working boat SwiftSwift is a motor built by Yarwoods in 1933 for the chemical firm Cowburn & Cowpar of Manchester for their company fleet. The fleet consisted of eight motors all named after birds starting with the letter 'S', they are Swan, Swift, Swallow, Stork, Skylark, Seagull, Snipe and Starling.

Interior of Swift, historic working boatAs well as looking after the boat and talking to the public at shows and events, I help as crew when she's on the move between venues. I think it's funny that everyone says, "The first thing Joan does when she gets on the boat, is get out the Brasso", and everyone stands back and tells me what a good job I’m doing. I don’t think anyone else will polish the brass! My work doesn't stop there though, because I'm the editor for the group's newsletter, and we've also got a communications panel which I sit in with sometimes too. So, yes, I'm very involved.

I think what brought me into this volunteering is a love for canals, the boats and the people you meet on the canals. I've been lucky enough to meet several of the old working boatmen and the families who lived on the boats.

Joan and Swift on tourCanals become a passion that follows you everywhere! When you're in a car driving over bridges you find yourself peering with a twisted neck to catch a glimpse of what might be happening quietly on the canal below, and whenever there's anything on the TV about canals you just have to watch it!

I first got interested in canals when I my husband and I did a lot of hireboat holidays, but then I found myself on my own and I couldn't crew a boat solo, so went on a hotel boat holiday. Then one day I picked up a leaflet which led me to the Heritage Working Boats Group - that was 2002 and I'm still here! I love it.

Joan, touring the canals of the Midlands on Swift