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Book Review: A Horse, A Boat, And You by Alice Lapworth

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Lapworth, A. 2012 A Horse, A Boat, And You SGM Publishing ISBN 978 0 9564536 4 8

This is one of those delights you occasionally come across by chance on a particularly fruitful days browsing around your favourite canalside bookshop.

In just under 80 pages A Horse, a Boat & You provides an evocative glimpse into the lives of a boating family in the final days of the canal carrying trade.

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Photo: section of image by Les Lapworth, from pg. 42

Alice Lapworth was born in 1944 to George and Anne Wain (to whom the book is dedicated). She was born, into a long established family of boat-people, in the back cabin of a horse boat at Tunstall on the Shropshire Union Canal.

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Photo: section of unattributed image from pg. 30

In the book she explains what it was really like being a child growing up into a world of hard work and long hours, living in cramped conditions..

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Photo: section of unattributed image from 1950’s found on pg. 26

Alice, having grown up in what amounted to the cloistered world of canals and boat families, married a boatman and bore her own daughter on the boats.  With the end of carrying some forty years ago, not only her job but her entire way of life, and that of most of the people she knew, disappeared forever.

Her story is told here in her own words, edited sensitively by waterway novelist Geoffrey Lewis but retaining what feels to be Alice’s authentic voice throughout.

Her memories include tales of her parents and grandparents, and take you back to the days of horsedrawn boats on the waterways of the north-west of England as well as the slow decline of the trade after the war.  Dozens of her family photographs illustrate the text, and her stories open a window into the world of the boating people – a world we will not see again.

Wonderful!

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