A hire calling

A cracking homage to Black Prince Narrowboats

Seeing this the other day got me thinking as to whether the distinctive boats of the 70s and 80s will ever become classics, in the same way that Ford Populars and Austin Allegros and their ilk are fast becoming, judging by the prices they command these days. I’ve always hankered after what we can see in the photo, taking the king of hire boats, the wonderful Harborough Marine with its sweeping, brook no nonsense bow, and crocodile snappy louvre windows; and restoring it to hire trim, though I’d stop short at insisting on the old dump through toilet. I once had a terrible trauma in the WC dept, of which I cannot speak for fear of reopening deep psychological wounds…

Although we hired with Harborough-hulled Weltonfield in the main, their scheme was quite ‘privateer’, a low key olive and contrasting green. Buddug’s late 70s/early 80s Black Prince look (described affectionately as the yellow peril back in the pre-PC days) would probably be my preferred livery too, as it was such a familiar and indeed instantly recognisable part of the canal landscape when I was young. I’d want the actual ‘Black Prince in his suit of armour’ logo on it too.

No more BP Owners Site…tragic

I was going to nip off and study the Black Prince Owners Club website but it’s no longer there…Tragic! Maybe I can comfort myself with a skip through one of my favourite web pages –


It’s interesting how my personal canal history differs from fellow historic owners, many of whom have direct experience of days when carrying was alive and…if not exactly well, still going after a fashion. Not just as observers but who gave carrying a go themselves or ran trip or hostel boats or who just dragged their boats up unfeasibly knackered canals to help save them and prove a point. My introduction came later, and my world was coloured with Morgan Giles and Gordon’s Pleasure Cruisers and Concoform Marine, whose ‘Weed’ boats were legendarily speedy. There was Black Prince, Anglo-Welsh (in their hideous brown phase), Alvechurch, English County Cruisers, Countrywide Cruises, Dartline, Clubline, Swanline, and, of course, Wyvern Shipping, who straddle both the last days of carrying and the birth of leisure boating – and who are still going strong today. So many more names, some still with us, many sadly gone to the great hire boat in the sky. But they will always be part of my history.

Hogging the tiller even then

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