Snowy by Berlie Doherty & Keith Bowen

Snowy is one of the most delightful children's books there is.  It is about Rachel who isn't allowed to take her canal boat horse into school when the teacher invites the children to take in their pets. As a result she gets teased by her classmates. That is, until they meet Snowy on a surprise school trip to the canal. That brings her the admiration of all her classmates. Maggie used to read it to her class when she was a primary school teacher and the kids loved it.

If you look at the illustrations carefully you can see that the story is set in Chester. I recognised  immediately, but I never for one moment considered the provenance of the story. However, last night I read again PJG Ransom's The Archeology of Canals. There on page 110 was a colour plate of a grey mare called Snowy at Chester. The horse was being prepared to tow a trip boat called The Chester Packet with a butty in the background on the far bank. The butty carries the name Betelgeuse as in the book. Berlie Doherty and Keith Bowen's book is therefore authentic in terms of canal operations. It appears during the summer Jim Marshall used Betelgeuse, pulled by Snowy, to carry passengers as The Chester Packet. The butty was converted for this role, with a small cabin extension, in the mid '70s.

A picture on the current owners web site shows Betelgeuse as The Chester Packet but the horse is not Snowy. Therefore, in homage to that great children's book here is a photograph from Ransom's book showing Snowy being prepared for work with Betelgeuse in the background. Doesn't Snowy look fine. Presumably this photo comes from the late 1970s (the book was published in 1979). The picture was by PJG Ransom. I wonder where Rachel is?

Snowy and butty Betelgeuse at Chester