Rapid Rivers by William Bliss 1935

After the success of his Heart of England by Waterway, William Bliss went from reporting about his trips along waterways to writing about the rapid rivers that are probably nowadays more associated with canoeing. This book is probably of less interest to canal enthusiasts but Bliss can't resist reporting about canals, in this case the Brecon Canal. He reports (twice) about trips along the River Usk and the Brecon Canal, the first when he was 29 in 1894 and then in 1935 when he was 70 years old.

My main interest in the book, and my main reason for buying it, was its provenance. The book was not cheap and it was certainly not in good condition being water damaged, but it was a presentation copy signed by the author.

Title Page

Inscription by the author

The inscription is not easy to interpret but I read it as "To Col. the Idler; & Mrs. Fred. Cripps with the authors good wishes William Bliss Jan: 1937"

When I got the book I started researching where Bliss lived in the thirties and his connections. As I reported in  my earlier post, Sir John Squire met Bliss in 1936 at his cottage in the Chilterns. Bliss gives his address as Lane End, Buckinghamshire. In fact he lived at Priestley's Farm which is near Finings Road, Bolters End. So who are the Colonel and Mrs Fred Cripps?

Assuming that the Colonel is Fred Cripps, I searched for information. Colonel the Hon. Frederick Cripps, DSO and Bar, was the second son of the 1st Lord Parmoor and an elder brother of Stafford Cripps, who became Chancellor of the Exchequer. A noted horseman, Frederick Cripps commanded the Royal Bucks Yeomanry in the cavalry charge against the Turks at El Mughar in Palestine in 1917. His wife Violet (née Nelson) had previously been married to the 2nd Duke of Westminster. Violet, daughter of Sir William Nelson and previously married to the second Duke of Westminster.They they were divorced in 1951. In the thirties the Cripps were neighbours of William Bliss living just over the hill at the Parmour estate. I suspect that the Idler was a nickname for Colonel Cripps, although given their equine connections it could refer to a horse.

Returning to the book's content, it is of course well written and full of detail about journeys taken over William Bliss' life. Unlike Heart of England there are numerous illustrations, mostly photographs. Many are action photos showing rapids being shot so I suspect they were taken close to the time the book was published. Unlike Heart of England by Waterway it has a proper conclusion - an epilogue that covers the dangers and fears associated with rapidly flowing rivers.

I don't think many canal enthusiasts will rush to find a copy of this book, they are also difficult to obtain, but to me this water damaged author's signed copy provides me with a direction connection to a great waterways author and pioneer who is often overlooked. As you will probably realise, it has become one of my treasured books.