The Windlass

Not the most essential tool for canal boating, this post is about the magazine (styled official journal) of the Home Counties Branch of the Inland Waterways Association. The magazine was first published in October 1956 when the branch was founded.

Recently I was lucky enough to purchase, via Ebay, a bound volume containing copies of the magazine dating from 1956 to 1963; volumes 1-39. I suspect that very few of these slim volumes were ever collected and professionally bound, but whoever did this had the foresight to understand how these slim magazines might one day have some historical significance.

Professionally bound volume

The Windlass is fascinating nostalgic reading of times when canal and river boating was largely in plywood cruisers, with 30ft being a good length, and narrowboats were still hard at work, at least on the Grand Union. The IWA at that time was very much a campaigning organisation operating at the highest political levels. The Home Counties Branch, with its focus on London, and the Kennet & Avon restoration firmly on its agenda, was probably its most important branch. This was probably why many of the important early canal campaigners of the day were officers of the branch: Lionel Munk, Crick Grundy and Hugh McKnight. The patrons of the branch were none other than John Betjeman and Dame Margot Fonteyn. An indication of the branch's political connections, and its aspirations, is in the very first article published in volume one. It was by the Right Honourable Chuter Ede MP who was a Home Secretary in the Labour government of 1945. Ede’s article sets the campaigning tone for the whole magazine by its title - “The Crucial Fight”.

Membership of the Home Counties branch was on top of the general IWA and fees were 5 shillings; this included copies of Windlass published every other month. The magazine was obviously posted out to members in slim envelopes because all the copies in the volume have a neat crease down their centre and some even have franking marks on their back pages showing that postage cost 2 d.

Creases showing the magazine was folded when posted

Unfortunately, there is no evidence suggesting the identity of the former owner of this volume who must have spent a goodly sum getting it professionally bound. I am pleased he or she did. I have read a lot of interesting material in this unique book, I intend over the next few weeks to post more about it.