And a Right Good Crew - Life Magazine

As Maggie noted in her post on Emily Kimbrough's book, part of the American boaters' trip included a photo session for LIFE magazine. It appeared an important part of their journey, probably because it helped promote the forthcoming book. The US members of the eponymous crew, apart from the author, were author-actor Howard Lindsay, his wife actress Dorothy Stickney, author Arthur Kober and Sophy Jacobs who was described as an "Urban League leader" and who was a long term friend of author Emily having attended the same college. They all feature in the magazine article that appeared in September 1957.

Howard Lindsay was a Pulitzer Prize and Tony award winner and he wrote the book for The Sound of Music. Dorothy Stickney had her birthday whilst on board Maid Mary Sue and received canal ware as gifts. Reading the episode where the group collect the gifts it appears that the unnamed canal painter of the cans and dipper was from Braunston. Like Mike Vedmore who has also reviewed this book, I think it is likely that they bought the cans from someone associated with Nurser's yard. Dorothy Stickney went on to have 101 birthdays in all and died in 1998.

The narrowness of our canals and their small dimensions of their boat fascinated the New Yorkers. During meals it was quite a crush as the Life photographer recorded and Arthur Kober sketched in a cartoon that appears in the book.

Sophy Jacobs negotiates the dining table!

All other cartoons in the book were by Mircea Vasiliu who worked in the USA as a diplomat for Romania in New York during WWII but sought asylum after the communist takeover. It appears he wrote children's books on his own account and illustrated many others. 

Mircea Vasiliu

Maid Mary Sue Ascending Napton Flight

The photographer assigned to cover the Americans journey for LIFE magazine was, according to the author, called Burrows. He appears as an important character in the book because the photo-shoot features strongly; he was even featured in a cartoon. The older Americans were amazed at his agility.

Burrows in Action on the canal

It appears that the photographer was Larry Burrows, who at that time was working for LIFE in London. He achieved fame as a photojournalist covering the Vietnam War - a far cry from canal cruising. Burrows was tragically killed in Laos in 1971 and would have been 31 at the time of his Napton assignment. 

Burrows in SE Asia (Wikipedia)

The boat hired by the Americans for their journey from Stone to Thames Ditton came from the famous Maid Line and Sophy and Emily were in  contact with the IWALionel Munk who founded Maid Line and was soon  to be IWA Chairman. 

And a Right Good Crew

by Emily Kimbrough with drawings by Vasiliu

When a friend was clearing her family home after the demise of her parents, she came across this book. Rather than pack it up for the charity shop, she thought of us and handed it on. Steve usually reads factual books, and is constantly researching his various interests. I prefer novels and biographies and have thoroughly enjoyed all Terry Darlington’s accounts of their sometimes hair-raising adventures on the canals at home and abroad. This book, written in the 1950s, appealed to me, so I read it and offered to write a review.

The book is amusing and well written. Emily Kimbrugh was a New York based writer of several travel books. With a small group of friends, all well-heeled authors and actors, she planned two trips on the English canals. The first trip was to be from Stone to Llangollen, then she was to be joined by more friends to travel south from Stone, onto the Thames. Her journey was well researched and she shows an enthusiastic appreciation of the English canal system. However this did not extend to practical knowledge of the working of locks or boat handling. On her initial familiarisation trip, accompanied by her friend Sophy, they hired a 50 year old ‘boy’, Mr Walley, to steer a converted narrowboat and work the locks. He returned to his home every night on his motorbike. Her description of the boat and delight at the interior is a joy to read. Later in the book she is fascinated to learn at first-hand about the boaters’ way of life.

Stone High Street

An interesting aspect of the book is the comparison the author makes between the modern way of life in 1950s America and behind the times England. They search Stone High Street for an ice bucket and ice, essentials for evening drinks. However they do not complain and see the trip as a great adventure. As we do now, they remark on the pace of travel, and they enjoy the tranquillity of the English countryside. When the rest of the group, including two men, join the party for the second trip from Stone to the Thames, the division of labour is interesting. They do things in style, staying overnight at local hotels and inns where the men could peruse the morning papers over ‘the men’s breakfast’. After lunch each day, when they share the tiny table on board, the ladies clear up while the men play a hand of rummy and enjoy a post-prandial drink.

On the Llangollen Canal - lift bridges!

As minor celebrities, with close connection to what nowadays is called the media, the crew are joined at Napton by a reporter and photographer from Life Magazine.
A canal-side picnic with the Life Magazine photographer looking on

Another feature of this book is the reference to places we have also visited by boat, such as Coventry happily rebuilt now after the devastation of the war, as well as other places much unchanged such as Shugborough and Aynho Park. 
Meeting the neighbours!

I enjoyed reading this book. It paints a picture of a time gone by, the England of our childhood. There is probably less about the boating than about exploration of our country via the inland waterways. The book is written with wit and humour but avoids being patronising. It is bursting with amusing anecdotes as well as a real appreciation of our heritage. It is also well illustrated with cartoon drawings which are "very much of their time" as you will see. Finally a useful Glossary of boating terms, a breakdown of basic expenses, and letters from people they met en route are included.


Cosgrove Day Trip

With the gorgeous weather, yesterday we decided to take Albert down to Cosgrove with the plan that I would do a few minor jobs. We moved off our mooring late morning and paused at Baxters for some fuel and a pump out. While we were occupied at the wharf Alan Paine and Phil Hanwell (Kingfisher Marina owners) with NB Troy came off their mooring on the wharf and winded; they were also taking out some friends for a trip to Cosgrove and we joined in some banter about a race to Cosgrove! It takes sometime to empty Albert's holding tank so we didn't see them again until we reached Cosgove. Troy was moored up outside the Barley Mow on the pub moorings and we moored opposite and took a lunch on board.

Cosgove Bridge

My "little jobs" were touching up the hull sides and attending to a couple of rust spots, and installing some improved speakers for the audio system. The new speakers are more compact (slim) and have a brighter sound. We now have the same style of speakers throughout the boat (four).

New speaker

After the afternoon's exertions (not really) of boat maintenance, I suggested a  visit to the Barley Mow which after all it was only a walk through the horse tunnel away.  The pub was quite busy with the warm sunny weather with most people eating outside. We managed a couple of steaks for dinner and I had a pint of Everards. Not a beer I often come across nowadays but one that was a regular tipple when we lived in Loughborough. Two sets of friends we also eating in the garden so we manged a bit of a natter as well.

The evening trip back was accompanied by some spectacular views of the setting sun making it a day trip to remember.

Stolen Narrowboat

I have just been emailed by the IWA about a narrowboat that was recently stolen from Mercia Marina. On the basis that as much publicity as possible is required I am posting some details here. I appears to be a distinctive design so hopefully it will soon be spotted and recovered.

50 ft Narrowboat registered as 523031

It appears that from time to time boats get stolen but most get recovered. A web site is dedicated to finding them. Here is the link for narrowboats.

The owner has given the following details:

This boat was stolen from Mercia Marina around the 9th of July.  The boat may be moored in a quiet area or it may be travelling.  The boat was not sign written. It is 50' NB cruiser stern in dark blue, maroon and cream stripes and a cream roof. It has a distinctive metal curved stern. It has the Stenson logo SB laser cut into the steel. The boat has a tv aerial roof mounted, flat white plastic disc type with a     telescopic aerial. The fenders are three solid tubular double lengths which trail in the water, Brass coloured window framing. Lounge at front - Solid fuel stove right at front on port side, it has a tiled red, white and blue fireplace in the lounge corner port side at the front. Cruiser stern with HIN number which is, GBMCCSC438E414, stamped into it. The boat MAY have changed colour and sign written

They have requested to email them at