Bolney news
Bolney news

Dates for your May diary: Saturday May 13 the Horticultural Society are holding their annual plant sale in the Rawson Hall between 10am - 11.30am.

Sunday May 7: there will be two refuse freighters in the Rawson Hall car park between 10am -12 midday, one for household waste and the other for garden waste. Collections are no longer paid for by WSCC and will be funded by the Parish Council. Please support the use of this service if you would like it to continue. Further collections will take place if it is well used.

BOLNEY WI: Sue and Clive Fennell were our speakers at this month’s meeting and their subject was ‘Women of the canals’. In fact they covered much more than that with interesting facts including:

- to go by barge through Reading, you sail through the middle of The Oracle Shopping Centre!

- the only waterway on which you must have an anchor is the Thames

- Foxton Locks on the Grand Union canal has seven linked locks to be navigated

- the South of England is in fact an island bounded by canals

- some canals in the south have been boarded over and houses built on them

For families who lived on barges in the 20th century, space was extremely confined. They lived in the stern leaving vital space for the coal which not only propelled them but fired their stoves - the only way of cooking. Consequently accommodation was cosy in winter and unbearably hot in summer. Only two children were allowed on the barge (strapped to its rails for safety!). This led to children in excess of this being ‘farmed out’ when Inspectors were around! Barges function in pairs: one with an engine and one without. The women’s job was to steer and look after the children. (No change there, then!)

Apparently bargees were big tea drinkers and what leisure time they had was spent by many decorating their homes and equipment with the familiar Rose and Castle design.

During WW2, women were enlisted to work on the barges which were vital for transporting very different loads from Spitfire parts to coal to rubble from bombed buildings.

The women, a significant proportion of whom were ‘upper crust’ had 6 weeks training and then embarked on a life of ice-breaking to get through locks in winter, infrequent baths and a diet of Spam, corned beef, peanut butter and cocoa with condensed milk. They also had the indignity of an oily black ring on their nether regions from the ‘gesunders’ which served dual purposes!

Three women were employed for every two barges and their pay was £3 per week.

Next meeting: ‘Songs from the shows’ on May 11th at 2.30pm in the Rawson Hall.

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