Canal working life
We were talking with Gordon’s dad about the early days and how he left school and started work at the age of 14 on a farm. How things have changed. Can you imagine children these days starting work at that age? Life on the canals in those days was hard then, working all hours with family in tow.
Boat people lived in a closed community. Most boat people were born and brought up on the canals and they tended to marry boat people. Possibly nobody else fancied the life and hard work! Some did take jobs on dry land, especially when trading was collapsing in the ‘fifties, but few non boat people decided to work the canals.
In the first days of the canal, teams of men would work the boats. It was important work and paid better than working in the factories. However, when the railways took off, boatmen’s wages were cut and families were forced to live on the boats to save money. Because most of the boat was needed for transporting goods, the family only had a space of about 3 – 4 metres to live in.
Children lived with their parents on the boats and were expected to work on them, carrying out duties such as leading the horses and opening locks. Because they were always travelling, children found it difficult to go to school.