The 1920s Beast of the Canal

Words by Elizabeth Earle

Found in the 2024 Winter Issue

The ice of the winter air bites into my white-knuckled hands as I pull further back on the lines. I grit my teeth, the water from the canal dripping from between my clenched fingers as I slowly, slowly bring her towards the towpath. Malvern, aka “Maggie”, built in 1928 as a horse boat, is being handled by a five foot seven woman with a hangover. Brilliant. 

“Come on, bab!” I beg, as if that will convince the beast to move her 23 tons any faster in the dark waters. Falling into the canals in this weather is dangerous. Bodies are pulled out frequently in the Midlands, and it was only a couple of weeks ago where another was found in a lock. If the cold won’t shock you senseless, getting out will. The bank is higher than the water levels, and not everyone is lucky to have the strength to pull themselves out- if you haven’t already been caught on something below.

Built in 1790, the Coventry Canal is no exception. Built to move coal and granite, the Coventry Canal (like every other) has seen its fair share of drownings. Today they’re seen as beautiful routes for people to walk their dogs, nab a first kiss on a date or maybe dispose of a body, but back in the day, they were made with the purpose of transporting source material to be manufactured into goods and then sold onwards….

                                        

Read the Full Story and see more great photos – Click Here!

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