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16 October 2014

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Money for Old Rope

By Mal Edwards
October 2006, Wrexham
A digital story from Yale College

[Song] "I'm Mal of the canal and a wit like hell
For not much favour I've kept quite well
Met many a fine..."

"I started working on the canal when I was only 14. I was a lengths man on the Shrewsbury, the canal. It was my job to cut hedges and to keep the toe path clear.

Since then, I've carried aluminium, coal, feldspar, salt and tinned salmon. For a short time I was captain of the prettiest Joshua boat ever built, or so the other boatmen said. She was called The Apple. She was nice with only 20 tonnes on but any more and she would sit funny.

The canal was full of characters then, like George Page and Chocolate Charlie Atkins. In 1965 we both used to carry aluminium to Wolverhampton and when it was quiet he showed me how to make rope fenders. It wasn't long before I was making my own which were sold to the pleasure boaters in the summer months.

Wages weren't good on the waterways and the money came in handy, buttons, puddings, all boats have them even to this day. It wasn't long before I became a full-time fender maker. I even learned to make rope.

For a few years I lived in a house near the canal but the pull of the waterways brought me back onto a boat. Now it's just a short walk to work in the morning. Round the bend and over the lockgate. In the last 45 years, I've cruised well over 100,000 miles on ten boats. If I could do it all over again, I wouldn't change a thing.

[Song] "... to help me with my work and to keep me afloat.""

Your comments

"I met Mal yesterday whilst doing a photo project based on people who live on the water. A true legend and gentleman who welcomed me onto his boat and showed me his amazing scrap book with photos that he has collected over the years.I could have listened to his stories for hours." Jim Nomad.

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