This is the fifth installment in a new series of posts about BCN tugs. Other posts in the series list below can be accessed by clicking the red ‘Introduction’ link :
2. Tug Portrait: Enterprise No. 1
3. Tug Portrait: Bittel
4. Tug Portrait: James Loader
5. Tug Portrait: Judith Anne (this post)
6. Tug Portrait: Caggy
The Judith Anne is a rare survivor, a 57’ wooden BCN tug. She has an oak/opepe carvel construction. The hull is believed to have been based on a Shropshire fly boat design and is only four planks deep. It has very fine lines and a pronounced concave bow.
Judith Anne (named after Ken Keay’s daughter) was built by Peter Keay & Son of Walsall in 1943. She currently has a Kelvin F2 petrol/paraffin engine dating from 1928, and has previously had a Ruston 4VRH, and then a Lister JP4 unit.
It is believed she was built to Ministry of Supply order to tow coal boats to Wolverhampton Power Station and subsequently used for general towage on the Birmingham Canal Navigations.
Judith Anne later came into the fleet operated by Caggy Stevens as the joint venture ‘Stevens and Keay’. The livery of Keays’ boats was interesting, they used a mix which they called ‘Common Blue’, and at least one picture exists of the Judith Anne on Pratts Bridge Dock in a livery which appears to be ‘Common Blue’ with a white surround edged in a fine line of red. ‘Common Blue’ was made by dissolving tearly blue washing tablets into white lead paint! During the re-paint the Judith Anne seemingly (according to the photographs) became the Judith Ann.
It is one of only two Keay’s tugs extant.
Following a long decline under various owners she was bought for restoration in 2005 and was professionally re-planked by Bates Yard at Puttenham on the Aylesbury Arm. Apart from the posts and one chine plank all the planking and bottoms were replaced at Puttenham. They are now fitting decks and cabin. It is intended that the boat will be used as a tug, towing suitable hulls fitted as camping boats for youth groups.