Another promising line of enquiry into BCN18686 / Eileen’s history has opened up via an e-mail conversation with Cyril J. Wood, who’s Canalscape website is a wonderfully evocative e-book account of cruising the waterways since the ‘60’s.

In the late 1960’s Cyril’s dad moored their family cruiser Phial at Beeston Castle Wharf, Beeston, nr. Tarporley. The wharf, today Chas Hardern’s hire fleet base, was then owned by one Sid Merral and used as a base for his Beeston Castle Cruisers fleet.

Im1960BW11-Bee

Judy Vedmore recalls she and her husband Mick Vedmore buying a 62ft. unconverted hull, ‘as seen on blocks’ from Sid Merral in the late 1960’s, and christening her Eileen after Judy’s mother who’d lent them the £300 purchase price.

I e-mailed Cyril to ask if, by any chance, he had any memory of a cut-down, former BCN day boat hull being around the site of Beeston Castle Wharf in the late ‘60’s. To my delight Cyril e-mailed back, and was able to provide the following information:

CJW - 1966
An unconverted cut-down day boat, close to Beeston Castle Wharf in 1966. The hull is certainly BCN 18686 as the elum or rudder in the foreground of the picture is still on the boat today, as is the T-stud on the stern, and the clear ‘kink’ seen on the left-hand side of the hull is also still apparent… Would it appear from this image that the counter stern and swim had not yet been done? (Photo by James Wood courtesy of Cyril J. Wood)

“Please find attached a photograph of myself standing on a 62ft narrowboat hull in 1966. Is this the boat that you were talking about? I remember Sid and his son Tom Merral telling me that they brought the hull from Skipton, on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, using a Seagull Century Plus outboard motor as the motive power. Along the way they camped in a tent on board.

The hull laid unused and unconverted for a couple of years. Sid Merral called it an ice boat and had always said that he planned to fit a counter stern to the hull as well as a cabin and use a Lister SR3 engine that he had in his warehouse to propel it and add it to his fleet of hire cruisers. I know that it was sold unconverted but I can’t remember who bought it or where it was taken to.

I seem to remember it being towed by Richard Dean (the map maker, who was Tom Merral’s friend from school) and his narrowboat.”

I’m in Cyril’s debt for so generously providing information that adds another vivid piece of the jigsaw of Eileen’s history, and his offer of further help in my research. His memories open up so many new avenues of research, and many questions, not least:

  • What was a BCN day boat doing in Skipton?
  • Why and when had the boat been cut down, and where was that work done?
  • From Cyril’s account it would seem that in 1966 the counter stern and swim may not yet have been converted to accept motor propulsion, when was this done and where?
  • How do I get in touch with Richard Dean?

Exciting times!

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