Back in late September 2013 a wrote a post sharing my concern that I’d seemed to have reached a dead-end in my research into Eileen’s history.

Mick Vedmore had confirmed that in June 1978 Eileen, still a working motor, was sold to an Australian couple with a small child, who planned to travel the system before returning to Australia. Mick believes that the name of the boat was for a short time changed to Isis however numerous enquiries of ‘Isn’t that the old Eileen?’ persuaded the Australian to revert to the original name!

And, that was where the trail went cold, until communication with Pete Marshall from Day Star Theatre began to allow me to piece together the details of Eileen’s existence from the late 1970’s onwards.

Now, thanks to the wonderful generosity of Sally Campbell new information has now come to light about what was a period of transition for Eileen as she converted from working motor to fully residential boat.

It would seem that the Australian couple who’d bought her from Mick Vedmore literally kept her for the Summer of 1978, as it’s Sally’s recollection that Eileen came into the ownership of Paul Pepperell towards the end of 1978. And then in the February of 1979 she was one of a number of friends who collected Eileen, now resplendent with full cabin, from Jericho on the South Oxford, for the trip south down a flooding R. Thames.

Would it be too great a leap of imagination to think that rather than the full cabin conversion being completed whilst in the ownership of the Australian couple, that it was actually completed following the purchase of Eileen from between Thrupp and Kidlington, and that perhaps the work on extending the cabin fully over the hold was undertaken at Jericho over the winter months of 1978 and that she was then ready to head south in the February of 1979? 

Q. Would Pete Marshall remember, as he was there when Paul Pepperell handed over the cash for Eileen?
Q. Would it be worth researching whether there are records of works completed at Jericho during 1978?
Q. Were there any other yards/individuals on the South Oxford at that time capable of doing the necessary woodwork to create the full-length cabin and complete the interior too?

Sally was able to provide fascinating information about the interior of Eileen:

“…she had a full wooden interior. At the stern was the engine room, Lister engine (lovely sound) with double doors opening out. Then inside abutting the engine room, was a traditional boatman’s cabin with double bed, stove, fold-down table, gas lamps and traditional paintings…”

I would guess that this was the cabin created by Mick Vedmore and decorated by the then Judy Vedmore?

Sally went on to say: “…further inside was a galley with cooker, fridge and seating. Then further on, to the left was a loo and shower, then onwards to a fore-cabin that opened out into a small open hold.”

She recalled that the journey down from Jericho was quite an adventure for the six person and one dog (Toby the collie-cross) crew. With the Thames in full spate causing them at one point to collide with a sandbank!

On another occasion, going to the IWA rally on the River Lea, Sally remembers becoming stuck fast under a bridge and locals from the nearby pub coming down with pints on trays to hand down from bridge to the stranded boat beneath! Thankfully Eileen was release on the falling tide.

eileen-1979-80-thames-windsor
That’s Sally sitting on the roof of Eileen around 1980, moored outside The Bells of Ousley pub on the R. Thames

She describes fondly the bohemian community of boaters, cats and dogs that then lived aboard a range of boats, Dutch barges, ex-lifeboats etc. at the mooring in Chertsey which was Eileen’s destination. On Eileen lived Paul, his dog Toby and a little white cat Gallico.

Sally’s not sure what happened to Eileen after Paul Pepperell sold her, though she knows a friend who went with Paul on his last trip as Eileen’s owner and believes she was sold to someone on the Slough Arm…

I can’t thank Sally enough for her time and generosity in providing the information above. It’s helped begin to bring alive the early years of that period when Eileen was a live aboard residential boat.

(I’m also grateful to Sally for sharing with me the very sad news that Paul Pepperell has very recently passed away. I’d like to send my deepest condolenses to his family, and I hope that Paul would be happy to know how fondly past times on Eileen are remembered, and that old Eileen is again loved and being cared for…).

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