In my archaeological dig into the history of our old boat Eileen, her builder and owners, the holy grail is inevitably pictorial. Images help me to picture the past. They provide a way into a time and place otherwise difficult to access. Postcards provide a ready glimpse of the town of Tipton that would have been familiar to the boat builder Eli Aston and the boat’s first owner Benjamin Pearson. This was their world.
In a previous post (HERE) I described my latest research into Eli Aston the MAKER of our 1903 BCN day boat Eileen. This week’s update focuses on the person who ordered the fabrication of the boat in the first place, one Benjamin or Ben.Pearson.
The following post will probably make more sense if you read a brief history of a boat called Eileen.
In trying to uncover (or navigate) the lost history of our old Birmingham Canal Navigation iron day boat Eileen it’s been necessary at times to rely on creative leaps of imagination to help bridge the current gaps in my knowledge.
For some time I’ve been thinking about the yard where she was built by Eli Aston around 1903. Contemporaneous maps provide a tantalising blank canvas. The yard seems to have been little more than a huddle of sheds on flat land adjacent to the canal.
I’m trying to get under the skin of our boat. The Story of Eileen is a mixture of social and industrial history combined with fiction, research and imagination. If I’m honest the gaps fascinate me as much as the facts. Given that what I don’t know about the boat would fill a book, perhaps that’s a healthy attitude to have at this point. I’m open-minded about where the journey will take me, and up for a ‘drift’ across the landscape of her stories.
I need to get a clearer sense of where key locations in Eileen’s early history on the BCN are located. The image above is the classic shot of Alfred Hickman’s Springvale Steel Works. Eileen was based here for decades, indeed she could be one of the numerous day boats unloading coal and removing slag from the site.
Exploring the history of our old day boat Eileen from a conventional linear historical perspective has proved hugely rewarding over the last couple of years, with many pieces of the jigsaw satisfyingly fitting into place, however tantalising gaps remain, and they’re proving difficult to fill.