Interview 25 - John and Sheila Tucker

John and Sheila Tucker, retired boaters

Interviewer: Pete Ledwith
Editor: Charlie Henry
Total recording time: 1 hr : 11 min : 14 sec


  • Mr and Mrs Tucker were interviewed at their home in Watlington, Oxfordshire
Access available in Oxfordshire History Centre and Libraries only

Click on track number below to play

Track Content summary Length
25.1 The Tuckers remember being members of working parties clearing up the canal before residential moorings when it was very overgrown and the towpath was very poor and almost non-existent. 2 min : 3 sec
25.2 Most leisure boats were small (40 feet) so they could share locks with other boats. The contribution of Tom Rolt to raising awareness of the canals with the publication of his book about the epic journey on board Cressy. 1 min : 14 sec
25.3 The Tuckers had to moor at Fiddlers Island as they could not get a mooring on the canal. Mr Tucker describes the technical specification of their boat. Eventually they got a mooring at Thrupp Cruising Club Marina. 4 min : 59 sec
25.4 Their boat Teetut was built with a metal hull and a plywood and canvas top like a traditional working boat as the sons of Les Allen of Oldbury in the Midlands were only used to building the structures for working boats and did not know how to a build a steel boat. Post-war steel was in any case poor quality so the bottom of the boat is made from metal from an old RAF hangar. 4 min : 51 sec
25.5 They bemoan the loss of lock-keepers’ jobs on the canal - miss the friendly chat and have to do locks themselves. This run down is one of the changes on the canals from 1980s onwards. Although more boats are welcome and they bring increased revenue, there are increased maintenance costs and this is carried out despite fewer lock-keepers and linesmen (who would monitor water levels, check banks and locks). 4 min : 27 sec
25.6 They belonged to the Oxfordshire branch of the Inland Waterways Association (IWA) In the early days things were very much more open and the Tuckers opened their boat to the public to publicise their love of canals. There was a comradeship and a mutual interest in mucking about. 1 min : 14 sec
25.7 The Oxford Canal is now different. Those living aboard tend to be a closed community. Some boats are being used that are unsafe, they vary in condition and the variety of residents is very wide. They feel people are less willing to help each other now. 3 min : 13 sec
25.8 Changes have occurred in the wealth of those with boats and their size. In the early days boats were smaller and a smaller community did the maintenance. 6 min : 7 sec
25.9 The Tuckers describe a volunteers' clear up at the end of the Oxford Canal near Isis Lock in which they were joined by alcoholics who asked to be given tree branch off cuts in return. This seemed to work well although the lockkeepers in the Thames reported a huge surge in numbers of bottles in the Castle Stream! 4 min : 2 sec
25.10 The Tuckers have sailed on nearly every canal in England at some point. They were also present at the reopening of the Basingstoke Canal and hosted by accident a celebration by the restoration team complete with champagne on their boat. 6 min : 35 sec
25.11 The business of restoring canals poses dilemmas, some canals are in pieces and restoration is very costly (linking the pieces together) Some landlords sometimes do not want derelict canals reopened. Court case on the Derwent near York over navigation rights. Water shortages on canals also a problem so better to focus on those canals that are in reasonable shape. Their children’s interest in canal boating. 10 min : 56 sec
25.12 Costs of boating have increased. Tuckers boat now costs them £3,500 per annum on licence fees and mooring fees and maintenance. 57 sec
25.13 They think boats have got too big and speed too fast on canals suggesting a change in the population who are cruising. 4 min : 13 sec
25.14 The Tuckers remember moving their boat to near a branch railway line. Returning to Oxford and then travelling back for a weekend to spend time away. This flexibility no longer exists. 2 min : 14 sec
25.15 The Tuckers, through the IWA, were heavily involved in the redevelopment of the canal at Banbury and share lessons about how they worked with the local council and British Waterways on planning proposals and persuaded authorities to use resources at their disposal during building developments to tackle a range of canal heritage. Their efforts helped avert the closure of Tooley’s Boatyard, moorings near the town centre and a new towpath. 8 min : 48 sec
25.16 The Tuckers have been involved in Oxford Open doors and taking visitors out to sample the delights of boating. This needs to happen, they argue, as experience in Banbury showed them that people did not know there was a canal in the town! 5 min : 5 sec