Some history

By the late Peter Andrews

Why the Charity was Founded

In 1995 Tim Coghlan (MD of Braunston Marina) organised a re-enactment of the “Jam ‘Ole Run” on the 25th Anniversary of the ceasation of the coal trade. A number of old working boats, accompanied by some modern boats, went from Braunston to Coventry, loaded with a (token) amount of coal, carried it to Brentford (at the start of Paddington Arm) and returned to Braunston – all in a week. This is what the old boatmen did for a living until the trade died out in 1970. Why the “Jam ‘Ole”? It was a narrow entrance to the factory of Kearley & Tonge who (among other things) made jam.

While at the “Jam ‘Ole” someone enquired of the whereabouts of Raymond because she was one of the boats which went on the last run. She had been given to the “Wooden Canalcraft Trust” in December 1992 who had hoped to restore her. In the event they had been unable to raise the necessary funds.

And so in October 1996 it was decided to form a charity with the specific aim of restoring Raymond and the Trust agreed to give her back. And so was born the “Friends of Raymond”. Part of the interest lay in the fact that Raymond was the last ever wooden working boat built (certainly in Europe) and that she was built in Braunston – the base for the charity.

Raymond was collected from the Wooden Canalcraft Trust at Runcorn, where she had sunk, and taken to the Black Country Museum at Dudley for assessment, where she sank again, twice. It was soon clear that she was far beyond restoration (it would have been foolish to even consider moving her again to the restorer) and that a re-build was the only option.

Fund-raising for Raymond

Fund-raising was the first essential and while a host of small efforts got under way a lot of effort also went into getting a Lottery Grant, submitted early in 1998. The total estimated cost was about £85K and the bid was for £52K. The timing was bad! The previous year a grant had been given to a group at Batchworth to restore Roger, the boat that towed Raymond for about 10 years. Their attitude seemed to be that they had funded one wooden boat restoration so why support another?

That left us with a lot of money to find!! The pessimists said it couldn’t be done but the committee had some hard workers – and some persuasive talkers.

By December 1999 (less than two years later) restoration work was under way and by the start of July 2000 Raymond was back in Braunston and moored just a few yards from where she had been built in 1958. We had been given 10 oak trees (from Epping Forest) for the sides, we got a good deal via BW on the Opepe for the bottom and the contingency fund did not need to be used. One way or another we managed to save about £20K of the original estimate.

The Friends of Raymond could sit back, finish off the work in the cabin, acquire sheets, get a decent paint job and do all the other things that are needed to keep a boat in good trim. Funds were still needed but at a much more manageable rate.

And then, well …

… Raymond was once described as a ‘lame duck’ – she had no engine and could go nowhere without a motor to tow her. Trevor Maggs with Corona, June and John Anderson with Empress and Ron Withey helped out when they could, but often there was no boat to tow Raymond to a show we would like to have visited. Then Iain Mullley and Kate Wright, both of whom worked at Braunston, bought Nutfield. This eased the problem but they could not spare the time to visit many events.

Fund-raising for Nutfield

I was camping in Lincolnshire in early June 2003 when I received an e-mail saying that they were selling Nutfield and moving into more spacious accommodation – I said to myself ‘interesting’ but thought no more about it. I arrived back in Braunston on 18th June to learn that a member of FoR was hoping to buy Nutfield but would need to arrange a loan. Initially, that seemed a good idea because she would still be around to tow Raymond. Ten days later it was the ‘FMC Rally & Canal Festival’ at Braunston. The only two Trustees were elsewhere and the Secretary, Irene Reeve, was visiting her son in Germany. She asked me to check up that the purchase was going ahead since we also knew that Iain and Kate had placed an advertisement for the sale of Nutfield in the August edition of Waterways World (due out in just two weeks time) – this could result in the boat landing up anywhere.

Even if the member bought her s/he could change job, move and take Nutfield away. But the loan fell through.

Panic!! What could be done? This was likely to be the only chance FoR would ever have of acquiring Nutfield. Now I’ve been around for quite a long time and knew many of the people who would be sympathetic. Some were at the Show, others were on the end of my telephone line. By the end of the weekend things were looking promising; a few days later definitely rosy. They have all been generous but wish to remain anonymous.

One thing still needed to be sorted – the survey. We knew it was an old boat and we were not surprised to find that serious work was going to be needed. Was the asking price too high in view of this extra cost? We asked the opinions of experts on old boats and they said ‘no’, and so the deal was sealed. It was only afterwards that we realised that Nutfield was not just ‘the boat that towed Raymond during the last two years of her working life’ but is an historic boat in her own right and deserves proper restoration. This is costing a bit more than we expected but …

… Phase 1 of the restoration had been completed and Nutfield was back in the water and has been able to tow Raymond once more. Phase 2 was started in the winter of 2006/7. More about Nutfield can be found in the Nutfield section.

Maintaining any boat is a never-ending process, especially where wood is in use. The Friends of Raymond continue to look after both Raymond and Nutfield and aim to keep them in top class condition so that they can be shown off to the public at various boat shows each year. We always need help to crew them, to maintain them and to raise the money needed for this. Why not help by joining?