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|I am 74, but I remember the canal when I was a tiny child, that's my first recollection of it because it was falling down then. I was about 4/5 when I first see the canal. I used to go down there with my Uncle mostly. We got three boys in our house and one girl. He's got one girl, and he always wanted a boy and they didn't have one ... and he used to take me with him.
He used to drive a cart and carried stones in that, because nothing much to carry. He told me this, and I remember him saying the Council, the local authorities wanted to keep the canal open, so they bought this load of stone to get the narrowboats to bring the stone up.
When they last came up, one sunk in the canal with a load of stone on it, not far from Leckhamstead Wharf. We used to walk through it, but you can't get through it now. It sunk down by there, because the canal banks were falling away then.
This is absolutely true, the canal was more or less disused, nearly fallen into disrepair when the 1418 war started. Then, it was transport for military stuff and rebuilt and refurbished ... always used to carry beer on them and I think it was partly my Uncle's excuse to take me down there.
You know why the canal really did fall into disrepair wasn't only the lack of work, it was the old Borough Council, because the sewerage, you know where the Grand Junction is, well right at the back of that just by the back gardens is a big piece of ground they can't use now, and that was the old sewerage works not a hundred yards away from the basin, and the local Council, to save having to build another sewerage, used to pump all the sewerage straight into the basin of the canal and it caused lots of trouble.
The finest memory I have got of it really, I'm not sure of the dates, I was only 7 years old so it would have been 1926, it was when they held the Closing Fesitval down there. It was not the actual finish of the canal, it was still used, but it was the last official job that they had there. I kept having sips of beer!
The local town, most of them didn't care because the railway was going, and the railway was the big thing. The canal meant a lot to the other people. Things were different then, we did we have to look forward to, we had Guy Fawkes Day, Christmas Day, and the Buckingham Fair. They were the great events . On a lot of the barges they used to bring a lot of the show stuff up then.
I remember where the old fertiliser factory was ... think of the stench ... it was never working in my time.
They wouldn't come to the top of the basin, the barges wouldn't when I was a kid because it was just a big sewer pit. The Council then wanted the canal people to keep the canal open themselves, but the basin never belonged to the canal company. It belonged to the Buckingham Borough Council. A most ridiculous arrangement.
Well, as you know, the Duke of Buckingham paid for the canal, he was responsible for it to come. He wanted to put Buckingham on the map, although really he stopped it in the first place, because the Marquis of Buckingham , when they wanted to build railways, he stopped them from coming anywhere near Buckingham. He had to give way in the end, but he had the canal built and he became a fanatic on it. Everybody was making vast sums of money in about early 1800's, because it was the cheapest form of transport you could get.
But it was never big or wide enough, because they'd only have the really slim narrowboats come up it, as there was hardly any room each side for them. .
The last piece left open was a marvellous piece for fishing on that canal. Well it was in 1938/39 it was still there. You know Maids Moretone Mill, that was all wide open falling into disrepair and the Mill there had the finest bits of fishing.
Loads of moorhens and duck eggs - you could flog them - not supposed to but no end of wild duck ... end of the 20's beginning of the 30's. Start work as soon as I was 14 years.
Early days during the war they filled it in. I can remember it quite well. A load of eels used to come up from the river, because you were not far away.
He came from Stony Stratford, can't remember his name, old boy, last bargee. He looked 200 years old, but probably 55! He used to shout and swear.
Q: What was he carrying?
A: Still bringing coal. Mostly coal, and also lots of stone for the roadworks, there was a stone dump not far from the old wharf. As long as they had a load to come up, they could always find something to take back.
Q: What did they take back?
A: Hay. Took it up to London for the horses. Then they used to have trouble because down by Thornton, under the road, they didn't have that much clearage on the top, so they had to unload it there and put it over the other side.
Can remember the old kettles they had on there, like the gypsies caravan. All polished and clean.
Q: Can you remember any more detail about the barges?
A: They were mostly about 60ft long, because they only used to fit Leckhamstead Wharf, they could just get. Couldn't get in the long big ones. Because you couldn't get them in the locks ... everything was built on a keeper's scale. The first length of Cosgrove they did the full size locks.
Then to save money, the one called Cathetar Bridge, the road goes over thcanla well that was open and still hadn't been filled in more or less 1938, because it leaked, so they filled that in and reinforced underneath to make the road go over it. I don't remember the exact date.
The women always walked with the horses and opened the gates, never the men.
Q: Can you remember what the barges had written on them?
A: Can't remember any of the names. My regret is that I didn't have a camera to take the photo of the last one. I doubt if there were 3 to 4 barges that would come up, because the railway took all their trade away even then. And they built the new goods yards, and the Buckingham Station was open about 1960.
They used to bring the cattle up there, the cattle used be driven.
I remember a man from Stony Stratford, a big black bearded man, all of his were painted black with red and yellow/gold colour. His woman walked along with the horse.
Q: Can you remember the horses, what where they like?
A: I can remember the horses. Most of them were like a big Welsh Cob, not full Shire horses, because once you got the barge moving there was no resistance. They had big feet. My Uncle bought two of them who were getting near the end of their working lives ... got them for some farmer.
... Reminiscing about his Uncle, beer and smoking pipe
I remember in between Leckhamstead Wharf and the old entrance to the football ground where that barge sunk, and they found no end of stuff there. No end of bits and pieces had been thrown away.
Q: What sort of things?
A: Well, cups and even 1800 pennies.
I can't remember much more, but it was something to be seen. I do remember the Charter fair there. It was a cold day, and if I remember rightly they roasted two sheep. It was near the official closing down date, end of 1925 beginning of 1926.
Q: What else did they have at the fair?
A: So far as I can remember nothing big, not for the closing down do.
Q: How many people at the closing down fair?
A: About 40 or 50. It seemed a lot of folks to me then as a kid.
I remember someone bringing me a bit of pork or sheep, and a cartwheel biscuit, arrowroot biscuit, several drops of beer.
Q: Was there any music?
A: Only an old boy playing a fiddle, and another a concertina.
Q: Did anyone make any speeches?
A: Not to my knowledge, but they may have done, I wouldn't have been interested. My grandfather and uncle played the fiddle.
Q: What can you remember about the wharf cottages?
A: The wharf cottages - they used to be a standing joke, where are you going for your holidays? We're going on the lock . Mrs Griffin was the last lock keeper - she has since died.
The first Lock House, where the workers that kept the canal in repair lived in two tiny cottages just before you get to the football field. They worked on the canal. Someone wanted to sell it, but you couldn't get access to it, because when they did the new road and widened it, it went right round the other side.
Q: Where's Linden village?
A: By the bypass. When they build a new road, you lose your bearings don't you.