Chocolate Charlie

From the same trip as the previous post, this is ‘Chocolate Charlie’ on his narrowboat, Mendip, moored near Preston Brook in the Spring of 1977.  Charlie Atkins aquired his nickname from the cargo he carried for much of his working life – chocolate crumb from Ellesmere Port to the Cadbury’s factory at Bourneville, Birmingham.

This is another strong face which has endured a lifetime on the cut – it is deeply lined and reminds me of the poet, W H Auden:

Comrades, who when the sirens roar
From office, shop and factory pour,
‘Neath evening sky;
By cops directed to the fug
Of talkie-houses for a drug,
Or down canals to find a hug
Until you die.

W H Auden – A communist to others – 1932.
(I feel sure Charlie would have come up with something more cheerful).

Chocolate Charlie

In his final years Charlie also became a minor celebrity – the revival of the English canals sparked an interest in the dying breed of men who worked the system. He is also remembered in song:


Endurance and strength

These image are from the archive and show the lock keeper on the Rochdale Canal in the centre of Manchester in the Spring of 1977.  Those gnarled, strong hands look as though they have endured a lifetime on the cut (Travel Theme: Strong & Weekly Photo Challenge: Endurance).

In those days the Rochdale was still in private ownership and you were obliged to pay for the descent along the short stretch of canal which links the Ashton Canal with the Bridgewater at Castlefield.  There was so much water flowing down the Rochdale that it cascaded over the back gates and made the process of emptying the lock a long, slow process.  When I passed this way again in 2008 the lock keeper and the house adjacent to the top lock were gone but, the plumbing remained a problem.

Lock keeper ...

Lock keeper ...

(click on the images to enlarge)