OM Memories by Clive Arnold (C2 1967-71) – Canal Clearing

History to Canal Clearing: Pewsey Wharf 1969-1971

I joined the MC Works Group in September 1968.

This group was responsible for bank maintenance on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Pewsey Wharf some 6 miles from MC on Wednesday afternoons. This involved cutting back overgrown weeds, bushes and brambles along the towpath. Our tools were stored in a shed at the Wharf.

We also had access to a small boat powered by a 1936 Seagull outboard motor to travel along the canal-see later note.

John Wilkinson, C2 House tutor drove the group of 8 pupils to the Wharf in the MC Ford Transit minibus.

Liz Clough (LI 1968-70), MC Club President 2017, one of the first girl intake to MC was one of our group.

The canal was run by the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust, (KACT) whose task it was to maintain and improve the canals which had fallen into disrepair after decades of neglect. This included repair of lock gates and improving the level and flow of water by clearing the water of obstructions & repairing water pumping stations, e.g. Crofton Pumping Station.

KACT obtained the services of Capt. Robinson, part of the team that invented and developed radar in 1939, start of WW2. At the time he was an engineer at Harwell Atomic Station. He formed a local group which I joined to build “Paddle-Barge”—see pic attached.

He obtained an empty barge into which we put a diesel engine to supply power to 2 electric motors. These drove the 2 paddles which enabled Paddle-Barge to turn around in its own length and not get clogged by the weed.

These motors also raised a wire-basket dragged along just below the waterline to collect the duckweed and other items blocking the canal. This material was then dropped onto the flat deck from where it could be shovelled off onto the bank.

My claim to fame: The BBC Blue Peter Programme heard about Paddle-Barge and asked to film it with some children on-board from Pewsey Primary School. I was tasked to operate it for them on that day.

John Dancy: 2 Golden Rules of MC-1966

I visited MC Masters Lodge in 1966 with my parents for an interview with John Dancy to enable me to join MC as a pupil.

John Dancy said there were 2 Golden Rules of MC to be observed:

  • Don’t break the rules, and,
  • If you do, (& I am not saying you should!), is Don’t get caught!

On a naughty note:

In this vein, like any 17 year old boy I liked a pint of beer. I rationalised that it was too risky to visit the local pubs which were subject to visits by the MC Vice-Squad of a Beak + Prefect. Hence, I used the Pewsey boat to visit a pub along the Canal to enjoy a pint or two with little to no risk of being caught!

Clive Arnold (C2 1967-71)