The original IWA split

Published: Monday, 30 November 2020

READING Claudia Trenhall's claim that 'the association is not there for the boaters but for the good of the canals' reminded me of the split in the original IWA, writes Andrew Bailes.

This happened in splendid rancour in Birmingham in 1951.

Finally left

Tom Rolt, of 'Narrow Boat' fame, writes in his autobiography of how he finally left the organisation after a dispute with Roger Aickman, his co-founder, resulted in Rolt putting his name to a letter which insisted on the organisation's committing itself to Rolt's intention on its founding, namely 'that the IWA must in future do more to help the working boatmen, including more attention to that part of the narrow canal system which was still in commercial use'.

Aickman's section of the IWA disagreed though, in favour of a focus on restoration and leisure boating.  And we all know how well that went for the working boatmen.

Broke last link

Tom Rolt, after a final IWA meeting in Birmingham "Which broke my last link with the canals," joined the recently formed Tallyn Railway Preservation Society.

I wonder if we can look to a future under CaRT when, like the preserved steam railways, our canals are no longer a working environment. Rolt would be disappointed, perhaps, but not surprised.