wearing my WRG hat and I was driving the old Ford pickup doing the dustbin emptying. Nottingham was probably the first rally where they’d had a major water pipe installation (because Steve Champion who was the son of the rally director was a plumber). After the rally we put the water pipe in the Erewash cottage at Sandiacre to store it, where we stored most of the rally stuff and Steve let it out at various Nationals. In 1978 they’d decided to have the rally at Titford; Waterway Recovery Group were involved in the installation of it – probably for the first time. Graham Palmer was involved in running it, Steve and myself went and fitted the water pipe the weekend before. I was there by boat and on the Thursday, the week before the rally I did the pipe work for the toilets which were in a little car park at the back of some houses and emptied into the main drains. Because I’d spent a couple of days piping up the toilets I was christened Bogs by Graham Palmer and after that I’ve been known as Bogs. After that Steve and myself carried on doing the pipework at various places: Northwich, Tottenham, Wigan, several times at Hawksbury , Milton Keynes, Brentford. I can’t remember when we finally packed up doing it. It was eventually taken over by the WRG work camp and others and then the original tardis came on the track and the water pipe was then stored in there. So for a number of years we just went to the occasional national without doing much and then when it came to Huddersfield  they were looking for somebody who was going to be around for most of the rally who could drive a tractor. I came on as a three week worker and started tractor driving; Mick Beattie was the work camp leader. I also used to answer the phone as tractor 1, and at the party after the do Mick made the comment that although I’d only got one tractor I always made it sound as if I was the first of several . I occasionally now at rallies get known as tractor rather than anything else. Then at Runcorn  it was decided that they were going to replace tardis with tardis mark 3 and Bill Sinclair was packing up looking after tardis after 11 years. So I agreed to fit out the new tardis and look after it at subsequent rallies. I appear to have acquired a certain reputation for being mean – which I think is completely justified. I still am a board member now though I don’t go to many meetings. I’ve been involved for nearly 40 years. I’ve enjoyed the work, I was an organic chemist by trade but I’ve always enjoyed mechanical work. It keeps you out of mischief and it’s somewhere to go on a Friday [Erewash work parties are held on a Friday]. Post interview note: John spoke at length about the manufacturing of the paddle locks and the old Rushton, unfortunately I’ve had to cut that out to keep the size of the article down. We are still looking to get the interviews online (in sound format) so that you can go and listen for yourself if you are interested. Next, Alison Smedley MBE takes time out of Middlewich Folk and Boat Festival to be interviewed and explain what she’s been doing on the waterways over the years and what it was like to meet the Queen.
Q: How and when did you first get involved with canal restoration? A: My involvement in waterways goes back a lot longer than my involvement in
Waterway Recovery Group. I went on my first canal holiday when I was about 3 months old and later in my childhood spent 5 years living on a Humber keel on the River Thames. Around this time my dad had been involved a bit with WRG and had been at the 1970 Guildford National when WRG was first formed. We moved back to a house and carried on going on occasional canal holidays. When I was 18 I left home and decided instead of buying a flat I bought a narrow boat and lived on that for several years. I used to go to IWA National Festivals – 1989 Waltham Abbey would have been the first one. I used to sit and look at all these WRG people in their red t-shirts and thought I’d really like to join them but I never quite plucked up the courage until December 1992. I was living on the boat in Uxbridge and I went along to an IWA social meeting where the speaker was supposed to have been Martin Ludgate, but in fact it was Tim Lewis standing in for Martin Ludgate, talking about WRG. That one evening changed my entire life because I decided to get involved with IWA on the committee; it was then the Middlesex section of the London branch. I became secretary and later became London region secretary. The first dig of 1993 – I was on London WRG’s dig. That year I went on almost every dig that London WRG did. I threw myself into it very enthusiastically with Martin, Lesley, Tim and co. That was the start of my involvement with WRG.
Q: What made you come back then? A: I went on my first dig; it was cold – we were working at Boxwell Springs Lock and were staying in
Magazine for volunteers restoring the waterways.