Flipbook: Horse Drawn Working Barge

Days on a Horse-drawn Working Barge

Nearly one hundred years ago, nine year old Leeds schoolboy George Southern, during his school holidays, used to help his dad, waterman Joseph Southern, on his canal barge Sultan, fetching huge loads of coal from West Yorkshire collieries to the coal yards of Leeds. These trips made a lasting impression on young George who in later life was able to recall many of the sights, sounds and smells associated with working a barge on the Aire and Calder Navigation. He tells us about the apprehension he felt when experiencing the dark, enclosed canal locks and the wobbling horse-ferry as it carried man and horse across the River Aire. Helping us to understand his schoolboy life at that time  he takes us on trips to Roundhay Park, Leeds and swimming in the River Wharfe at Otley. He remembers with particular fondness his visits to the variety theatre in Leeds with his mum. 

Days on a Horse Drawn Working Barge was published in ten parts in The Wakefield Kinsman, the quarterly journal of Wakefield and District Family History Society, who have kindly given permission for us to share George’s story with a new audience. The colourised photographs, not part of the previously published text, have been added from our photograph library to illustrate the points referenced by George in his narrative.

You can also purchase a Kindle e-book version of George’s narrative on Amazon. Towpath Memories is a longer read of 65 pages and is recommended for students of Yorkshire’s waterways heritage. 

Publication permission for copyright images

We acknowledge that copyright images are being shown for which no explicit permission to publish has been given to this Society. Many of the digital images shown had originally been produced with the knowledge and permission of the now defunct Yorkshire Waterways Museum from original photographs deposited there for public display.  Following the closure of that organisation in 2019 and the break up of their collection those original photographs have disappeared and have effectively been lost to the public.

Through an incredible stroke of good fortune digital copies of those images were donated to this Society in 2022 allowing our volunteers to finally achieve the wishes of those photographers and collectors who had made the original donations.

If you are the copyright holder and would like to contact the Society please use the form below.


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