Cepheus is a Small Woolwich motor boat, which means that it was built by Harland & Wolff at their yard in Woolwich on the Thames for the Grand Union Canal Carrying Company.

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Richard Clapham was the owner of Cepheus for many years, and he is mainly the reason that I am now a coalman. Richard had been operating Cepheus as a coal boat mainly between Birmingham and the North West, when he took it into the Oldbury yard of Les Allen & Sons for re-bottoming. He had the pair of boats Whitby and Pictor on hire from John Batten as replacement boats, and I agreed to tow Pictor with Roach all round the northern canals to service his customers. This was in 1994. He continued his coal deliveries and also undertook various contracting jobs with Cepheus, whilst I started trading between Birmingham and the Severn, both of us being supplied with coal by Ray Selley who traded as The Union Coal Co Ltd. 

Richard also did many trips with us between 1999 and 2002 once Jenny and I had set up at Awbridge. He is an extremely committed person, and works hard at whatever he does. He is now sailing on the high seas as skipper of the Severn pilot cutter “Mascote”, and appeared in one episode of the “Three men and a Boat” series on television being held upside-down by the ankles by Dara O’Brien over the stern of “ Mascote”  so that he could clear the fouled propellor in Tobermoray Harbour. It just shows that all those hours spent removing rubbish from the propellor around Birmingham was worthwhile after all, and the experience gained put to good use.

coalboat@waitrose.com © John Jackson 2014