The Coal-man Goeth Away

Well, that’s it then. Roach has gone, sold. The end of an era.

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As all our friends and customers have been aware, and as many others on the cut have too, we sold our coal business a year ago. We sold it to Charlton Whitehouse Fuels Limited of Oldbury, who continue to give good service to all our old customers. I’m pretty sure that they would welcome new business too! 0121 544 3595 is the number to get them on. I will be making the occasional guest appearance delivering coal for them by road throughout the coming winter, so you may still get to view my delightful features first hand.

The reasons for packing up are partly personal, and partly the increasing difficulty that we were finding in dealing with the Canal and River Trust particularly with regard to the planning of their winter works programme. It was becoming nearly impossible to get around in the winter months - the sharp witted among you will immediately seize upon the fact that most people require coal when it is cold, i.e. the winter months. This meant that I ended up delivering mainly by road, thus defeating the object of my particular exercise. The large license fee that CRT were taking off me in exchange for no certainty of navigation at all also stuck in my craw.


The decision to sell up was not an easy one to make, after all, I’ve been delivering coal full time on Roach for twenty-five years, and have actually owned the boat for over thirty years. That’s more than half my life! It has been a wonderful time on the canal, and neither Jenny or I would change any of it. We have made loads of good friends and had some excellent times, drunk lots (and lots) of excellent beer and visited plenty of lovely places. It really has been, as the late, great Eddie Cochran sang  “Something Else”. 

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No more will there be those fabulous, cold, frosty mornings standing next to the stove with the kettle permanently on the boil, nor the sheer exuberance of hammering into a lock with a big load on just to astonish gongoozlers. 

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There will be no more zooming down the Severn at twice the speed of sound, and, sadly, no more stopping at every canal-side hostelry to swap coal for refreshments. I expect that we will still pay a good few of ‘em a visit occasionally, as we have many friends who seem permanently ensconced in their particular inn of choice. We will miss it, but the old saying “Quit while you’re ahead” does seem to be apposite.


We will also look back with a tear or two on the days of bagging loose coal in the hold as we travelled along - ah, happy days. We will also very much miss the various characters who turned up over the years to load coal into their own boats. The quite extensive list of these can be found here. The picture below shows Richard Clapham in control as twenty tonnes of coal trebles are tipped directly into his boat, Cepheus at a secret location on the Birmingham Canal Navigations.

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The good news is that Roach has gone to a good home; indeed it has almost gone back home. It will be based on the River Weaver in Northwich, just across from the basin where it was built in 1935. Below are a few shots of Roach on the Weaver over the years, just for old times sake.

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Finally, a massive thank you to all our friends and customers, past and present, for your support, without you we could not have done what we did. I hope to see many of you over the coming winter as I continue to keep my hand in working part time for CWF. Thank you once again.

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P.s. If you are interested, have a trawl through the galleries on this website for a flavour of our activities over the years, there are some good and interesting photographs in them. © John Jackson 2014