‘Living history’ at Braunston Rally
- Credit: Tim Coghlan
This year marked 60 years of the Braunston Historic Narrowboat Rally, although its history runs even further back
“This is living history,” remarked actor and waterways supporter David Suchet, on meeting 94-year-old former shipwright Aubrey Berriman, responsible for wooden narrowboat Raymond, launched at the then Samuel Barlows yard in 1958 and now celebrating its 60th anniversary at this year’s Braunston Historic Narrowboat Rally. And it’s a history that goes back a lot further than that, with Braunston Marina and its boatyard predecessors having served the canal for 225 years.
David Suchet and his wife Sheila were in Braunston to officially open the event which attracted 83 historic narrowboats, having ten years earlier opened the 2008 rally which commemorated Raymond’s golden anniversary. They weren’t the only celebrities present, with Timothy West and Prunella Scales taking part in the opening ceremony on the Narrow Boat Trust’s pair Nuneaton and Brighton.
But Braunston isn’t just about famous people and famous boats – it’s about the lively (and sometimes chaotic) scenes as historic craft process around a circuit of the canal, the marina and Braunston Turn during the twice-daily parades, with steerers doing their best to avoid any mishaps which would be in full view of plenty of the 7000-plus visitors. And it’s about the entertainments including Alarum Theatre’s show Idle Women of the Wartime Waterways, Phil Underwood and Nancy Potter’s Canals of Old England, plus morris dancers, music, and the Dry Dock beer tent. And it’s about raising money for canal groups and local good causes – £7,000 this year – and inspiring owners of historic craft. As Tim Coghlan of Braunston Marina put it: “What was most pleasing was the comments from so many owners that it’s events like the Braunston Historic Narrowboat Rally which inspire them to restore and maintain their boats which are such an important living and moving part of our canal heritage.”
Next year’s event is already being planned: put the date 29-30 June in your diary.