This is an interesting one. Barges (or narrow boats, as thy are called more universally) are a quintessentially British pastime, our town still has plenty of them plying the waterways, they’re mainly used as floating houses in this day and age, and even used as floating cafes and sweet shops occasionally too. I must admit I’ve never heard of the “barge folk” my grandad speaks of here, though I’m guessing they must be similar to Romany gypsies. Anyway, hope you enjoy…
A beautiful network of man made cuts
Into this sand and clay and stone
Filled with water from river and feld
And plying boats, all floating homes.
Heaps of limestone, pot clay and salt
Traverse these ways with regular beat
Rain and snow or sun and cloud
With cabins clean and always neat.
Copper pipes show off their sheen
Hand painted water jugs cast their show
Over linen washed and sparkling white
Potatoes boil upon the firelight glow.
These were a people all on their own
And their painted barge took pride of place
With red neckerchief and shiny clogs
They were all a wonderful race.
The boss at the tiller, eyes straight ahead
His whiskery face surrounds a clay pipe
Once new and long and filled to the brim
But now it’s only a stub that he lights.
His wife steers the butty boat and does the job well
Strong yet neat she is, covered by shawl
Two youngsters and dog run along the towpath
This is the family, this is them all.
Those were hard days to earn a wage and live,
Perhaps that is why a selected few
Trained to catch game in the dark of night
To sell to me and you.
The best all round were from this place
Of Marston in the steaming clouds
And away they would go as butter melts
No noise, into the dark nights’ shroud.
So place the order of your weekend needs
Pheasant, partridge, rabbit or trout
And the Marston poacher moves his way
With care, to look about.