Carrying Coal

by Ian H Bruce (2008)



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Carrying coal from High Lane to Bosley
Then dropping down through Telford’s lock flight
Passing through Congleton, onward to Kidsgrove
Hoping for beers in the Blue Bell tonight

’Twas late in the day when construction started
The railways were coming doom prophets did say
But in only five years the canal was completed
And Macclesfield’s goods could then move on their way

Limestone from Bugsworth, coal mined near Poynton
Twist and silk buttons and cotton from mills
Barrels of felt hats destined for London
In horse powered barges skirting Derbyshire hills

The boom years soon passed and boat cargoes dwindled
Overwhelmed by the railway, the power of steam
Pleasure boats briefly took tourists to Lyme Hall
But the silver strewn highway was a vanishing dream

The route struggled on for over a century
When closure was planned many expressed concern
But some valiant efforts by keen leisure cruisers
Saw closure abandoned, pleasure boating return

Fibreglass followed the wooden hulled cruisers
Now the steel narrow-boats need fuels to be burned
Coalite for cabin stove, diesel for engine
So the travelling coal boats now have returned

This song is a potted history of the Macclesfield Canal which was one of the last canals to be built. The Macclesfield Canal ceased to carry commercial traffic in the 1960's. Through the efforts of members of the North Cheshire Cruising Club and the IWA it was not allowed to die.

The web-site of the Macclesfield Canal Society is a useful source of historical information.

The original chorus refered to the 'Red Bull' but a more knowledgeable boater than myself pointed out that the 'Blue Bell', at the junction of the Macclesfield and Trent and Mersey canals, was the favoured boaters' pub. The chorus was changed.