Sunday, 2 August 2015


A Bargee/Bargeman is defined as:-


1. one of the crew of a barge.

2. a person who owns, manages, or captains a barge.

A barge is defined as:-


1. a capacious, flat-bottomed vessel, usually intended to be pushed or towed, for transporting freight or passengers; lighter.

If you are a bargee you usually own, manage, or captain a vessel carrying freight or passengers. There are narrow boats (approx 7 feet wide)  there are barges (14 feet or more) and in between there are wide beams 8, 10, 12 feet or so. The difference between a proper narrow boat or barge and a modern day narrow boat is about 25 tons of freight. Same applies to a barge. Barges are piloted by a bargee as are narrow boats.

Now being a bargee or a crew member, usually family, you had a very hard life. I have the greatest of respect for such people and because I have respect for them I would not have the temerity to call myself a Bargee. Neither, I think, should anyone else. On a modern narrow boat with all the trimmings of modernity we cannot hope to get a real appreciation of how hard the Bargees life was. There are very few real Bargees left on the water. People who could load a boat with timber/cocoa/coal etc and sheet it up. Then take the cargo to its destination in the minimum amount of time. In days gone by a fully crewed pair could take a load from Brentford to Brum in about 60 hours hot bedding all the way.

Whilst you may not agree with that I simply cannot find it in my heart to respect any one who calls them self a bargee, because they live in comparative luxury on a modern boat. They simply cannot comprehend  just how hard it was. You can feck CAB CRT and any organisation who thinks we are bargees, we are not itinerants and should not be roped in with Romanies/gypsies/travellers etc. because mostly we are just ordinary landies who happen to like it on the water.

We are boaters! Plain and simple! We will never know what it feels like to have to stay at the helm  day after day to deliver your cargo or go hungry. When the tiller begins to feel too heavy we just pull over and moor up. We can put the kettle on, put our feet up and not worry about tomorrow.

Nine years I have been at this and I will never have the skills or experiences the real bargees had and, to be honest, I am not sure I would want them, not for the price they paid.


Miles said...

Hi Maffi,

How very well put. A voice of eloquence and reason.

Well said that man.

Linda Gifford-Hull said...

Hi. Are you back in Thrupp? Mary H and Ferndale will be there tomorrow, as long as we can get moorings. We plan to go to the Boat Inn in the evening - we would all love to meet you. Linda

Maffi said...

I am staying for a week or two for essential repairs to both Milly M and Me See you tomorrow. You will see me before you hit the Water Point.