Punching the Tide on a motor barge
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Punching the Tide


Captain Duncan Francis

Here's an excerpt from the memoirs of a motor bargeman on the Thames and Medway:


My father's youngest uncle, Edmund, who lived in the pub on Hythe Quay in Colchester was always getting into mischief. When he was a boy, anything that ever went wrong was blamed on him.

One summer evening he had been sent to bed early for being naughty. It was in those days that the milkman used to deliver at all hours of the day. The milk was carried in a big chum on the back of a cart. Someone unknown had turned on the tap and the milk was running all over the road. The milkman stalked into the pub looking for Ed, but of course, his mother had the perfect answer.

"You can't blame it on him this time. He's in bed!"

But Ed had borrowed mum's dressing gown, climbed down the drain pipe, done the deed and was by then back in bed fast asleep.

When he was mate in a sailing barge with his older brother Josh

(my Granddad), he was left on board at a wharf in the country. A gamekeeper came by looking for poachers. He stood on deck and called down to Ed in the cabin, asking what he was cooking for dinner. Ed replied that he was doing a meat pudding. The keeper then enquired if he had seen anybody poaching pheasant. Of course, the answer was no! While this conversation was going on, the gamekeeper had been standing on the deck pump cover, under which the guilty bird was hidden!

Later on, when Ed was skipper of a Maidstone barge, he would anchor off Upnor and pretend that his anchor was lost or fouled, wiring to the owner to send him money to retrieve it. He and another bargeman used to walk from Upnor to the pub at Wainscot. One night, Ed stole a rabbit from the yard of a house. The next week the householder found the rabbit skin nailed to his back gate.

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Copyright ©2004 SatCure
Updated January 1, 2004
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Punching the Tide on a motor barge