|Wyn Gould: Picture by Bob Naylor©|
Wyn had been living at the home of one of her daughters near Marlborough for the last 18 months and it was there that she died peacefully on Monday in the company of her two daughters Jenny and Jane.
The canal became Wyn and John's whole life and she blamed herself for fanning the flame of a passion that was clearly in him. "Tom Rolt's book Narrowboat had just been published", she said, "and I bought it for him for Christmas and sent it to him in India where he was serving in the Army. That fired the enthusiasm that had been dormant in his mind to come back to England and see what could be done to restore the Kennet & Avon Canal."
When John returned from India and left the Army he needed to find work and he began working for the British Transport Commission on the canal. It wasn't long before John decided to buy a pair of working boats and after a search he finally bought the motorboat, Colin and the Butty, Iris.
|John and Wyn Gould arrive at Newbury Lock with Colin and Iris. Wynne is at the tiller of Iris with her oldest daughter Jane sat on the hatch in front of her.|
They carried topsoil from New Mill in Newbury to nurseries at Sunbury-on-Thames but that stopped when British Waterways Board closed the canal.
They then got some dinghies and skiffs and hired them out at Victoria Park in Newbury. Wyn said, "We had five children and we literally dragged them up at Victoria Park where we hired out the boats".
They started doing boat trips and by getting schools interested they were able to get very busy with that but with the canal closed the time came for the working boats Colin and Iris to go. Iris was hauled out onto Newbury Wharf and burned. Then, Wynne explained, "John took Colin near to Bulls Lock where he and Bill Fisher dug out a pit for her and that is where she sank and disappeared — it was all very sad".
They later began the John Gould hire-boat business at Newbury Lock where they had cruisers and houseboats and it became very busy and popular. Wyn said, "This meant that I not only brought up the children, but I hired out the boats and turned the houseboats round every weekend — changing all the bedding and cleaning them out ready for the next day."
And while Wyn was doing all this John was busy campaigning to save the canal. There were countless meetings to increase support for the canal but, said Wynne, "In the early days we never thought it would come off, not at this end of the canal anyway so it was really special that we lived long enough to see the canal opened. But not getting Cruiseway Status was so irritating."
Wyn related that when they met the Queen at the opening ceremony in Devizes the Queen said, "Well John Gould I have heard a lot about you and I'm really glad to meet you at last, perhaps we shan't see your picture in the papers so much now.""It was really special that we lived long enough to see the canal re-opened but not getting Cruiseway status was so irritating"
Wyn said that their lives were quite different to other people's, "We ate when we had time and the children spent half their time down at Victoria Park."
The hire boats and trip trips were completely dependent on the weather and as the children got older they needed more money, "But", said Wyn, "money was the last thing John thought about — he would just say — Oh! we will get by, we can always eat the furniture". To help make ends meet Wynne took a job in a launderette and each day when she finished there she went to Victoria Park to hire out the boats and later go home and get a meal and do the washing. As she said, "We had no washing machine then, it was a very intense time and we just lived life from day to day and week to week".
"People who come through this canal now have no idea what it was like when we started"The canal in the Newbury area was not getting any attention so they organised work parties to repair the lock chambers and lock gates. She said, "It was unbelievable what we had to do and people who come through this canal now have no idea what it was like when we started.
"Sometimes you could only go a few yards on a boat with a propeller so we had 'paddle unit' boats that went flopping through the water and that got us along more quickly and more safely".
"Every time we went out it wasn't a trip, it was an adventure.""Because the canal was in such a bad state the people we took out had to realise that we might not get back at the scheduled time — and we often didn't."
Newbury Mayor, Councillor Gillian Darrant, and Wyn Gould
opened the 2006 Newbury Waterways Festival.
Picture by Bob Naylor©
Wyn's funeral takes place at St Nicolas Church in Newbury on Thursday 28th April at 2.30pm.