Thomas Clayton's Tar Boats

Navigating round the BCN was fascinating. There were no maps, one had to rely on Ordnance Survey which often did not know the difference between a canal and river. On one occasion I travelled up the Old Line, intending to turn and come home down Factory Three and along the Main Line. On reaching Tipton Green Locks which I thought was Factory Three, I was horrified to find the way barred by three derelict locks.

One spot I always loved was Claytons Yard. In the evening it would be a brilliant splash of colour on the water as the whole fleet would be moored there plus many disused boats which were full of water to keep the wood wet. They appeared to be sunk, but with a sigh each one would wake up and try to travel with you until its mooring lines pulled it up short.

The boat builders, Bill and Fred, mixed their own pigments and their red was a brilliant colour. They kindly mixed a small quantity of paint for my boat, plus a bucket of hot tar from the hold of one of the boats with which to black my hull when it was soon to be docked.