The Oxford Canal Heritage Project Oral History Interviewers
The project manager and volunteer oral historians interviewed the 28 people whose oral histories make up the Oxford Canal Heritage Oral History collection. Unsurprisingly, the volunteers, in different ways, cherish the canal and are concerned to preserve its heritage for local communities and all those visiting it. Their brief biographies appear below:
Mark J. Davies
Mark has lived on a narrow boat on the Oxford Canal near Jericho since 1992. He has been a local representative for the national Residential Boat Owners' Association and part of the working group which established the Agenda 21 canal moorings in 2002. He has been a director of the campaigning organisation Jericho Community Boatyard since its formation in 2006. He is also an authority on the history of the canal in Oxford, having published two books on the subject and several more on related topics (www.oxfordwaterwalks.co.uk). He regularly leads guided walks along the towpath, and contributed the original text for the Oxford Canal Heritage Trail, fully opened in 2015.
Pete is a local architect who is in love with boats (narrow and otherwise), canals and sailing. In the 60s he navigated the Oxford Canal in a narrow boat, sleeping under canvas in the hold, and explored the Leeds and Liverpool, the Fens, ascended the Anderton Lift in a converted naval launch…..and in 1990 his family found themselves a house in Oxford next to the canal, where he joined the Agenda 21 Building Alternatives project to enhance the canal at a time of rapid housing development.
Every year he picks an English river – the Thames came first - and sails its length in his 9 foot dinghy. And for some obscure reason, his holidays always involve water.
In 1982, when Maria and her family moved to Observatory Street, Jericho from Inner London Brixton, they were delighted to discover the Oxford Canal and Port Meadow. Besides walking, fishing, feeding ducks, canoeing and other canal pastimes, the heat and light of Lucy’s factory, especially at twilight, was endlessly fascinating. Maria has an allotment at the Trap Grounds next to the canal and is more often than not to be seen pedalling furiously down the towpath to catch a train from Oxford station.
Diana and her husband have lived in North Oxford, close to the canal, since 1981. The canal corridor and Port Meadow have played a significant part in their family life with children, a much loved dog, and now grandchildren enjoying its pleasures. Diana is Chair of Age UK Oxfordshire Trustees as well as being involved many other voluntary activities. She has hugely enjoyed being part of the team of interviewers capturing the memories of individuals and their families whose lives were closely connected to the canal
For me, the Oxford Canal near my home is the quickest escape from suburbia, providing solitude and glimpses of elusive wildlife as I walk along the towpath. And also glimpses of a wild world; that of coal boats that plied their trade along the waterways for 150 years. In 1998 I was privileged to get to know Jack and Rose Skinner, veterans of the Cut. Listening to their reminiscences gave me an abiding respect for the skills and traditional values of their community. I tried to do them justice in my chapters in A Towpath Walk in Oxford, which I co-wrote with Mark Davies.
Jane first encountered living on the water with friends on a houseboat in Kingston-on-Thames in the early 1970s – the houseboat community there at the time was at the centre of a campaign to preserve moorings. Since then, the worth of boating communities in keeping waterways alive has been acknowledged – and Jane, who on dry land adapted to 25-years-worth so far of canal boating holidays the length and breadth of Britain with her family and friends, has always been immensely impressed by boaters’ resourcefulness. From 1990 until 2013, she lived a couple of minutes from the Oxford Canal, which will always be close to her heart.