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May 16th 2013, Neue Akropolis

By the Old Canal
an illustrated talk by Heinz Payr

The title of Heinz’s enthralling talk was, it seems, taken from the folk song by Ewan MacColl, Dirty Old Town – “Dreamed a dream by the old canal”.
Heinz took us on a personal tour of SW England that is dear to his heart, along the Kennet and Avon Canal. But this wasn’t a purely subjective trip! He covered the socio-economic background to canal-building in the 18th century, the origin of the word ‘navvies’ and stressed the technical resourcefulness of the early pioneering engineers. (Mind you, as a retired teacher of the Higher Technical College in Fulpmes, he is an expert in such history of technology!)
Heinz enriched our limited knowledge of such matters bv quoting Dickens’ Hard Times (‘beam engines like elephant heads’), explaining the importance of the GWR (Great Western Railway) from 1841 in competing with canal transport, and how the canal nowadays offers leisure activities (long-boat hire, fishing, as well as walking and cycling along the old tow-paths).
Heinz illustrated his fascinating talk with a wonderful sequence of historical and contemporary images, also of wildlife (coots, swans and cygnets).
Some twenty of us now have hopes of following in Heinz’s footsteps!


Andrew Milne-Skinner


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