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River Ouse Bargeman (Paperback)

A Lifetime on the Yorkshire Ouse

Local History Maritime Transport History Yorkshire and Humberside Colour Books Canals

By David Lewis
Imprint: Pen & Sword Transport
Pages: 192
ISBN: 9781526716590
Published: 3rd October 2017


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Radio Interviews

BBC Radio York interview with Laurie Dews (13/10/17) and with both Laurie Dews and David Lewis (21/09/17) both interviews took place on the Jonathan Cowap show.

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The Ouse reaches into the heart of Yorkshire from the Humber Estuary. Until the 1980s, loaded barges made the challenging journey from Hull to Selby, bearing bulk cargoes for the mills of the town. The bargees had to be tough and resourceful; physically strong enough to handle their craft, wise enough to combat the rivers shifting currents and savvy enough to deal with those supplying short measure.

Laurie Dews of Selby worked the Ouse from 1937 to 1987, and is now the only ,man remaining with first-hand experience of a lost way of life. In this book, "River Ouse Bargeman", Laurie's words of wit and wisdom give a skippers eye view of a barge loaded to the gunwales fighting upstream, unloading at the mill and drifting back with the tide.

Laurie spins many a yarn about a bargeman's social life, too. His first-hand account includes the mysterious river crafts of singling out and penning up, the tricks and tell tales to show where the ever-shifting river channel lay and the camaraderie of life in the close-knit watery world.

In this book, alongside Laurie's account, there is a factual commentary, illustrated by many images from Laurie's collection dating back over a century, and extracts from official documents and maps.

As mentioned in Waterlines feature

Waterways World, December 2017

Rather than ghost-write this biography, David Lewis has successfully woven Laurie's own words into his narrative.
Illustrated with family photographs - that detail is its strength, Laurie's family should be pleased with the result.

Railway and Canal Historical Society

Laurie’s warm character shines through this book which stands as a testament both to the man and a snapshot of a time when the Yorkshire Ouse was alive with working barges.

Towpath Talk, October 2017 – reviewed by Kathryn Smith

As featured in

This England, Autumn 2017

As featured in

Narrow Boat, July 2017

As featured on

Julian Stockwin action-adventure historical fiction

... a valuable reminder of just how hard was the workday lives of the bargemen.

Water Craft magazine, July/August 2017 - reviewed by Pete Greenfield

While the book primarily tells Laurie's story, it is much more than a biography, with the author providing factual insights and commentary to contextualise and expand upon Laurie's (often amusing) anecdotes. Further insights are provided by a good number of excellent archive images dating back over a century, alongside official documents and maps.

Waterways World, July 2017 – reviewed by James Francis Fox

The work comes profusely illustrated, 144 photos in black and white and colour, most unpublished to be personal and the collection of the same Laurie.

An interesting book that portrays a region and an era through the vicissitudes that occurred in the life of a river boatman, using water as the nexus and main element of the story.

Read the complete Spanish review here.

José Manuél Rico Cortés (Mister JM) - Miniaturas JM

'...an unforgettable portrait of a bargeman's life.'
'[This book] stands as a wonderful tribute to a lost way of life.'

York Press

About David Lewis

David moved to Yorkshire in the 1970s, rapidly learning to love life in the 'Broad Acres.' Whilst teaching Science for thirty years, his interest in historic transport infrastructure grew. He volunteers at the Naburn Lock site near York, was part of the campaign to save the Settle-Carlisle railway, and worked to help commemorate the airship industry at Howden. A post funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund involving investigating the history of Selby followed. In this guise, he devised school-based study and drama sessions concerning Selby's history, ran a 'pop-up' museum in town and led walks and talks for many local groups. This brought him into contact with the remarkable Laurie Dews the bargeman on whose recollections this book is based.

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