Maidens' Trip

Emma Smith wartime memoir of working on the Grand Union Canal


Emma Smith, dustwrapper by Evadne Rowan


MacGibbon & Kee, London, 1949
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Printing Details

First edition, second impression. Hardback in dustwrapper. 21 × 14cm, 208pp.

In 1943 Emma Smith joined the Grand Union Canal Carrying Company under their wartime scheme of employing women to replace the boaters. She set out with two friends on a big adventure: three eighteen-year-olds, freed from a middle-class background, precipitated into the boating fraternity. They learn how to handle a pair of seventy-two foot-long canal boats, how to carry a cargo of steel north from London to Birmingham and coal from Coventry; how to splice ropes, bail out bilge water, keep the engine ticking over and steer through tunnels. They live off kedgeree and fried bread and jam, adopt a kitten, lose their bicycles, laugh and quarrel and get progressively dirtier and tougher as the weeks go by.


The book is in good condition, with some tanning to the pages and the publisher's name tipped in on the title page (MacGibbon & Kee took over publication from Putnam's). The dustwrapper has chipping to the top edge and slight loss, with general tanning but is now within a protective sleeve and has not been price-clipped.



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