Trawling through the archives

The heavily laden barge nearing Naburn Lock on the River Ouse on November 28, 1970

The barge Leeds Magnetic just scrapes under the tiny Foss Bridge as it nears the end of a 100-mile journey carrying 200 tons of sand from the River Trent to York building merchant JH Walker on September 27, 1977

A Humber sloop doubling as a medieval “ship of fools” during filming on the River Ouse in York of the short film Boat Of Fools on September 24, 1981

The dredging barge Reklaw up to its gunwales as it takes a load of river sand to a York builder’s merchant on April 12, 1978

The River King on the Ouse in 1967

A dredger at work on the River Ouse near Lendal Bridge on May 25, 1972

First published in History articles
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NO, this is not a steamboat on the Mississippi: it really is a barge on the good old River Ouse. The brooding photograph was taken by former Press chief photographer Fred Spencer in November 1970.

"Wintry clouds and the cold, grey River Ouse lend an austere beauty to this photograph... of a loaded barge nearing Naburn Locks," says the caption. And so they do.

There's a distinctly watery theme to the first part of Yesterday Once More this week - thanks in part to an interesting call we had about the photograph we carried last week showing illipe nuts being unloaded from barges at Queen's Staith in the 1970s.

That prompted us to dig around in our archives, where a quick search uncovered a series of photographs of boats on York's rivers - a selection of which we reproduce today.

One shows the barge Leeds Magnetic having just scraped under the comparatively tiny Foss Bridge. The date was September 27, 1977. The barge was carrying "almost 200 tons of sand and gravel to JH Walker's the York building merchants, in a new venture to bring this material from the River Trent," the caption says. "Only by carrying it in these large vessels does the transporting of this material overr such a long distance become economical."

There is also a wonderful photo from 1978 of the old Reklaw, back in the days when it was a dredging barge, so low in the water with its cargo of river sand that you can only half read the name.

And while we're on the subject of dredging - a bit of a sore point with many these days - we have a photo of a dredger at work on the Ouse near Lendal Bridge. A great metal scoop dripping with water and river mud has just emerged from the water, while a few passers-by look on from the bridge above.

From working boats to pleasure boats - of which perhaps the most renowned ever to have steamed the waters of the Ouse was the River King. Our photo shows her in 1967, her awnings making her look like an African riverboat, her smoke stack trailing a banner of thick black smoke across the sky in her wake.

And finally, to the 'ship of fools'. This was actually a Humber sloop normally berthed at South Ferriby. in autumn 1981, however, she was pressed into use as the set for a 40 minute film, Boat of fools, about a medieval 'ship of fools' used to house the mad or unconventional in medieval times.

The short film - made by York Independent Film - involved eight professional actors and 20 extras, all in medieval costume, and took 10 days to shoot. Our photo was taken on September 24, 1981. Does anyone remember the film, or see it being filmed?

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