Chapter 26: Owning My Own Boat

For fifteen months I had no Change; but, at the end of that time, Work falling Slack, I was discharged. As I was walking along Vauxhall Road, I met George Goulding, who was a Sunday School Teacher with me and a Fellow Member of our Church in Lime Street. "Allo" says he,"where are you going? I thought you was at Work." I said, "No. I have got discharged, for we are very slack." "Well then," says he, "I have something to talk to you about. Mr Parr, my Master, has a Piece of Waste Land in Man St. and I can have it if I like to enclose it, for a Coal Yard without rent. Will you join me in it?" I said, "What is the use of you talking to me about that? for I have no Money." "Never mind about that." says he, "if you will only join me I will find the Money. I want you to mind the Yard and get it Ready. The first charge from the undertaking will be for you to have your Keep, and after that we will divide the Profits." Says I, "That will do as I have nothing to do. I may as well do that as nothing."

So that was agreed on there and then. I went with him to see the Land and stake it out. He found a Joiner, and I went to McGee's Sugarhouse to buy a quantity of sugar Boxes to rail round the Land and fit up a Cabin where I might sell Potatoes as well as Coals. After getting that done, I bought Scales and a Wheelbarrow and co. Then I ordered a few loads of Coals from Mr Halsall, a neighbour in Vauxhall Road, and so commenced Business. I took Lodgings right opposite the Yard so as to be handy to the Work. Business came in very slowly, as it was fine weather, being about May. We hoped it would increase as time went on. There was another man selling Coals in the same Street in a Cellar, he took them out himself to the Neighbours' houses.

As I was only by myself I could not do this, but had to wait for customers if they would come. This went on for some weeks; but no improvement.

At last we came to the conclusion that we had made a mistake in planting ourselves down in a place where there was no trade, notwithstanding we had paid no Rent. So it was concluded by us to back out the best we could. Mr Pugh, he that sold Coals in a Cellar the other end of the Street, in coming by my place used often to turn in for a Chat. I told him we had come to the conclusion for to Shut up. He said he was going to leave his place, for he could do no good. He said he wished he had a little Money, for then he would go into the Potato Trade. He belonged to Frodsham in Cheshire, where they grew good Potatoes. If he could raise a Boat he would trade with her between Frodsham and Liverpool: and if he got a Partner to join him that would be better.

I asked him how much Money it would take. He said "About twenty Pounds". I thought about the matter, and thought it would be a good Scheme that would be combining Work with Pleasure. I had a great Notion that to have a Boat would be a fine thing, so I said "If you can raise ten pounds, I think I can do the same". "Well", says he "I have a brother-in-law, a farmer in Frodsham, who I think will lend me ten Pounds". So it was agreed between us. Each, in his respective way would raise ten Pounds. I went to Mr Jones that same night and told him the conversation I had with Mr Ryley. Mr Jones said "I will lend you ten pounds; for it looks a likely thing, and I hope it will prosper". With that he gives me two five pound packages of silver. The next morning, I told Mr Ryley my success. "Well", says Mr Ryley, "that is good. Now I go to see my Brother-in-law to get my ten Pounds. In the meantime, I tell you, I have seen in the Princess Dock a long Boat for sale which is just the thing we want. We can make a fine Boat of her by raising her Eighteen inches, and putting on her a Forecastle and Gangway. She will be just fit for the Job. Let us secure her at once before she is sold."

I saw a Carpenter, John Wainwright, and asked him how much it would take to do the Work on her that we wanted done. "Well", says he, "if you will let her be done by me and my Mates we can do her in overtime. We will do the job for eight pounds". So that was agreed to. So nothing remained but to bring the Boat up to Mathers Yard, Vauxhall, where the men were working that were to do the job. So Ryley and myself went to the Dock, paid for the Boat, hired a Boat-truck and took her to Mathers Yard. In the meantime Ryley went off to Frodsham to fetch his ten pounds. When he came back he carried a most pinefull Face. His brother-in-law would not lend him the Money! Here was a pretty Kettle of Fish. I had spent more than half the Money I had borrowed and had made a Contract for repairing the Boat. Now I was left to do the best I could under the circumstances.

I did not know what to do. "Should I go on with the Boat? but how?" At last I thought "If I could borrow ten pounds more, I might finish the Boat and put her to some Use". With this Idea, I went to Mr Vickers, my former Master and put before him my Position, and asked him, would he lend me ten pounds to finish the Boat. This he kindly consented to do. So I went on with the Boat, only wishing she might be speedily ready, so that I might do something for myself. But I found wishing itself would not do. For I had to account with the Carpenter. For, as it had been agreed between the carpenter and myself that the work was to he done in their overtime, it would take a considerable time before the Job would be finished. I in the meantime must wait on them and procure Material for them to work on. The first thing I had to attend to was to get Knees for the raising her eighteen inches, and then planks or thick Boards for her sides, then Planking for the Forecastle and gangway, Oakum, Pitch and Paint, myself doing the scraping and painting.

In this way, four weeks went by before she was ready for Launching. Now a Truck was wanting to put the Boat on to carry her Down to the Water, and then a Team of Horses. At last all was ready. the Mast was stuck in. On top of this was a Vane in the form of a Fish, and on the stern painted "The Hope of Liverpool". So we started for the Seacombe Slip down Vauxhall Road. The Children were Shouting, for she looked strange for Vauxhall Road. When we got down to the Dock there was a consultation held. "How should we let her down the Slip?" One said "This way", another "That way". So at last John Wainwright, who was foreman of the Job said, "Here, give me that Chain". When he got it he put it round the Iron Post. "Now then", says he,"hang on!" So we hung on, and after She got a little way on, she made a Bolt, snatching the Chain out of our Hands, and ran swiftly down at her own Will , and plunged down sideways where there was a vacant Place of Open Water, Trucks Chain and all. She touched nothing, which was most providential, for, had she gone a little further, she should have gone on to the Magazine Boat, which was loading flour. And, if she had not gone as far as she did, she would have gone on top of some boats. Either way she would have committed much damage but "Who would pay?" I was evidently the responsible Party, but without funds to meet the slightest demand, for every penny I had was in the Boat, and was borrowed besides. So I was greatly relieved when the Men said "O, she is all right. See, she is coming up like a Duck and is no worse".

So now, all that we had to do was to get out the truck, which had gone to the bottom. This we managed to get out after a little time and restored it to the Owner. When all was done, and we were going home, one of the Men said:-

"We ought to have some Allowance over this job." This came very near to my heart; for I was afraid I could not muster enough Money for the Occasion. But, after fumbling in my Pockets I found, I think, Eighteen Pence, which gave them a small drink.

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