Tales from the Thames

Yesterday I went to the premier of a documentary about the lighterage industry on the River Thames.  Lightermen (lately there were also some lighterwomen) maneuver the barges that move goods from ships to shore.  The trade is centuries old and related to the Watermen who rowed passengers along the Thames when it was the city’s main road – giving rise to one of my favourite film lines ‘I had that Kit Marlowe in my boat the other day’ (Shakespeare in Love).   Waterman’s Hall in the City of London administers guild-like control over the industry which has often been restricted to family members, of which I’m one.  My great-grandad, grandad and uncle were all ‘on the river’.  By the time I left school, there wasn’t enough trade for me to follow in the family footsteps, but I do sometimes wonder how different my life might have been otherwise.  There’s always a danger in romanticising working class history, but I think the film avoids that.  On the day when the labour movement is under renewed attack, there are also some important reminders about solidarity.

If you fancy watching it, it should be here, or here http://www.thameslightermen.org.uk/index.html


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