David Wain a very well respected member of the Christleton community for almost all of his life, died in September aged 90. He was born in 1927 and was educated at the King’s School in Chester. He joined the family firm of Boat builders in Skips Lane, Christleton which was one of the first yards to build and hire leisure craft for people to enjoy holidays on Britain’s canals. Initially it was called the “Inland Cruising Association Ltd”, and later Inland Hire Cruisers Ltd. It was a very successful business until the demands of WWII, when everything became rationed including fuel. It’s difficult to believe now that there were two other boat yards in Christleton on the banks of the Shropshire Union Canal, the adjacent site on Skips lane was Charlie Luxton’s yard, and John Dean’s Marina was on the other side of Rowton Bridge.

David served in the Royal Air Force between 1945-49 before rejoining the family firm taking over as chairman and managing director after his father’s death in 1956.

David and his wife Norah were prominent members of the Christleton Players Theatre Group for many years, and were members of Chester Round Table and Ladies Circle respectively. Norah was an excellent cook, and together with Margaret Croston travelled to France on a cookery course, and together with David often hosted special events at their home in Skips Lane. Alf and David also became great friends and often shared journeys to London, staying at The Royal Overseas League whilst on business.

David developed a deep interest in the canals and waterways of Great Britain, and became friends with Lionel Thomas Caswell Rolt and his family. Lionel Rolt was the inspiration for the revival of the canal system in the late 1920’s, and wrote many excellent books, which became best sellers. He was born in Handbridge, Chester and his mother Annie was the sister of Rector Lionel Garnett, and whose life is commemorated with a memorial plaque at St James’ Church. Tom Rolt is also remembered locally with a plaque in the canal basin in Chester, and an Education Centre named after him at the Ellesmere Port Boat Museum.

From 1954 to 1963, David was a committee member of the Inland Waterways Association’s North West Branch. He served as National secretary for seven years between 1962 and 1969, and from 1969-1974 as National Chairman of the Pleasure Craft Operators. In 1968 he was appointed a Council member of Government newly created advisory body on Inland waterways, the Inland Waterways Amenity Advisory Council, becoming Chairman in 1977 until he retired in 1992. In 1983 he was appointed an OBE for his services in the development of tourism and recreation on Britain’s Inland Waterways. David created a very successful canal museum at Llangollen, which received the British Tourist Authorities top award for that years outstanding Tourist development in Great Britain.

Water and waterways were in his blood, and he became Vice President of the British Canoe Club organising the World Championships in North Wales. His son and daughter Nick and Sarah won many canoeing events including national championships. In 1992 he became IWA Vice President, Vice President of the Trent & Mersey Canal Society, Vice President of the Shropshire Union Canal Society, a trustee of the Anderton Boat Lift Trust and Boat Museum in Ellesmere Port. Previously he served as a trustee for the Rainbow Boats for the disabled which operates from Christleton from 1979-1997, and the Waterways Trust 1999-2003. He was President of the British Canoe Club from 1975-1990, and Chairman of the National Waterways Museum (1994-2001)

David and Norah were founder members of the Christleton Local History group in 1976, and contributed greatly to the first two main publications, “Christleton the Story of a Cheshire Village” published in 1979, and “Christleton 2000 years of History” published for the Millennium. He was always so caring and friendly, a delightful man with a kind word for everyone. His smile was infectious, and his enthusiasm for life was there even on the last time I visited him, to tell him about the Christleton Great War Stories project. He was genuinely thrilled to hear about the work we were doing with young people from Christleton High School. Although housebound by then he mind was active and alert. His many friends in Christleton will miss his good judgement and sound advice.

David had a wonderful sense of humour, and often told stories about his youthful exploits in the canal yards, and especially about one incident in the severe winter of 1963 when he drove his old Vauxhall Victor over the frozen canal from Christleton to Waverton and back. Another of his exploits that winter also came to light, when as part of a lecture on the collection of paintings in the Grosvenor Museum, we heard by chance about him driving his car across the frozen Dee near the old Dee Bridge. The last image the lecturer showed that evening was a painting of the frozen River Dee in 1963. He had heard the story that several youths had driven their cars across the ice. He thought that this crazy adventure was so very risky, and commented on the stupidity of such a journey. As he told the story, David went into a fit of almost uncontrollable giggles, and to the great embarrassment of the speaker stood up and said, “We’ll young man, I’m that so and so silly person who drove his car across the river. It was really quite fun!!”

David was one of the nicest people you could ever meet. His enthusiasm for life was infectious and his memory will live on through all who knew him, for many years to come. We express the deepest condolences of the Christleton community to his wife Norah and family.

David Wain

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© 2018 Richard Nicholson

The History File November | Christleton

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