Crick Grundy 1926 - 2011: A True Pioneer of the Canals

crick_grundy_picMajor Christopher (Crick) Grundy, who died on 4th November last year, was imbued with the spirit of the inland waterways from the earliest days. 

Born in Colne, Lancashire in 1926, he was the eldest son of Reginald and Marjorie Grundy.  His parents’ first boating holiday – an unusual concept in those days – was in 1934 on the Shropshire Union Canal; Crick and his younger brother, Martin, first joined them on a cruise in 1938. Both were immediately captivated by the canals.  In 1945, Reginald bought a 30ft converted ex-ship’s cutter, then called Hobson’s Choice. Renamed Heron, the family took it on several cruises on the (then semi-derelict) Llangollen Canal. Famously, in 1947 and 1948, they met up with Tom and Angela Rolt on their narrowboat Cressy, and joined them in overcoming many obstacles and difficulties to successfully reach the head of navigation at Llangollen.

On several occasions in the 1950 and ’60s, whenever a canal was threatened with closure by the authorities, Crick Grundy had the habit of turning up either on Heron or by car with his portable boat, The Blue Bath, on the roof rack. These ‘tactical sorties’ aimed to prove that the particular waterway could be navigated. The survival of the Aylesbury and Stourbridge canals and the Dudley Tunnel are among his credits over this period, while Crick was also involved in the campaign to save the Basingstoke Canal.

His campaigning activity was particularly noteworthy, as it had to be fitted in with his professional career in the army. He joined IWA in 1946 - and was one of just a few founder members to be made honorary life members at the time of our 60th Anniversary in 2006. When he returned from the Korean conflict (in which he was awarded the MC) in 1952, he joined the committee of IWA’s North-West Branch.  This was the start of many years service on IWA committees – including the National Council. He would become a good friend and confidant of both Robert Aickman and David Hutchings, and his calm and shrewd mind at times provided a useful counter-balance to their more volatile natures.

David Hutchings returned to his architectural practice after the record-breaking restoration of the southern Stratford Canal. The National Trust, which remained in charge of the canal, appointed Crick Grundy as their manager in 1966 – coupling it with the curatorship of nearby Packwood House. It was a tricky and difficult job to take on. The restoration had been pushed forward at great speed for political reasons, leaving the reopened canal needing much more work to put it into a fully reliable, navigable state. Crick had to juggle a shortage of funds and never-ceasing demands for maintenance work; he would be out at all hours, and in all weathers, to deal with problems caused by what he called “the extraordinary efforts of the users”.

Crick’s most lasting contribution to the waterways was his work for the Upper Avon Navigation Trust. When David Hutchings took on the restoration of the navigation between Stratford and Evesham, Crick helped him in drawing up the plans (which were for a virtually new navigation) and, particularly, with the complex negotiations with landowners and the river board. Much of his most vital work, like this, was behind the scenes. In the 1950s, he had worked with Aickman to draft the memorandum and articles that set the course for IWA. The two then worked together to secure UANT its new Act of Parliament, which permitted it to run the navigation and raise tolls. Crick rightly remained proud of this achievement by a small, independent charitable trust.

Crick devoted much time in recent years to working on the conversion and fitting out of a 57ft Calder & Hebble keel, Draepwelle. He is survived by his wife, Hope, whom he met in 1966 when she was a member of the crew of the pair of hotel boats, Mabel and Forget Me Not, and by his daughter, Jemima.

 - David Bolton