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The Canal Adonis The Idle Woman

Part 1: The water road to love

Tim Coghlan looks back on the life of the former working boatman George Smith, who died recently aged 97. He is best remembered for his short post-war marriage to the wartime Idle Woman Sonia South, which, in 1946, brought the pair of them to the forefront of the IWA’s campaign to save the canals, as the glamorous face of the working boatmen. Sonia dramatically left him in 1951 for the canal author and IWA co-founding member Tom Rolt. This profoundly affected George and led him to leaving his life as a working boatman only months afterwards. But to his end, in his own quiet and undramatic way, George maintained his canal interest. Forty years on he formed a new friendship with Sonia, when she sought his assistance with her book A Canal People, which today is already a canal classic. The book is discreetly inscribed, “For George and Anne”.


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