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Tom Rolt – narrow boat man

At the invitation of Tom Rolt’s widow Sonia, Tim Coghlan joined actor and canal and train enthusiast Timothy West at the recent Cheltenham Literary Festival to discuss what was billed as ‘a celebration of Tom Rolt’s extraordinary life and remarkable achievements – engineer, prolific author and the man whose elegiac work Narrow Boat sparked the campaign to save Britain’s inland waterways…’ The event – a sell out with an audience of 240 – was the very first of the Festival. It was brought forward even earlier to 11.45 to allow Timothy West to get back to London to star that night  in A Number at the Menier Chocolate Factory. It was appropriate to remember Tom Rolt here in his centenary year – as he and Sonia had done much to save the Cheltenham Literary Festival from collapse in 1960 – one of many things he had saved, alone or with Sonia. To prepare himself, Tim wrote this paper, much of which was used variously by him in the panel discussion chaired by former ITN Newscaster Pamela Armstrong.

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