Capricorn is a Small Woolwich motor narrow boat ordered as part of the vast expansion of the Grand Union Canal Carrying Company and delivered by Harland and Wolff in July 1935. Its original intended pairing was with butty No 264, Crater.
The boat does not appear to have been much used owing to a shortage of crews, made worse by the arrival of the larger Town Class boats the following year.
However in 1943 it was selected as one of the boats involved in the Women’s Training Scheme, an enterprise similar to the Land Army and intended to attract women crew to the boats and replace men away fighting in the war. Capricorn was crewed by the trainer Daphne French and is immortalised in the book “Idle Women” by Susan Woolfitt, Idle Women being the name given to the trainees as a result of their wartime badge bearing the initials I.W.. Of course crewing the boats was very hard work indeed for those unaccustomed to it so they were in fact anything but idle.
One of the trainees was a lady called Olga Kevelos who on one trip brought along a young male friend who was an aspiring chef. To the irritation of the rest of the crew, he apparently was very little help, took little interest in the boating and spent most of his time down in the cabin cooking. His name was Clement Freud.
After the war Capricorn was again laid up for lack of crew and work, and was eventually in 1952 transferred to the maintenance division and based at Hartshill on the Coventry Canal.
In 1964, surplus to requirements, Capricorn was sold off for the grand sum of £250 to be converted to a pleasure boat and was shortened to 49ft at Charity Dock Bedworth. British Waterways had a policy at the time of insisting that the new owner change the name, and he selected the extraordinary name “The Poot” which was apparently after a favourite cat.
Subsequently returned to its original name and a more traditional style, Capricorn now moors at Bugbrooke, has undergone further alterations to return it to the appearance of a BW maintenance boat of the 1960s and is appropriately powered by a Lister HA2 air cooled diesel