... feminist, atheist, autistic academic and historic narrowboater ...
Likes snooker, beer, tea, rivets and solitude, and is strangely fascinated by the cinema organ.
And there might be something about railways.

Saturday 29 May 2010


As well as posting about the ghostly writing etched into the inside of the hold here, I also put a post on CanalWorld to see if anyone could shed any light on it. And I had a reply from the estimable Steve Priest, who said:

Harland and Wolff would paint reference marks on plates as they were cut and prepared, so that the platers would know which plate went where as they plated the boats up.

They quite often come to light when boats are stripped back to bare metal, and are normally quite easy to read, but I've not seen any cause pitting like that before.

I would think that MS + P means plate M, starboard and port.

Which is very gratifying.


  1. So to confirm this, there should be ghostly writing on all the plates. We used to do the same on our pipework, using a special marker paint that couldn't even be burnt off.

  2. Steve is far more an expert on all things narrow boaty than me (and almost anyone) but I think he would admit this is just a guess.
    Why label a plate starboard AND port? Why say "starboard and port" rather than "port and starboard" which rolls more naturally off the tongue?

    So although it would be nice to think it was original H&W grafitti it seems to me unlikely. How about a daubed on sign when the boat was carrying various types of retail coal - "mixed smokeless and phurnacite" for example or the love message of a boatman's teenage son?

    Frustrating as it may seem I don't think we'll ever know for sure. Have you asked Richard's business partner?

  3. Mmm... you sceptics. But good points there, I agree. There are marks on other plates, but none so clear as this. Did they 'number' plates A-M anyway, I wonder. Also, is it just good luck that it's the right was up after the hull was put together? Talking to Steve on the phone, he did say that he has often found traces of the original paint after needlegunning, but never seen it corroded like this before. Someone else has seen something similar on joshers (but 'in beautiful script') but never on a GU. I wonder if Richard Pearson is still reading this and could shed any light??