FROM THE BEGINNING...
Who is/was Lois Jane – who could she be named after? The American minister? A riverside inn in Southport, South Carolina? No despite extensive research on the internet I could find very little information but just at the time I was writing my FaceBook, marmite blog (link) a post was written asking ‘what did you name your boat and why’, I decided to answer the post with an emphatic ‘I don’t know’ but gave as much information as possible to see if anybody else recognised the details of the boat. I had tried to get some information from the broker we purchased from but what little was provided was completely wrong and they hadn’t passed on my contact details as requested. I was quite surprised when someone called Ally messaged me saying that she was pretty sure that she knew the old owners because she had just built their new boat! A couple of very interesting emails later and all the missing links were there. The previous and first owner was Geoff Wilson, husband of Lois Jane Wilson (known as Jane)
So when was LJ commissioned, who built the hull and why the apples and pears, and where the bloomin’ hell is Debden Green (our most asked canal side question by far)
From Geoff - As a brief history you know the builders were Sandhills NB’s but you may not know that we originally ordered the boat from a little company called Hanbury Boats at Droitwich. After we had paid over the first lump sum to start the build process Jane got a call from Jim at Alexander who were building the hull saying had we heard the NEWS about Hanbury. Jane had already expressed reservations/feelings of something queer about the attitude of the MD of Hanbury which I had pooh poohed! Women’s intuition! On ringing Hanbury we found they had gone into receivership (and we believe not for the first time). It had been re-started in the son’s name to make continued trading legal. Fortunately ALL our first deposit had been given to Alexander Boats (but this still only covered half their costs hence their worry). We told Jim we’d pay for the shell but, fortunately the guys Hanbury made redundant got backing and took over our build as there first boat calling themselves Sandhills after the farm where they got a manufacturing unit. They went mad to impress with the curved cupboards and inlaid mosaic wood – all of which the ex Hanbury ‘owner’ said was impossible. Finished I & LJ featured on a live ITV local news programme at the Birmingham boat show in spring 2000. I believe they got 2 new orders for identical boats as a result of that exhibition.
The Son at Hanbury Boats who sold us our boat and advised on propulsion/electrics etc was a certain Chris Hill who, after he went into receivership, started ‘The New Boat Company’!!!
Fascinating information there Geoff, but why the apples and pears? (see what I did there all done in an interview style – clever eh) geographically when we decided to have her built we lived at Stoke Bliss (near Tenbury Wells) which then was in the co-joined County of Hereford & Worcester. Why the then government thought the two should be one I don’t recall but soon after the boat was on the water they decided to revert to separate Counties. If you follow cricket (like you obviously follow rugger) you’ll know the emblem of Worcs CC & Worcestershire in general is the black pear and you can’t not have heard of Bulmers Cider from Hereford
So is Debden Green close to Stoke Bliss? - As you can see from this letterhead, when we moved to Suffolk, the sign writer did a typo with the ‘home port’ name!! – Geoff and Jane live in DEPDEN not DEBDEN!
Geoff and Jane’s new pride and Joy is Suffolk Punch, Launched in the depths of winter and yet to be cruised, you can’t miss either boat because both have similar unique blue colour and red and yellow coach lines.
I am sure there will be several emails back and forth when I write the next instalments of this page which will include sizes, layouts, materials used and the onboard systems – including the boater’s favourite topic ‘the loo’
PS – Deb I now have the keysafe code ;)