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Derrick and Mary Awcock

Derrick and Mary Awcock, who both died in October 2023, aged 88 and 87 respectively, were key figures in IWA Shrewsbury District & North Wales Branch for over 25 years.

The 1980s and 1990s were busy days for the Branch and the Montgomery Canal restoration, when the millions of Levelling-Up Fund were but a dream ( – actually the cost of restoring the whole canal then was less than today’s Levelling-Up grant!).

In the earliest days of the branch, IWA had looked at restoration of the ‘Four Miles’ – so called – from Frankton Junction.  Consultants were engaged and came up with improbable – and certainly not used – ideas of piling through the peat.  The start was the restoration of Frankton Locks by WRG between 1979 and 1987.

[The photo, left, shows the branch sales stand in 1986 with, from left, Derrick Awcock, Barbara Reid, John Ward, Mary Awcock and John Dickin].

1987 was a momentous year when the Act of Parliament – the only Act of Parliament for a canal restoration – reversed abandonment under the infamous 1944 Act. Years of planning by British Waterways, the County Councils, water authorities and many other bodies were all lost when funding was refused.  To the right there is a picture of branch supporters, including Mary Awcock) with the then Montgomeryshire MP Alex Carlile – still a supporter (now Lord Carlile of Berriew) – on the steps of a Whitehall Ministry with a substantial petition.  It did no good of course.

Despite the setback, IWA’s commitment to the Four Miles continued when WRG moved to the Aston Lock flight. Contractors would restore the channel to Aston with funding arranged by Shropshire County Council from Derelict Land Grant and other sources. After restoring the locks, WRG started on the reserve by the top lock, then the largest project they had undertaken beyond a canal itself. Work was funded from a £200,000 legacy from a former secretary of the branch supported by an appeal which strikingly emphasised why the reserve was essential.

[The photo, right, shows Barbara Reid, a civil servant, Alex Carlile MP, Ron Reid, Graham Deamer and Mary Awcock – by Harry Arnold]



In Wales bridges were opened to extend the canal from Welshpool, but not before the first Dinghy Dawdle which Mary and Derrick initiated.   Restoration was driven forward by councillors and officials from the County Councils and other statutory bodies who met volunteers at regular meetings of the Montgomery Waterway Restoration Trust, chaired by Charles Quant and later John Cotterill.  As well as being branch chairman, Mary was a Trustee of MWRT and regularly attended these meetings.

When the IWA celebrated its Fiftieth Anniversary in 1996 the National Trailboat Festival at Welshpool received one of the branch’s two pieces of a large jigsaw that went on to Birmingham by boat: the finished jigsaw was over twenty feet high, assembled with pieces brought by boat from IWA branches all over the country.

Beyond the Montgomery Canal, the branch had an active sales stand which was taken to events round the area and was a regular feature at Shrewsbury Flower Show.  Mary and Derrick were valued members of the branch team at all these events.  As if all this was not enough, both were key members of the Council of the Shropshire Union Canal Society which at that time restored locks at Carreghofa (opened by Baroness White in 1986) and then Burgedin.

In later years Derrick and Mary moved to Teignmouth in Devon fore retirement and gradually withdrew from waterway activities.  Mary and Derrick contributed so much to the branch and to the canals of the area, especially the Montgomery.

[The photo, left, shows an early Dinghy Dawdle event at Bank Lock, Montgomery Canal, June 1988  –  by John Draddy]