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Sue Day

Although best known as a prominent figure in the revival and preservation of horseboating on the waterways in recent years, Sue Day was also an influential member of the committee of IWA Manchester Branch for many years.  She was a frequent sight at IWA events for thirty years, with her last outing at IWA’s Festival of Water at Worcester in 2021.  Sue was considered by many as the greatest horseboating campaigner of her time, and her efforts played a significant role in promoting canal heritage and horse-drawn boats.

Sue Day became involved with horse-drawn boating in the early 1980s and even then was known for her passions for horses and the inland waterways. She raised funds through canal events, working from her home at Mossley, near Manchester, and travelled to various canal events across the waterways, not infrequently on foot with one of her horses towing a boat.

[The photo shows Sue Day in later years, demonstrating horseboating techniques at a festival.]


In 2001, Sue co-founded the Horseboating Society with Lynette Crossley (also an active IWA Manchester Branch member) at the National Waterways Museum.  The Society aimed to preserve the traditions of horseboating and obtained a grant from the National Lottery in 2005 to produce a formal guidance document on preserving waterways heritage.  This work helped increase acceptance of horseboating by navigation authorities.

Sue actively participated in user group forums and represented the Horseboating Society. She impressed others with her ability to articulate her views, despite representing a small organisation compared to larger user groups present.  She attended canal events such as the Braunston Historic Narrowboat Rally, where she carried out horse-drawn demonstrations.  One of her more well-known adventures was her trip, on foot, from Manchester to IWA’s National Festival at Waltham Abbey in 2000, accompanied by her horse and dog, including a visit with both horse and dog to IWA’s then Head Office premises in Rickmansworth.

Born in February 1954, Sue Day was able to indulge her life-long passion for horses, as the only child of wealthy parents.  She was a long-time friend of Dave Brown of Ashton Packet Boat Company; they married in March 1998, but Dave passed away soon afterwards.

[Photos: Sue in younger years (right) and at her wedding in 1998 (inset below) – supplied by Kate Fletcher]

By 2015, Sue was spending a large part of her time looking after he elderly mother in Suffolk, usually three weeks away and one week at home each month, and the Horse Boating Society’s affairs suffered as a result.  Her visit to the Worcester Festival of Water was with her mother in a wheelchair, with Sue energetically pushing her around the site.  Sue’s mother died in 2022 aged nearly 100, and Sue had devoted the latter part of her life to her mother’s care, becoming ever more detached from her horse and waterway passions and friends.  Shortly after her mother’s death, sue was diagnosed with cancer and died on 22nd October 2023, at the tragically young age of 69.  Her funeral, at Beccles Crematorium was, of course, with a horse drawn hearse.

[Photos: (left) Sue Day visits IWA’s then Head Office at Rickmansworth – by Neil Edwards, and (below) Sue’s horse-drawn funeral carriage – by Kate Fletcher]