Welcome to the history of the Truman and Felgate.

The history of the

"H.F. Truman"


"A.J. Felgate"


These narrowboats are operated by the

H.F. Truman Management Committee for youth club/school/community groups from Walsall and surrounding area.

Our story begins here - 'Peter Keay & Son, Pratts Bridge boatyard', Walsall....
In 1965 the Walsall Youth Leaders' Council decided to commemorate the passing of Councillor H. F. Truman, Chairman of the former Walsall Youth Committee and ex-Mayor of Walsall by providing a "barge" for the youth of the town. The boat was named 'H. F. Truman' to perpetuate his memory as his interest in young people was paramount. The original intention of converting a used boat led to the determination to have a new craft purpose built, worthy of the name 'Truman'.


Messrs Peter Keay & Son of Pratts Bridge boatyard, Walsall were commissioned to build a wooden narrowboat of oak hull and elm bottom, 60ft long, 6ft 9ins beam, headroom of 5ft 11ins and draft of 2ft. The money to build the boat was raised by young people of the town through many successful sponsored events. She was launched on 14th September, 1968.

Washing facilities and toilets were built-in and lighting provided by electricity generated by the engine through batteries. The boat had a well appointed galley with a full size cooker, sink unit, cupboard space, water heater and fridge. She was fitted with a Lister Blackstone 19hp 3cylinder air-cooled diesel engine and could accommodate 16 passengers and 2 crew for residential cruising.

Len Wilson, one of the earlist skippers, seen here at the tiller of the 'Usk' travelling the Wyrly and Essington Canal....

After completion a Trust was set up and a Management Committee appointed.

Alongside operating the Truman the Management Committee also operate a second boat, originally the 'Usk', on behalf of Walsall M.B.C.

Over the years, schools, youth groups and community organisations from Walsall and its surrounding areas have benefitted from living and travelling on the boats. We are able to offer this facility to young people with learning difficulties and mild physical disabilities. Through this provision we offer a unique opportunity for young people to live and work together in a supportive atmosphere where they can acquire important social skills and learn to work as part of a team. Not only does this enable our users to experience their cultural heritage first hand, it is also a very real vehicle for environmental education. Above all it is very enjoyable.

This pioneering project has inspired many other such ventures across the United Kingdom.

We are members of the Community Boats Association and are currently in the process of registering as an Accredited Training Centre to offer the Certificate in Community Boat Management to other groups.

We provide a Captain, and often an assistant, on all trips, unless we are satisfied that a person is competant to Captain the boat themselves. All Captains must have completed our own Boat Familiarisation Course which we offer to group Leaders.

By 1995, after 27 years of service the Truman was deteriorating and becomming beyond economical repair. A sub-committee was set up to raise the necessary funds to replace her and it begun by approaching local companies which brought in early financial support. Then an application was made to the National Lottery Charities Board under their theme of Youth Issues grants which succeeded with a grant of 50,000 being awarded, enabling the Trustees to go ahead and commission a new purpose-built boat.

In 1997 the original 'Truman' was sold and was replaced by the New Truman.

The 'Usk' was replaced in 1992 by a new boat called the 'A J Felgate'.

Each boat is licensed to carry 12 passengers and a Captain and an assistant.


A. J. Felgate moored for the night


The usual weekend trip, if from Wolverhampton, which is where the boats are based, to Norbury Junction on the Shropshire Union Canal and return. There are many other routes to choose from but the Shroppie is definitely the favourite. Each trip is tailored to meet the individual needs of the group and as such every trip is different. You will need a minimum of 2 Leaders with your party, one of each sex where mixed parties are on board.

Longer trips are planned as well. Such as the Staffordshire Ring; Four Counties Ring; Llangollen and even London. Possibilities are endless.

We provide the boat, Captain, all fuel, all gas and pots and pans. You provide all food; sleeping bags; personal crockery and cutlery.



Click here to view cruise data


We wish to acknowledge the contribution made by our Sponsors.


Midland Bank


Lloyds Bank

South Staffs Water

Barclays Bank

R. Mallison

Waterways Activities Group (WAG)


Chelwood Brick

Vehicle Collection & Transport Ltd

West Midlands Co-op

M & M Guest