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Beer by Boat...

Beer by Boat or Rallies of the 1990's


Rally BBQ in full production 1993

In 1989 Eric Roberts organised the first “Club Rally” and it is reported in Golden Reminiscences. This rally was in the Arm as distinct from the Marple Rallies of the 60s and the Poynton Water Carnivals. It was decided that in 1993, which was our Golden Anniversary, we would hold the next rally. Planning started well in advance - like in about 1990 and ideas developed based on the 1989 experience. It was to be bigger and more ambitious; eventually we had three MP’s, two Mayors and five other dignitaries attending the opening ceremony. The protocol was mind boggling.


Loading the Beer at Ashton

We conceived the idea of bringing the beer for the rally to the Arm by boat to gain publicity. We had no idea what a jape we had conceived. Initial thoughts were to collect the beer from Bass at Burton on Trent and bring it all the way, gaining publicity as it went.  But Bass weren't interested so it shrunk to a few barrels from Ashton Wharf! As the rally date approached we got the offer of ‘Joel’, a former working boat, but no beer. Then Bob Kay suggested we contact Robinsons as they may be prepared to offer us their horse and dray and had a stock of empty show barrels. Dennis Suleman and I went to the publicity officer of the Brewery and floated him the idea with the off the cuff remark about possibly getting it on television. He could immediately see the potential and asked us to leave it with him for a couple of days. The next afternoon he phoned Dennis with ill concealed excitement “I’ve got Fred the Weatherman for next Wednesday at Ashton can you lay on some extras in traditional gear?” Yes – easy.

Unloading The Beer in the Arm

Empty barrels were used for a shoot of unloading the beer, at the Wharf in the morning. Then at about lunchtime we all assembled at Ashton for the loading(!) complete with horse and dray, dummy beer barrels, ‘Joel’ and a cast of club members to unload the beer. ‘Fred’ arrived with crew interviewed Dennis about the Rally and did the evening weather while the horse and dray were seen backing into the wharf and the men heaved the barrels. We got in all about two minutes of television time. It was so successful that if the weather had been kinder we would have been overwhelmed with visitors. The visitor centre at Ashton had to put up a notice saying the rally was not here but at High Lane as they had so many extra visitors – such is the power of television.

Boats in the Club arm for the rally 1993

After this the rally was a huge success: the arm and canal was full of boats (over 160) and the yard full of tents. There was a craft fair, pig roast, barbeque stall, dog show, and a tent full of club stalls. There was a big beer tent and stalls all down the side where the slipway now is. The Micron Theatre company performed twice, there was almost continuous entertainment and a grand Draw with tickets to America as a prize. Oh! How the money rolled in - but did it rain!


Much smaller rallies were held in ’97  and 2000. The latter one was notable for the quality of the entertainment, organised by a rookie in ’93, the 2003 commodore, Bob Lamb. Since 1993 public expectations have risen so much that rallies such as ’93  probably cannot be repeated so we are holding a Gathering of Boats to celebrate the Diamond Anniversary.



Past Commodores Gathered for the Golden Anniversary.


Noel Christopher  (‘Oriana’, ‘Columbus’)


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This page was last updated 17 March, 2005                                                              Visits Since February 2004: