By L. T. C. Rolt. 188 pp. 8 3/4 in. 5 1/2 in. (Allen Lane, Penguin Books Ltd., 17, Grosvenor Gardens, London, SW1W OBD. £5.50.)
This book represents a fascinating but sad obituary to that well-known written of books about the Industrial Revolution and member of the Vintage Sports Car Club, who completed it before he died. It is the sequel to that even more endearing book of Roles, “Landscape with Machines”. This sequel deals mainly with the canals Rolt and his first wife, Angela, traversed in his Model-T Ford-engined narrow-boat Cressy. There is not a lot about cars in it, although Rolt transmits his regard for his father’s and his own 12/50 Alvis motor cars, referring to the former sportstourer as “an almost forgotten form of transport”. He also makes it quite plain that he disliked very bitterly the Austin Big Seven that he bought as war-time transport—one feels certain that Tom Rolt would have been the last person to pay the ridiculous prices now demanded for cars of this kind. Another form of war-time transport used by Rolt was an old square-tank 2 3/4 h.p. AJS motorcycle, which cost £10 and was carried on Cressy’s aft-deck. The boat had been converted to burn paraffin as a further concession to petrol rationing.
This book seems costly, lacking as it does an index and illustrated with only 15 “boxBrownie”-type photographs. It is apt to be disjointed and runs from Rolt’s simple philosophy to marital problems, from battling with weed-infested, long-disused canals to writing and the formation of the Inland Waterways Association, as it turned out with unhappy consequences for Rolt. But those who knew Tom and all who love canals, will find , as I did, that this brief book exerts a fascination that does not permit it to be put down until the last page is reached. It covers the first canal-boat rally, making a film of canal life, with asides about railways, cars and engineering. It very pleasantly recaptures those pre-war days which will never return. -W.B.