Canals pioneer, John Williams, dies

John Williams John Williams

A champion of inland waterways, pioneer of electric boats and owner of the eponymous John Williams Boats on the Norfolk Broads has died at the age of 81.

Initially training as a carpenter within the building industry in Shrewsbury, John Williams joined the Shropshire Union Cruisers at Norbury Junction becoming responsible for fit-outs. Canal holidays were starting to become popular and Shropshire Union Cruisers was well known for its custom-built boats and service. John played a key role in establishing Shropshire Union Cruisers’ standards of construction and operation and presented the company on the then trade body, the Association of Pleasure Craft Operators (now British Marine Inland Boating).

He was pivotal in bringing together operators to keep the canals open to navigation and in his support of restoration schemes - he was appointed by the Ministry of Waterways to the Inland Waterways Amenity Advisory Council, playing a significant role in changing political and local attitudes.

Norfolk Broads

John moved from canals to the Norfolk Broads joining the hire cruiser firm, Porter and Haylett before moving to The Staithe in Stalham where he opened his eponymous boatyard, building, restoring and servicing classic Broads sailing yachts. The Museum of the Broads, situated nearby, will take over his yard.

Paul Wagstaffe, former chief executive of British Marine and friend, paid tribute. “He was very much a character but a complete professional.

“His office door was always open with a queue of people looking for advice."

John was also an innovator, becoming involved with the Electric Boat Association and working with naval architect, Andrew Wolstenholme, in developing trailable electric-powered cabin launches.

“John was a true and loyal friend and the boating industry has lost a much respected boatbuilder and innovator,” added Paul.

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