Tony Forward died in hospital in Daventry on January 3rd aged 66. His funeral takes place on Friday January 25th at Milton Malsor Crematorium.
Tony was a founder-member of WBLA and was the creator of “Henry’s Bench”. He was a former seafarer who became a well-known figure on local canals.
For the last 30 years Tony’s home was a boat on which he toured Britain’s canal network, always returning to Whilton Locks, where he had many friends.
He came from an East London family of haulage contractors, established since horse-and-cart days. Choosing as a boy to go to sea, he became a highly trained Merchant Navy radio operator or “sparks” and was familiar with most major ocean passages and ports.
He spent several years ashore, providing radio communications for Nauru, a tiny remote South Pacific island (then a League of Nations mandate and now the world’s smallest republic).
When Morse code operators became redundant, Tony left the sea to live on a narrow boat on the Grand Union Canal. A skilled woodworker, he fitted out the “Mooloolaba” himself and set up a one-man business, Extra Hand, working for other boat owners and canalside residents. His main moorings were at Whilton Locks and the nearby marina.
As a founder-member of the Whilton and Buckby Locks Association, he was a friend of the flight’s legendary lock-keeper, Henry Grantham and when Henry died Tony built a remarkable decorated bench using wood salvaged from the commercial narrowboat “Forget-me-Not” that was operated by the Grantham family. The memorial bench, a feature alongside the bottom lock since the 1980’s, is familiar to thousands of boaters and towpath walkers.
Tony leaves a sister and brother, Gill and Geoff, who live in Essex.