Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Fair Shares

The latest addition to Starcross' interior decor is this original share certificate that I've now framed and put up on board. The Birmingham and Midland Canal Carrying Company was established in 1965 by two enthusiasts as a last-ditch attempt to continue the commercial carriage of freight on the narrow canals.
For a while it prospered, reviving traditional traffics and even developing innovative new ones such as bicycles for export!

The company came to my attention - though I can't for the life of me remember how - in 1970 when it issued an appeal for funds. Like almost all the shareholders I didn't see my £25 as an "investment", still less did I expect to make any return from it. To me it was almost a charitable donation to help preserve an activity and way of life that I wanted to see continued. It still amazes me though that my "investment" was actually the balance of my first year's student grant (of £360!) that had kept me fed, housed and entertained for a whole academic year!

After my subscription the company went downhill fast. It never made a profit and avoided posting a loss only by failing to file annual reports. Birmingham & Midland seemed to lead a charmed life, escaping winding-up petitions from all and sundry and living from hand to mouth, although by the early seventies the original aspirations of freight carriage had given way to camping boat hire and trip boat operation in Birmingham.

Unfortunately, somewhere along the way it acquired a dissident shareholder who didn't share the ethos of the rest of us and who became determined to gain control. Like other investors I was approached with an offer to buy my shares (at 10% of their nominal value) but although I realised that in reality they were now worthless I didn't sell: apart from anything else the certificate itself was worth more than that to me.

The said shareholder, unable to buy control, eventually used litigation to force the company into liquidation in, I think, 2001- but the memory of this brave effort by Messers Waller and Wigley lives on, not least aboard a certain narrowboat Starcross.

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