Family lore or mythology states that in the 1750s or 60s emigrants from Ireland came to Stoke-on-Trent, my home town to help in the construction of that transport innovation, the Trent and Mersey Canal. It was from these emigrants that my family ancestors arose.
These emigrants from Ireland were known as "Navvies" for their work on the navigation, the canals. Within the workforce of "Navvies" there were varieties of skilled workers including the skilled people known as "puddlers." After the canal bed was excavated it was known as "the cut'. That was a term my father used for a canal. "Going down to the cut," was a phrase he used to say he was going down to the canal.
Once the cut had been made, then the puddlers took over. These were men who used clay to line the bottom and sides of the canal. This clay would form a waterproof membrane for the canal so its water would not drain away. "Puddlers" stomped on the clay to make it adhere to the canals form. It was a long and arduous task. Family lore says our family had "puddlers" among its ancestors. However, no genealogical evidence can be found as yet to back up this assertion.
It is fascinating to know that in our adopted home-town of Ottawa, many Irish navvies came a century later to dig and line the UNESCO heritage canal, The Rideau Canal. Among these Irish no dought there were puddlers too. On this St. Patrick's day the work of these men needs to be remembered.