Shire Cruisers was started in 1973, with two boats. We bought the firm in 1980, by when there were about ten boats of very varied age and origin. We had cramped premises, few tools and fewer spare parts.
We were immediately lucky with the first of a long line of highly competent and hardworking staff, who set us on the road to improving the firm's boats and service. We soon started fitting out our own boats, Hereford (1) being the first in 1984.
We gradually acquired the other firms operating on our site, thus gaining access to a large covered dock in an old warehouse (with a very leaky roof, now comprehensively fixed), and to all the private moorings.
In 1985 the restoration of the Rochdale Canal had advanced to six navigable miles around Hebden Bridge, so we put a hire boat there, thus becoming one of the first fleets to offer short breaks. We also started one way trips across the L&L.
By this time we were getting known. We have been very fortunate with our customers, and have a loyal following. When hirers buy their own boat, or share in an Ownership, we are glad to see them back as moorers.
We were active - with many others - in the campaign to restore the Rochdale Canal, and were thrilled when it was reconnected to the national network here in Sowerby Bridge in 1995, and then all the way through in 2002. The Huddersfield Narrow came along too, thanks to tireless work by the Canal Society, local authorities and British Waterways (predecessor to Canal & River Trust). So then we had the South Pennine Ring, and we have made the most of this superb opportunity. We have helped large numbers of boaters explore these canals, which score top marks for scenery even if their physical condition is not yet as good as everyone wants.
In 2010 we opened a base at Foulridge on the Leeds & Liverpool, thanks to our good friends the Randells of Café Cargo. In 2014 we sadly said goodbye to Café Cargo, when we were able to move to Lower Park Marina, much nearer the locks at Greenberfield.
Our team has grown stronger all the time, and provides high skills and excellent service to our customers, both hirers and owners. We are enormously grateful for their loyalty and commitment.
In November 2015 we were thrilled to be Highly Commended in the White Rose Awards, the Yorkshire tourism award scheme - the largest in the country. The citation recognised our 'experience, skills and dedication' - a huge accolade to our staff, which reflects also the commitment of our loyal customers. We are very grateful.