3 JULY 1936, Page 17



Maldon Annie.' She sailed at slack water for Green- wich, and took the tide merrily on her return. She made a second voyage at half-past four, but if you counted the souls on the two round trips you would not get much beyond 200. More than twice this number boarded the steamers for Kew and Richmond, but if we had all of us gone to Lord's, we should not have made much difference to the crowd.

We had an excellent guide ; for twopence a head, collected in his hat at the end of the voyage, he pointed out everything from Scotland Yard to Execution Dock. He showed us the stairs whence Queen Elizabeth set out to meet Francis Drake on the ' Golden Hind.' lie told us that Cleopatra's Needle had nothing to do with Cleopatra, and that it weighed I forget how many tons. We saw Russian, Dutch, Italian, Swedish and Norwegian ships, the Leith, Aberdeen and Dundee packets, and superb lines of river barges. The air was cool under our awning, the company pleasant, and in good spirits ; few of us were drawn from the capitalist class.

Why are there not queues of people waiting for these boats ? Why do so few people use this river of rivers ? Why do most of those even who remember that London has a river choose the stretch upstream ? Why is there no river service from London to Woolwich ? Why do thousands of Londoners know that the Thames at Oxford is called the Isis, while hardly one in a thousand could tell you that not very far from the Tower Bridge there is a stretch of water charted as Bugsby's Reach ? Everyone has seen The Spaniards ' and The Star and Garter ' ; but ' The Prospect of Whitby,' near Wapping Old Stairs, is far more worth seeing.

The answer to these questions is not that the most obvious diversions do not divert anyone until they are uncomfortably overcrowded, or until they are given wide advertisement. One of the best read of living authors has taken immense pains to make people aware that the Thames exists. In any case, a few million Londoners must notice its existence every morning and evening. Some years ago the L.C.C. put a fleet of steamers on the river ; the service did not pay its way. It is possible that today a venture might gain something from the cruising and charabanc habits. One might begin a new propa- ganda by pointing out to the highbrows that the view of Greenwich Hospital from midstream is unique in Europe. One might tell the "middle public " which is now filling three theatres nightly to see the Russian dancers that the corps de ballet of the seagulls does the same thing free of charge, in and out and above the arches of London Bridge. I would choose another method. If I could put the word round the schools that you can see from the river the place where the pirate Captain Kidd was chained while the tide crept round him, ten thousand small boys would begin to put pressure on their parents, and the `Maldon Annie' would be loaded to the Plimsoll line.