ONE of the last people to carry freight on barges on the Oxford Canal has died.

Rose Skinner, right, was born, lived and raised children on canals throughout the UK. She died on June 27, aged 87.

She and her husband Jack helped save the Oxford Canal when it was threatened with closure.

Mrs Skinner was born into one boating dynasty, the Hones, in 1924 and joined another, the Skinners, with her marriage in 1946.

Mrs Skinner, who was illiterate, was interviewed about her life in 1998 for Catherine Robinson and Mark Davies’ book A Towpath Walk in Oxford.

She said: “I was about eight when I started doing jobs for my dad. I used to steer the boat, standing on a stool, while my sister Bet would walk ahead with the mule and open the lock gates.”

In their early married life, Mr and Mrs Skinner lived and worked on the narrowboat Kent delivering coal from Warwickshire to Oxford.

But, throughout their time on the water, Mr and Mrs Skinner carried everything from timber to corned beef.

Their first child, Joyce, was born in 1947 and they went on to raise three more children – Colin, Barry and Trevor – on the boats.

Mrs Skinner said: “We used to eat as we went along – and I used to cook as we went along and all. Cooking with one hand and steering with the other. And the little ones playing in the empty hold, or tied to the chimney when we were loaded.”

By the mid 1950s, the Oxford Canal had lost trade to road haulage and was silting up for lack of regular dredging.

In 1967, there was talk of closing it and Mr Skinner was asked to take Barbara Castle, the Minister of Transport, on a fact-finding trip.

Mr Skinner went out the night before to ensure there was enough water in the canal to give the impression it was in a better condition than it actually was.

In 1962, due to a lack of work, Mr and Mrs Skinner moved to a cottage on the canal bank in Langford Lane, Kidlington.

But the couple’s favourite pastime in retirement was boating and they still spent a great deal of time on the canals. Mr Skinner died in 2008.