[Copied from my posting of 13 January 2011]
It was with great sadness that I learned today of the death of Keith Hadden, who was Chairman of the Wilderness Boat Owners Club.
Back in 1999, nine boats from the WBOC came to Ireland to join the jubilee rally on the Royal Canal. Some members joined the IWAI mailing list in advance, with questions about slipways and features of the Irish waterways, because they planned to visit other rivers and canals before and after the Royal event.
We took our elderly cruiser down the Barrow that year, and we were enjoying a sunny week in Graiguenamanagh when we saw a four-wheel-drive vehicle reversing down the slipway, on the opposite bank, with what looked like a small caravan on the back. We watched as the “caravan” floated off the trailer and, with very little fuss, the boat was ready for action.
I guessed that this was one of the Wilderness boats, which I had never seen before, so when they’d settled in I rowed across and asked for confirmation. That was how I met Keith Hadden and Pat Mason. We spent a couple of days in their company, although they had a distressing tendency to do appallingly energetic things (like walking up Brandon Hill). We had an unforgettable supper on our boat one night, with the cockpit cover open (for once) and with champagne and sausages (and a vegetarian alternative for Pat). We also got to try some of Keith’s excellent home brew.
We were invited to join them for a day on the Royal, an invitation we gladly accepted. Keith went home for a while between their Barrow trip and the Royal Canal event; he attended a beer festival during that time and came back with seven bottles of excellent beer which he kindly shared with me, to broaden my beer horizons. That was the first time I tasted smoked beer, and it was not until many years later that I managed to find some for sale in Ireland. Unfortunately, while I was in the boat enjoying the beer, our dog Goldie fell in to the lock (it was a habit he had) and it was left to Keith to rescue him, which he did with characteristic efficiency.
We met Keith and Pat only once more, at an IWA National at Beale Park on the Thames, but their energy, enthusiasm, friendliness and spirit had already made a great impression on us. Those qualities shine out from the obituary on the WBOC website. We offer our sympathy to Pat and to Keith’s friends, especially in the WBOC.