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Boaters hail 'River Angel' who kept them afloat
BOAT owners have dubbed him the “Abingdon River Angel” for keeping them afloat and secure in the floods.
Since 2007, scaffolder Alan Joyce, 38, of Coromandel, Abingdon, has been saving canal boats from being grounded free of charge.
And last week, he organised a 16-man team to rescue a boat from ruin when it came untethered and was washed downstream.
Mr Joyce, who runs Abingdon Access Scaffolding, said: “I do it for no reason other than to help people out. But if I did want to do it for profit, this wouldn’t be a bad place to start – I would clean up here twice a year.”
When floods hit Abingdon in July 2007, Mr Joyce got a call from a friend in trouble.
Debbie Major was moored near the Nag’s Head, and woke up to find her boat floating above the river bank, in danger of being grounded.
So Mr Joyce got a couple of friends and rigged up temporary scaffolding in the water to prevent it.
But when the other boat owners saw what he was up to, the trio ended up staying by the river for the rest of the day and the next morning, rigging up the same scaffolding for around 30 others.
Miss Major, 46, said: “When he had finished his yard was empty. If he had been offered a job at that time, he couldn’t have taken it.
“It would have been a nightmare without him – he is definitely an angel.”
The scaffold consists of three steel tubes driven in between the bank and the boat at an angle so that when the water rises the boat slides up but doesn’t reach the bank.
Now, whenever the river starts to rise, they know who to call.
When Ian Mitchell, 39, posted an “SOS” on Facebook last Tuesday, saying that his boat had broken its mooring at Donkey Bridge in Culham and been washed a mile-and-a-half downstream, it was the river angel once more to the rescue.
Mr Joyce gathered a posse of strong-armed scaffolders, and using ropes managed to pull the boat back to shore and turn it around.
Mr Mitchell said: “It was terrifying – that is my home.When I came back and it wasn’t there I was distraught.
“Without their help it might not have been saved. Alan is the highest river angel.”
For the first two years, Mr Joyce refused to accept any payment at all for his service.
Now he has started accepting £20 just to cover the wages of his scaffolders.
Mr Joyce said he has always been a boat lover, and hopes one day to be able to afford one of his own.