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Suzie Litton Wood

About the Author:

Suzie was born into an Irish Farming-Romany family and is very proud of her Celtic heritage. Her connection with all things 'spiritual' began at a very early age. When only four years of age she was found by her Father, holding hands and conversing with her 'dead' Grandmother, with never a thought that this could not be possible. She communicated telepathically with other children, whom she had never met. At the time her family believed she had many 'imaginary' friends.

Close friends and family members also experienced immediate benefit and a feeling of calmness from her 'healing hands' whenever she touched them...........something her Father was anxious for her to keep secret from the nuns and priests involved in her very Catholic education.

Suzie Litton-Wood

That she has always walked and talked with Angels, will probably come as no surprise and maybe not even her connections to the Ancient Ancestors. However her extra terrestrial encounters may take a little more understanding. Suzie will tell you that she is definitely not a 'Spiritual Medium' in the usual sense of the term, she believes that the 'Spirits' of dead people appear to her simply because she is 'open' to the possibility and that everyone has this ability, it's just that conditioning has made some people sceptical about all things paranormal. Likewise intuition is something that our 'logical' brain often overrides. Suzie says: "If you still your mind and listen to your inner voice, all you will hear is Loving Truth."

How I came to write "Our Josh"

Since early childhood I have had the ability to communicate with the 'Spirit World', possibly inherited from my Father's Romany family, or rather 'Spirits' communicate with me. I am not clairvoyant in the usually understood way, I do not 'summon up' the Spirits of dead people simply to pass on messages to anxiously waiting loved ones. I have no actual control over the Spirits I see or speak with, they seem to choose me!

My interest in canals and their history began whilst on holiday with a large group of mad, fun loving, folk singers and musicians. There were thirty or so of us in four narrowboats, hired from a popular canal holiday company. The trip was organised by Tony O'Neil, a lovely man, known affectionately as 'The Admiral' and we 'did' the Cheshire Ring, a circuit of several canals in the Midlands area of England. Our holiday culminated in a visit to the British Waterways Museum at Stoke Bruerne, where they had a special exhibition of old sepia photographs. It was here that I met, for the first time, faces of long dead 'boaties', their boats and families, and so the love affair with these people and the canals began............!

Devizes Wharf
Devizes Wharf - First World War

For months afterwards I was literally 'haunted' by some of those faces, and was initially inspired to write songs about some of them. Never having written songs before, I was amazed at how five or six verses would suddenly 'appear' in my head. Sometimes complete with a tune, as though it was being handed to me, quite literally, on a plate and I would struggle to get it all written down before the 'window' closed. Although a seasoned folk singer, I have only a limited ability to read and write music notation, therefore I had to sing or hum the tunes I was 'given' into a tape recorder and play them to my dear friend and singing partner, John Meleady, who then played them on his guitar. At first they sounded so familiar, I was convinced they had to be traditional tunes, but after searching many collections and performing the songs to folk audiences up and down the country, I had to conclude that they were indeed unique.
My love of the canals and their history continued on. I bought my first narrowboat, Ladhra (a Celtic name pronounced Lara) and began my adventures on the navigable waterways of England. Not satisfied with spending all my weekends and holidays afloat, I dreamed of changing my whole lifestyle and going to live permanently on a narrowboat. Then one day the opportunity was again 'handed to me on a plate'. I was made redundant! Without a single second thought I put my house up for sale and began searching for the boat which would become my new home. I had, by this time, formed a canal folk band - Keepers Lock - and we were singing our self penned canal songs and telling stories at the many waterways festivals up and down the country.
It was at one such festival, Canal Cavalcade in Little Venice on the Paddington Arm of the Grand Union Canal in London, that I met with Dave Wright, the owner of a pair of ex Fellows, Morton & Clayton narrowboats, Lupin and Longton. As luck would have it he was looking for a suitable enthusiast to buy the 'butty' Longton, an unpowered, originally horsedrawn, narrowboat. He told me she was a 'Josher' built in Saltley in 1898. I was immediately hooked and even after seeing her, moored up on the North Oxford Canal, in a very dilapidated state, I was totally smitten. She needed a lot of work to make her habitable, so I decided to live on 'Ladhra' while the renovations were being carried out.

I soon realised just how special Longton was and that I was not the only person living aboard her. Initially it was just the strong smell of pipe tobacco pervading the back cabin, then tools and other items which became lost, only to re-appear again in the back cabin. The feeling of a 'presence' gradually gave way to the actual manifestation of a man in his mid-thirties, dressed in a short jacket and flat cap, living in the back cabin of my boat! We began to communicate, a sort of thought transference. He told me his name was Jack, he'd been born on a narrowboat and had lived and worked all his life on the canals. I often used to see him tightening the ropes that fastened the cloths along the entire length of Longton's hull, over our 'non-existent' cargo. Later came three children, two girls and a boy. I never knew the name of the older girl, but the boy was Thomas and his younger sister, a child of about four years of age, with a mass of blond curls, was named Flossie. They played hopscotch between the 'knees' of Longton's stripped out hull and skipped along the keelson beneath flapping cloths. I saw this so clearly on many occasions even though Longton had now been converted to a 'live aboard' with every modern convenience!

It became a fairly normal occurrence for me to be awakened in the early hours of the morning by various 'boaties' all anxious to tell me their stories. Some I would see in total physicality and I was able to converse and interact with them. Others were just swirls of energy, their voices speaking into my head. Others gifted me with complete songs or stories that I would hurriedly scribble into my now, ever present, bedside notebook. As time went on, I began to see many more 'spirit people' and not always when I was on my boat, although I believe that Longton was the catalyst or portal for these visitations. Most of their stories seem to reflect some kind of deep sadness or injustice, during their lives and I feel that by performing the subsequent songs, I am somehow addressing these issues on their behalf, and helping to heal the pain by making them known publicly. Often when we perform these songs at a festival, people from the audience will come up to us afterwards and tell us how the stories had affected them emotionally, or how they identified with the people in the song, or how they 'saw' old boaties standing beside us on the stage. This is always very emotive, mostly because it confirms the presence of certain long dead 'boaties' during our performance.

It was while I was compiling songs for a new Keepers Lock album - 'Memories' which portrays the effects of War on the people of the day, living and working on the canals, the material for which had come mostly from my long dead 'boatie' friends - that I was first visited by 'Jessie'. She gave me a 'vision' of two men dressed in typical First World War army uniform, marching down a muddy towpath and knocking on the cabin side of a boat moored there. I saw and heard the entire conversation, Jessie standing in the well deck beside her Mother, the two soldiers demanding to know where her brother Josh was, and later, Josh leading Hercules, the horse, down the towpath from the Barge Inn, which was just visible above the hedgerows. I hurried to write down every word, knowing that I only had that one opportunity to capture the poignant scene. And when Josh was eventually led away by the soldiers, I felt all of Jessie's pain and frustration.

Two weeks later Jessie visited me again and left me with two verses of a song about her brother, the tune of which evokes thoughts of the old Music Halls. After the album was recorded and produced and we began to perform its many songs and stories, I would feel a strong presence of 'Jessie' beside me on stage, every time I told her story and sang about her beloved brother Josh. Often she would just appear, where ever I was, at home on Longton, in a supermarket, a pub, or even while walking my beautiful Deerhound 'Rauney' on the towpath. She would smile and say "I have more to tell you" and when I asked her to continue she would say "Not just now" or "In a little while."

When difficult circumstances forced me to sell my beloved 'Longton' and move away from the canals, I was heartbroken, fearing this would terminate my connection with the 'boaties' forever. It was almost a year I guess, before my mind again found that inner peace and stillness, which I now know is necessary for me to be 'open' to a spirit's presence. 'Jessie' came to me one night in what seemed like a dream, she told me she was ready to tell me the rest of her story. I got out of bed and went straight to my computer and began typing frantically, in an effort to keep up with her dialogue. After several hours I returned, exhausted and very cold to my bed. Next morning I could not decide whether I had actually spoken with 'Jessie' of whether it had just been a dream. But my computer confirmed the truth of it, thirty or so pages of a story I had never heard or had any recollection of. (Apart from the earlier song and short story given to me previously)

'Our Josh' is not my story to tell, I am just fortunate enough to be the vehicle by which 'Jessie' conveys it to the living world.

Suzie Litton-Wood.