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"Les Pesqueyroux" Association
 


Cleaning the Dry Dock

 

The Preservation of Local Heritage
Many who visited the exhibitions suddenly realised - sadly sometimes too late - that they possessed a wealth of heritage themselves : stories and anecdotes, post cards and photos, account books of the boatmen, boat carpentry tools, equipment from the boats... Les Pesqueyroux took on the job of cataloguing all this information - recording the stories, photographing rare artefacts, reproducing documents etc.

       
 


Decauville Wagon

 

The exhibitions being only temporary, a request was made at the town hall for premises where all the material could be stocked. Roger Besse, the mayor, was enthusiastic about the idea and in March 1985 the local council offered the association the first floor of the former presbytery (which had also formerly been home to the town hall) who set about restoring it straight away. The association still uses this building.
Les Pesqueyroux is very interested in industrial archaeology and became very involved in the protection and preservation of the Tuilières dry dock where the gabares were caulked. A petition was addressed to all the canal-side town halls for the dry dock to be taken into account during the temporary draining of the canal in 1985. A number of interventions took place in a bid to preserve this unique site.

       
 


Mast of the «Ladia»

 

Old artefacts are also of great interest to members of the association. Various items have been acquired including, in 1985, a Decauville wagon which was used in the building of the Mauzac dam and which can be seen on several post cards of the Tuilières dam. Henri Gonthier, the last person to work the boats on the Dordogne River, and faithful friend of the association, donated the winch and mast of his yawl, the « Jean-Georgette ». The raising of the mast at the entrance of (what is called without modesty !) the « River Transport Museum » provided the occasion for a pleasant ceremony and a moment for ‘Capraisiens’ to reflect upon their past.

       
 


However, the most ambitious project so far was to install a gabare at St Capraise. The project was an old one; from its founding moment Les Pesqueyroux envisaged buying the last gabare in the Dordogne, the Beney yawl, grounded at Calès but the Mauzac Nautical Club beat them to it. In 1986 there was talk of building an Argentat but by the late 1990s the chance of becoming proprietors of the yawl (rechristened as the ‘Merlandou’) presents itself again. Having changed hands frequently and undergone restoration work and a number of transformations (not always for the better) the gabare is abandoned, sunk between the two Mauzac locks. With the passionate dedication of Henri Gonthier, backed by an enthusiastic group including the Boullier husband and wife team, the « Merlandou » is brought back to St Capraise by brute force. Financial backing for the operation follows best it can but the grinding administrative cogwheel paralyses the situation. In 1996 the new mayor makes a request - duly accorded by the General Council - for the gabare and once again the Beney yawl slips through the fingers of Les Pesqueyroux.
Disillusioned though they are, the members are not discouraged and continue to work upon, and finish, the restoration work of the dry dock (last restoration work carried out in 1997). This « Museum » is accorded the status of « Permanent Exhibition » just in time ; a lack of easy access would otherwise have given it the sorry title of « Depot ».

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