In the Wake of Giants is an entertaining account of one farmer’s initially hesitant steps into the world of canals and narrow boats. As a young man Gerald Potterton would often be found of a Sunday afternoon walking the banks of the Royal Canal near his home, sometimes on his own enjoying the solitude, sometimes enjoying the company of a young lady. Over time his wife’s interest in walks along the Royal Canal, their purpose served, may have been in decline but Gerald’s naturally enquiring mind and an enthusiasm for engineering ensured his interest had grown to become a burning ambition to follow in the wake of his hero, L.T.C Rolt and sail the length of the Grand Canal and River Barrow in Ireland.
These journeys provided the ideal impetus to consider the work of the giants – the great civil engineers such as Thomas Omer, John Smeaton and the three Williams namely Jessop, Chapman and Dargan, who designed these waterways as well as the thousands of navvies who built them and whose names were never recorded. But this book is much more than a eulogy to the shadows of great men. In his travels Gerald takes time to reflect on his own life, to observe society in general and to digress into other related and topical. From responding to the perceptive observations of children through the pros and cons of the Celtic Tiger to Global warming and renewable energy – all are subjected to Gerald’s sharp eye tempered by a gentle self depreciating humour. In the Wake of Giants is essentially a light-hearted commentary with some historical reference and a dash of more serious opinion. Packed full of anecdotes, and Gerald’s own particular philosophical musings on life, it will keep the reader engaged from beginning to end and will delight readers well outside the core group of canal enthusiasts for whom it will be essential reading.