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British Marine Inland Boating has awarded its acclaimed Lock Keeper of the Year Award for 2019 to Aidan Mahon, Lock Keeper at Sandford Lock on the River Thames. 

The Award, also known as the Esme Dowling Award in memory of Esme Dowling, a Lock Keeper at Napton Locks on the Oxford Canal from 1957-1988, is presented annually by hotel boat operators in British Marine membership to navigation authority staff or volunteers who have gone the extra mile in delivering excellent customer service on the UK's inland waterways network. The award is open not only to Lock Keepers, but to all waterways staff who have offered outstanding assistance to waterways users.

Hotel boat operators are some of the most widely travelled boaters on the system, travelling up to 1500 miles each summer season and between them they travel practically the entire waterway system, making this a truly national award.

Previous winners include Bob Preston, Caen Hill Lock Keeper (Kennet & Avon Canal), the Canal & River Trust’s Lock Keeping team at Bingley Five Rise (Leeds & Liverpool Canal), the Weir Keeper, Richard Hawkins, and Volunteer Assistant Lock Keeper, Frank Jordan, at Abingdon Lock (River Thames) and John Rosenthal, Netham Lock Keeper (Bristol).

British Marine Inland Boating voted for the nominees and the association’s past Chair, Russel Chase, presented the final award to Aidan Mahon at Sandford Lock on Thursday 12 December 2019.

Chair of British Marine Inland Boating, Nigel Hamilton, commented: “Aidan Mahon was voted for by the members of British Marine Inland Boating for his fantastic contribution to the smooth running of our inland navigations and excellent service to visiting boaters. Congratulations to a well-deserved winner!

“The hire boat sector like to recognise the professionalism of navigation authority staff, especially when they give exceptional service to boaters. What makes our canals and rivers unique is the living heritage of boating and navigation. Thames Lock Keepers help make this an exceptional experience for hirers.”

On receiving the Award, Aidan Mahon, remarked: “I was really pleased to accept the Lock Keeper of the Year Award, which is fantastic recognition for the work that we, lock keepers and volunteers, put in here at Sandford, but also for the work that all us lock keepers along the River Thames put in every day – I’m really happy about that! I’d like to say a massive thank you to all involved and we will keep trying to live up to the greats who have won the Award previously, for another year at least!”

Aidan beat off stiff competition with an impressive 14 runners up recognised for 2019’s Award. These include:

  • Tony Wright (Culham Lock, River Thames)
  • Julian Stott (Stanley Flight, Leeds Liverpool Canal)
  • Salvador De Los Angeles (Teddington Lock, River Thames)
  • Paul Ashbourn (Teddington Lock, River Thames)
  • Jed Burgess (Teddington Lock, River Thames)
  • Andrew Croxford (Teddington Lock, River Thames)
  • John Harris (Teddington Lock, River Thames)
  • Paul Harrison (Teddington Lock, River Thames)
  • Jeff Kennett (Teddington Lock, River Thames)
  • Adrian Marshall (Teddington Lock, River Thames)
  • Tom Musaeus (Teddington Lock, River Thames)
  • Gemma Riley (Teddington Lock, River Thames)
  • Matt Rooke (Teddington Lock, River Thames)
  • Peter Weekes (Teddington Lock, River Thames)