Tim Preece

Editor of Dragonfly 1996-2004

Nominated by and text by Colin Fletcher

An administrative crisis in the senior administration of the canal project led indirectly to Tim’s appointment as editor of Dragonfly in 1996.  The existing chairman considered that the post demanded two special attributes, namely the skin of a rhinoceros and the patience of Job; as he possessed neither of these he felt he should make way for someone better suited.  The post of vice chairman had already been vacant for a while, the treasurer left the area to start a new job and the editor of Dragonfly also resigned.

The burden was picked up by Tony Davy who soon appointed Tim as his new editor, no matter that he had never done anything like it before, though he had managed Children’s Homes for twenty years.  There was no time for doubt and his first Dragonfly was published in December 1996, entitled number 63 Spring 1997; whatever else grew that spring it was not grass under the editor’s feet.  The new man was innovative from the start, working to attract articles on the history of the canal, its people and craft.  Subsequent editions included articles by Neil Rumbol membership number 001, reflecting on the earliest days of the project, another by Dr Tull, author of ‘Canal days in Swindon’ and a poem by Roy Murrell in issue number 70. 

The first detailed map of the entire canal was another innovation from this period, printed on and inside the back cover for a few editions, before migrating to the centre fold.  The photographs are a record of progress; a new length of canal being excavated at Wootton Bassett, a pristine bridge at Grove Common, a huge heap of roadstone at Shrivenham Pocket Park soon to become a paved path, activity at Kingshill and a dramatic bridge rebuild at Beavans Bridge.

In 1998 the editor’s initiatives and style were acknowledged throughout the canal world when The Inland Waterways Association awarded Dragonfly the Tom Rolt Award for the best canal society magazine.  This was shared with the Huddersfield Narrow Canal Society, an organisation with far greater resources, whose canal has since been opened to full navigation.


Dragonfly in those years reflected Tim’s whimsical personality, wry sense of humour and occasionally acerbic comments.  A selection of  letters to the editor aided perhaps by more creative contributors, included information on ‘group kissing pictures’ in number 82, angry anglers fuming, Lincolnshire vicars demanding a more detailed map, and in edition number 70 Mr Wood described his memories of watching the army blow up locks at Pewsham as a boy; he was born in 1915.

Tim continued in post till 2004 Number 95 and reported entertainingly during a period of considerable dynamism and success.  A particularly buoyant period of rising expectations for the canal project was reflected in the magazine during the later period. Last editorial right

In 1998 the IWAAC report advised the government that the Wilts & Berks would not need major funding in less than ten years, this preceded by a succession of smaller interim projects. Within three years the situation had improved to the position that IWAAC agreed to review our national restoration status, and this soon led to us moving up to level two, a major step forward.   Our working relationship had developed with our local authorities also, who now felt able to purchase significant lengths of canal at summit lock and again near Lacock; both of these sites have since seen significant development.  The development of the organisation that eventually became the Canal Partnership can be traced in Dragonfly from 1997 onwards, and its impact has increased year by year.  Tim’s awareness of historic progress informed and complemented the primary functions of the magazine, namely the provision of news for the general member and encouragement for the active volunteer.  The succession of magazines between 1996 and 2004 provide a cheerful monument to a fine and decent man.