McTell said of this solo composition: '"Barges" was the first tune that I could actually trace to another composer, Greig.' He doesn't say what piece by the classical composer he might have inadvertently borrowed from, but this heavily arpeggiated acoustic guitar ballad owes little or nothing to anything but his own childhood. Ralph McTell was a war baby; born in 1944, his father walked out on his mother when he was young leaving her to raise Ralph and his younger brother Bruce alone. In the Summer months, the two boys would stay with their uncle and aunt and their grandparents in Banbury - the Oxfordshire town immortalized in the well-known nursery rhyme. There, they spent many hours exploring the Oxford Canal, and doing what young boys do under such circumstances.
A September 2008 interview with Mary Kirkham includes footage of him reading from his new book, and explaining "Barges" which he said in those days were still being worked by water gypsies. The song itself is pure nostalgia, and one of McTell's finest.
Suggestion credit: Alexander Baron - London, England, for above 2