“We name you Hannah.”
Those four words summed up a journey of love, despair and, finally, hope for the Gerraty family of Garstang.
They have named their narrowboat, built to weather the storms of personal and business misfortunes, in memory of much-loved Hannah Gerraty, who died of leukaemia two years ago at the age of 27.
Hannah’s youngest children, Libby, six, and George, four, marked the official launch of the craft by breaking a bottle of brown ale against the hull.
Jim Gerraty, the boss of Garstang Truck Bodies, decided to build the narrowboat from scratch, amid a series of crises which hit the family and his business.
He said: “We’ve decided to name it Hannah out of sheer respect for her. It’s a long lasting tribute to a wonderful girl.
“The children are very excited about it, and we’ve had it up and down the water a little bit, ironing out some teething problems.”
Jim said his daughter-in-law Hannah’s death and illness had devastated the family: He said “It’s the worst thing to ever happen to our family and we all shed bucket loads crying for her.””
Work had begun on the boat in the midst of a business crisis which hit some five years ago.
Jim recalled: “When the banks went bust, the whole of our business was decimated. For 14 years we had a three-month waiting list, and within six months all of our jobs went altogether.
“I employed seven people and was losing £1,000 a month, but instead of laying them off, I asked them to build me a narrowboat instead.”
He added: “We got the hull done fairly fast because that’s what we’re used to working on, and I thought it would take about two to three months for the rest of it, but it takes a lot longer when you’ve never done it before.
“Then, as we started getting more work through, we had to leave the boat to one side, and when there was nothing to do, go back to it.”
During the building of the boat, Jim’s wife was struck down by meningitis, his youngest son was diagnosed with severe ulcerative colitis, and eldest son Matthew’s wife Hannah was told she was terminally ill.
Jim, 62, said Hannah had three children. The eldest Holly is now 10. He said: “After the third one, she took ill and at first the doctors thought it was a severe form of arthritis which would leave her unable to move properly by the time she was 40.
“They put her on special drugs to knock out her immune system, but it didn’t seem to work. After more tests, the specialists said she had leukaemia, and the drugs had knocked her immune system out right when she needed it most. She had bone marrow transplants and blood transfusions.”