HUNDREDS of people gathered at Standedge Tunnel to welcome the last surviving legger.
Ronnie Barnes, 90, arrived in Marsden on Saturday aboard the oldest wooden narrowboat in Britain.
Ronnie, who grew up within yards of the tunnel, worked as a legger in the 1940s.
Along with five other men he would lie on his back on the roof of a boat and use his legs to push it through the tunnel.
Ronnie is the last surviving legger to have worked in Standedge Tunnel before Huddersfield Narrow Canal closed in 1948.
Ronnie and his wife Sheila arrived in Marsden on Saturday on the boat Maria, which was built in 1854.
A team from the Horseboating Society legged the boat through Standedge as part of Marsden’s Cuckoo Day celebrations.
They were greeted by hundreds of well-wishers including the Frumptarn Guggen Band, from Barnsley.
Ronnie said: “I was very surprised to see all those people there to welcome us. It’s a long time since I went through the tunnel so it was a very strange experience for me.”
Standedge Tunnel is the longest, deepest and highest tunnel in England, running for three-and-a-quarter miles between Marsden and Diggle.
Ronnie said: “It’s a special tunnel because it’s so long. It runs underneath the railway tunnels so you can hear the trains going above you as you go through.
“It’s a marvellous feat of engineering,” he added.
Ronnie, who lives at Lingards Wood, was pleased to play a part in the annual Cuckoo Day celebrations. He said: “I enjoy Cuckoo Day, it’s good to see everyone together.”
The Horseboating Society took Ronnie through Standedge as part of a 45-mile trip from Ashton-under-Lyne to Huddersfield and back between April 23 and May 4.
They arrived in Marsden just after 4pm on Saturday with barrels of beer for the Riverhead Brewery Tap.
Among the leggers on the trip were Ronnie’s wife’s niece Michelle Seed and Horseboating Society chairwoman Sue Day.
Standing aboard the narrowboat Maria, Sue told the crowd about Ronnie.
She said: “Ronnie’s the hero today. He used to leg through this tunnel on a regular basis. All we’re doing is following in his footsteps.”
Sue added that the event was a fitting part of Cuckoo Day, which celebrates the arrival of spring.
She said: “We’re really proud to be part of Cuckoo Day and we’re pleased to have arrived in the light and spring of Marsden after the darkness of the tunnel.”