Bid to help disabled woman left homeless by arsonists

Celine Tessler on her devastated boat. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Celine Tessler on her devastated boat. Picture: Ian Rutherford

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The big-hearted canal community is pulling together to help a disabled artist after vandals torched her houseboat.

Celine Tessler, 44, who lost a leg in a motorcycle accident, was left homeless following the blaze earlier this month.

She returned from her studio to find her home gutted and her treasured possessions – apart from the clothes she was standing in – reduced to ashes.

But her faith in humanity is returning after fellow boat-owners on the Union Canal launched a campaign to raise the £10,000 needed to fix her boat. So far more than £2000 has been raised through a Just Giving webpage and the canal community may start additional fundraising activities.

Celine said: “It is difficult to find the motivation to carry on, but the support from family, friends, fellow boat-dwellers and those that I don’t even know is comforting. It gives me a sense of belonging, despite having little left to belong to.

“It is this rallying round that gives me a glimmer of hope in humanity.”

The artist has been a part of canal life for many years and is often seen cheerfully getting on with life despite her prosthetic leg.

Among the possessions 
destroyed in the blaze were 
irreplaceable family photographs, old books and treasure mementos which gave her comfort after her life-changing injury.

Her boat, Barneyboy, was among the most photographed boats moored on the canal.

Built in 1940 as a Second World War ammunition carrier or “bombs scowl”, the boat was used to carry torpedoes on the Forth and Clyde canal in Glasgow.

Celine is staying temporarily on the houseboat of friend Alastair Martin, 45, who has started the Just Giving page.

He said: “We’re all grateful that Celine wasn’t on board when the attack happened. It was unprovoked, mindless and unspeakably cruel. It could have been tragic.

“But I’m absolutely delighted by the generosity everyone has shown.

“We’ve hit nearly double our initial target, and I reckon there’s enough determination out there that we could raise enough to bring Barneyboy back. If the many people who use and love the canals were each to pitch in a small amount, we could do it.”

Police are treating the fire as suspicious and have issued an appeal for information.

A spokesman said: “Police in Edinburgh received a report of a canal boat alight on Lower 
Gilmore Place at 1.40am on Saturday, May 16. The fire is currently being treated as suspicious and anyone with information is urged to contact Police Scotland on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.”

john.connell@edinburghnews.com