Liverpool, 1923 Lizzie is an orphan living with her Aunt Annie, Uncle Perce and two boy cousins in Cranberry Court, within a stone's throw of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. Lizzie loves her aunt but is hated by her uncle and escapes whenever she can.She makes friends with Geoff Gardiner, another orphan, and is teaching him to swim in the Scaldy when Clem Gilligan rescues the pair of them from drowning. Clem works on the Canal boat, The Liverpool Rose, with Jake Pridmore and his wife, plying between the great cities of Leeds and Liverpool.
But Lizzie's situation at home starts to worsen as her uncle grows surlier and more violent. Eventually the worst happens and Lizzie is forced to flee from the Court or risk serious injury, perhaps even death. Her first instinct is to make for the canal, but finding Clem is not so easy . . .