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Remember  Dr Fred Dibnah  

1938 - 2004

THE FRED DIBNAH HERITAGE CENTRE

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121 Radcliffe Rd, Bolton, BL2 1NU

Tel: 01204 531303

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DR FRED DIBNAH MBE

...then he had a stroke of luck he was introduced to the Vicar of Bolton, who asked if he could refurbish the weather vane on the church spire, “Oh aye I can do that cock” said Fred.  The vicar had a wild accentric look about him but they became really good friends and the vicar introduced Fred to lots of other jobs....

 

Frederick "Fred" Dibnah MBE (28 April 1938 – 6 November 2004), born in Bolton, was an English steeplejack and television personality, with a keen interest in mechanical engineering.

Fred Concentrating

Fred in his usual I’ll have a go at owt mode said “cause I can” and he proceeded to finish the job, the lady was so impressed she asked Mr Rawlinson if Fred could do some pointing of her gable end. This was duly accomplished by Fred and word soon got round and Mr Rawlinson soon realised that he had a new addition to his business.

 

Fred soon became senior man at the works and was elevated to being allowed to call Mr Rawlinson by his first name, Bill. All the time Fred was working for “Bill” he talked about his dream of becoming a steeplejack, having watched these supermen working at the top of the many chimneys that stood proud in those days.  This was his eventual aim but “Bill” didn’t want to lose his main man, so every time a steeplejack fell off a chimney and it was reported in the newspaper “Bill” would cut out the article and stick it on the wall of the workshop to deter Fred and eventually the wall was totally covered by these paper cuttings, but it didn’t deter Fred from his dream.  

 

 

Then by coincidence Fred bumped into his old art teacher from school. He had a jaguar car and talked posh, he asked Fred how he was doing and when Fred told him about the difficulty he was having getting work this chap said “look I will be the front man and get the jobs for you", and Fred agreed to give him a tenner for each job he got him.  This worked well and Fred started getting busy.  After a while Fred was able to get the jobs himself and by now was getting more proficient at steeplejacking ( he basically taught himself ) although he had a helping hand form a chap who was a draughtsman and he showed Fred how he could erect ladders up a 200ft chimney stack and climb the ladders without killing himself.  Then by coincidence Fred bumped into his old art teacher from school. He had a jaguar car and talked posh, he asked Fred how he was doing and when Fred told him about the difficulty he was having getting work this chap said “look I will be the front man and get the jobs for you", and Fred agreed to give him a tenner for each job he got him.  This worked well and Fred started getting busy.

 

 

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Now it so happened that the Vicar was mad about guns and while chatting one day Fred happened to mention to the vicar that he had a Luger pistol at home. Well that was it,  the Vicar became very animated and just HAD TO SEE IT. “Go get it and we can have target practice on the moors”, said the Vicar. Well Fred was still living at his mums at the time and his mum didn’t like guns and had it locked in a cabinet in the parlour. “I can’t get it” said Fred “its locked up”.   The vicar wouldn’t take no for an answer, so they waited until Fred’s mum was out shopping and broke into the cabinet took the gun and went on the moors for target practice. You can hear more about this gun when you visit the Heritage Centre, we have lots of stories to tell like these.

 

Fred’s Celebrity status came a while later when he was working on the clock tower in Boltons town square, this was featured on the BBC and when film producer Don Howarth saw this footage he thought that looked interesting. The next day he went to Bolton and watched Fred working on the clock face, when Fred came down he introduced himself and said he would like to film Fred, Fred’s reaction to this was “Ayup cock, nobody’s going to want to watch me working". Thankfully Don Howarth thought different and low and behold Fred’s TV career began.

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(c) Keith Langston - Perceptive Imaging

I have read that Fred had hinted that he would not live to a ripe old age, he was quoted as saying “Chimney stacks are made to cause pollution, and I’ve sucked in more smoke, soot and ash in one day than most people breathe in a whole lifetime, so something is going to have to give.  Dibnah was born in a country which then relied heavily upon coal to fuel its industry. As a child he was fascinated by the steam engines which powered the many textile mills in Bolton. Fred’s first job was at an undertakers, as a joiner making coffins, but he really didn’t fancy that so he acted dumb and was sent back to the job centre, they then found him a job at another joinery works run by a Mr. Rawlinson.

 

He served his time there, and early on in this job Mr. Rawlinson was asked by a lady customer if he could finish off cementing a window frame he had fitted for her. Mr. Rawlin,  although a very accomplished joiner didn’t have a clue about cement or pointing, so he asked Fred if he could do it.

 

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(c) Keith Langston - Perceptive Imaging

FRED MOVING THE LIVING VAN UP THE DRIVE

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(c) Keith Langston - Perceptive Imaging

After a while Fred was able to get the jobs himself and by now was getting more proficient at steeplejacking ( he basically taught himself ) although he had a helping hand form a chap who was a draughtsman and he showed Fred how he could erect ladders up a 200ft chimney stack and climb the ladders without killing himself.

Fred was well on his way now to becoming a master steeplejack, self taught but very efficient. Unfortunately his career was interrupted by National service, after passing the various medicals etc. he was drafted to the cookhouse, and then was stationed in Germany, and this was the only time Fred ever went abroad. Fred returned and dug out his ladders so he could start his business up again, but times were hard and he found it hard to get jobs. He managed to get by doing little odd jobs here and there, then he had a stroke of luck he was introduced to the Vicar of Bolton, who asked if he could refurbish the weather vane on the church spire, “Oh aye I can do that cock” said Fred.  The vicar had a wild accentric look about him but they became really good friends and the vicar introduced Fred to lots of other jobs.

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(c) Keith Langston - Perceptive Imaging

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(c) Keith Langston - Perceptive Imaging

(c) Keith Langston - Perceptive Imaging

After a while Fred became restless and thought I’m stuck here working for Bill when I could be doing this for meself, but he didn’t have any money put by to set up in business for himself. One day he fished an old ladder out of the river, he painted it bright red and did some pointing jobs and save up his earnings till he had £90 which was enough to go and buy five ladders, and he was in business! He started doing pointing jobs in the evenings whilst working during the day for Bill. Fred “acquired” ropes and pulleys on his travels and started to build up an impressive stock (many of these are still here at the Heritage centre). Eventually he left Bill's employment and went fully self employed.  Work was hard to come by though. When Fred walked into a mill to see the gaffers he found it hard convincing the gaffers that he could do jobs as he looked so young and felt that his appearance was letting him down.

Hi folks we are running a campaign to put forward Dr Fred Dinah MBE as a candidate for the face on the new £20 note. Please read on.

 

The Royal Mint are looking for a new face to adorn the new £20 note, they want people to vote for Visual artists including architects, artists, ceramicists, craftspeople, designers, fashion designers, filmmakers, photographers, printmakers and sculptors.  

 

Dr Fred Dibnah MBE  was a brilliant visual artist with his amazing drawings being much sought after architect (Unqualified but self taught) craftsman, stonemason, designer/ inventor, and great television presenter. He was an extremely talented man who was not limited to just one form of art.  It would therefore be a fitting tribute as  Fred Dibnah was made a Doctor by two university's and also honoured by the Queen who awarded him an MBE. Had the highest documentary audiences in BBC history. Winner of "The Greatest Lancastrian of all Time" Award, and Fred's memory lives on today at "The Fred Dibnah Heritage Centre" in Bolton, based at his former home which was awarded the much coveted Blue English heritage plaque.

 

Please support our efforts and vote for this brilliant man who left a wonderful legacy behind to be recognised by the Bank of England as a true peoples hero, you can vote by going to the following link on the internet HERE.