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Fred Dibnah's Chimney Drops by Alan McEwen

cover photo

For over 20 years Fred, Master Steeplejack and expert chimney feller, would often relate to Alan dramatic stories of steeplejacking lore and particularly chimney drops.

Nationally renowned Master Steeplejack, Fred Dibnah was born on the 29th April 1938 in the Lancashire cotton town of Bolton. Even as a young lad, Fred was considered by his family and also his contemporaries as being a little odd, rather eccentric, for the young Boltonian eschewed the normal football and similar sports-related pastimes in favour of the world of steam engines, boilers and in particular the numerous cotton mill and factory chimneys that were as ubiquitous as blades of grass. For the young Fred Dibnah was captivated by the gigantic, gleaming steam engines with their enormous whirling flywheels that powered the cotton mills and that were jammed cheek by jowl into Bolton's townscape. Fred also had a profound interest in the many classes of steam locomotives that regularly clanked by close to his boyhood home in Burden Park, and he regularly visited Bolton Loco Depot, where he would spend hour upon hour, fascinated, watching and studying the various steam shunting locomotives and goods engines stabled at the sheds. Fred clearly loved all aspects of British industry and was fascinated by the numerous ancient coal pits with their distinctive headgear that he saw when taking a regular walk along the towpath of the Manchester, Bury and Bolton Canal. Indeed, many years later when he became famous, he would delight his audiences with his colourful reminiscences and adventures regarding the Lancashire coal mining industry.

Fred's greatest passion however, was industrial chimneys and steeplejacking, which had thrilled him from being a small lad when he had witnessed, during the local wakes weeks when the cotton mills closed, the sight of steeplejack's' red-painted ladders running up the sides of the towering mill chimneys and the tiny `Lowry-esq' figures, the steeplejacks `dancing around' on the platform some 200 feet up in the sky.

With the demise of the cotton industry and its ancillary trades, there was less need for the repair of chimneys, and more requirements for the destruction of chimneys. This well illustrated book chronicles Fred's chimney felling skills.

By the employment of this tried and tested procedure, Fred almost made it into an art, because from the early 1970's his fame as an expert chimney feller became renowned. His deep-seated knowledge of chimney construction and of steeplejacking lore, his charismatic and competent showmanship rapidly made him nationally famous: particularly following those memorable early BBC television programmes. His name became synonymous with the stereo type no-nonsense, straight-talking Northern character, and of craftsmanship, hard graft and of daring-do.

Code No. 013475, 186 pages, ISBN 9780953272518, $65.00

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