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Bolton Steeplejack Fred Dibnah


Fred Dibnah Blue Plaque Fred and Tom
Fred with fellow Steeplejack Tom McFarlane

Fred Dibnah was born on 28 April 1938. He was keen on his particular career at an early age. He followed many steeplejacks around the town and paid attention to the trade. As a youngster, he was given a model steam engine powered with menthylated spirits. He placed a toy over the safety valve until the pressure blew creating a dent in his mother's ceiling and the water ruined the card table.

At 16, he built a chimney on his family home, which towered above the adjacent houses, thus attracting visitors from all over. He wasn't very bright at school but passed for Bolton Art School. However, he did not attend but enjoyed creating pictures of industrial scenes and machinery sketches.

He spent 6 years undertaking joinery and learning how to repair buildings leading to setting up his own business. In 1962, after being in the army he returned to Bolton and developed his career as a steeplejack consequently working on the chimneys of Bolton.

He didn't use dynamite but drilled out bricks at the bottom of the chimney. He placed hefty lumps of wood in the gap and lit a fire. When the wood burned away, the chimney fell. Dibnah would signal the collapse hooting on an old motor horn and a cigarette in the corner of his mouth. People would run followed by flying bricks and clouds of filth.

He began working on television in various series programmes and became famous for his trademark of the flat cap and broad Bolton accent.

He had an enthusiasm for Victorian engineering and was awarded the MBE in 2003.

Fred died on Saturday 6th November 2004 surrounded by his family and friends.


Fred Dibnah's Funeral November 16th 2004