I was a roof tiler for nigh on 30 years and have been up and down ladders for most of my life, sometimes in pretty scary circumstances with no scaffolding and up to six-story buildings as well but what Fred used to do just amazes me.
I could never have done the extreme stuff he did and I like heights too. The man was just amazing. He was so confident in his ability, such a competent man. I can’t get over the way he used to walk along those single scaffold boards bowing like crazy in the middle at the top of a chimney he was cleaning or taking down brick by brick. Those flipping boards snap and break in two sometimes when they are not fully supported in the middle. I know,it’s happened to me a few times when I have been only 25 feet or so off the ground.
It gives me a chill even now just looking at the old footage of him romping around atop those old chimneys . Nerves of steel that man had and buckets of courage . It’s such a shame he got paid a relative pittance for the highly dangerous work he did . One tiny mistake or error of judgement or even an unexpected gust of wind or a dodgy loose brick and it would have meant sudden death . The fact that he lasted so long in his profession unscathed is a testament to his skill , courage and ability . There will never be anybody quite like Fred Dibnah again .
This chimney is India Mill in Darwen. We inspected it a few years back and repaired a lot of lead and brickwork. We did with rope access – with 2 ropes attached at all times to your harness. And I can tell you, even with the ropes it was terrifying at first – incredibly exposed – so god knows how Fred keeps his head without ropes! No margin for failure whatsoever. I even abseiled to Harry Holden’s ledge – his name is carved into the stone there! And it’s not buzzards who nest there now – there’s a female peregrine falcon who gets very upset when you approach her nest (of course we went outside of nesting season!)