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Just Another Day on the Job

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!)

COMMENTS FROM Fred Dibnah How to climb a chimney overhang at 50 – 

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  • Tom Hyland February 21, 2022, 12:12 PM

    I’ve been climbing death defying heights all my adult life. Anyone who does this knows the sphincter muscle is your compass… your center of control and balance. The tighter the sphincter the more calm and organized the operation.

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  • John Venlet February 21, 2022, 1:04 PM

    That was some climb, and one I would not do unless roped. Real men, like Fred, do not need OSHA to tell them how to do a job safely.

  • OneGuy February 21, 2022, 1:47 PM

    Seriously! Don’t they know that there are helicopters?

  • ghostsniper February 21, 2022, 1:56 PM

    I got tired and had to take a break, just watching that!

  • Mike Austin February 21, 2022, 3:12 PM

    Um…Nope. I’d rather opt for a 4th marriage than climb that tower.

  • Auntie Analogue February 21, 2022, 5:35 PM

    Oh. My. God.

    My Dad was a fireman, a truckman on a hook & ladder truck. I saw Dad, in his full turnout gear and heavy helmet, climb that truck’s 100-foot extension ladder like he was a monkey, and then saw him up there swinging a big pike head axe to ventilate windows, rooftops. I saw Dad, who was five-foot-six and never weighed more than 145 pounds, rescue-carry over his shoulder a 250-pound screaming, shrieking, wiggling and shaking black lady down that ladder. Dad also walked as sure-footedly as a mountain goat along the high ledges of burning buildings, also wielding an axe, a Halligan tool, a plaster hook, or manhandling rescue gear or a hose line. A lot of the time Dad did all that, he did it in intense heat and dense choking smoke, often also in back-spray from the hose streams that played on the burning buildings, and he did it winter with his helmet and turnout gear – and the ladder – sheathed in ice.

    Dad also roofed our Cape Cod house, gamboled all over its steeply sloped roof as if he was walking on level earth. He had me up there and I swore the whole time that I was about to lose footing, tip over and plunge down.

    I’d bet that Dad could and would do exactly what Fred Dibnah did, and that’s why I headed this comment with . . . Oh. My. God. Because that’s what I’d said when I saw Dad do his ladder feats.

  • Dirk February 21, 2022, 5:49 PM

    Was a time, come and gone. Anymore I just don’t have the balance. I do have a “balance board” I work on daily. It’s ok.

    In 2006, I went up a water tower ladder TuleLake California, not tough, surrounded by a ladder style cage. Did use a safety carabiner, a big close pin. About half way up, I locked up. I froze, I could here the Hispanic kids above, I pushed thru, but I was freaked out.

    Belted the kids, into rappel harness, and started down ahead of both. This was fun for the kids, recall the kids yelling at me to hurry up Dirk. Simple rescue procedures used. Once I was on the ground, had both kids on the ground, I was ok.

    I did assist on a cave rescue in 2009/10, but the drop was only 20 ft, Prussic knot, and Climbed out. Had a boarding ladder hung, but the bottom wasn’t anchored, “ I “ was having difficulty, my left hip was failing I couldn’t put climbing pressure on it without extreme pain. Had the hip replaced maybe six weeks after that.

    I find riding Dirt bikes work best for me, laying the bike over in corners, left right right left, wide turns, short tight turns. At speed, seems to work for me.


    • Mike Austin February 22, 2022, 7:46 AM

      I spent my time on “the razor’s edge”. Sometimes with harness, rope and carabiner; sometimes with Al-Mar and machete; sometimes with no map and endless jungle; sometimes encircled by natives who hated my guts; sometimes by men with lots of guns. I learned about quicksand, mountain lions, wild boars and crocodiles in the best ways imaginable. I’m alive and well, more or less, but definitely not still crazy after all those years. Such lives and such times are best left for the young, the strong and the invincible. I am none of those things. But I was. Damn it all, I was.

  • Anonymous February 21, 2022, 8:13 PM

    Good Old Fred. Sounds like a more smoothed off Morgoth (some here might be following Morgoth’s Review). What GloboHomo did to the North of England was a crime.