Fred Dibnah

Discussion of various public figures

Fred Dibnah

Postby Paul » 15 Feb 2014, 17:39

Instead of droning on about Lancashire, the North West of England, the local accent and much else besides, maybe it's best to present Fred, both to those already aware of him and maybe best, to those who aren't.

Read the comments under the video. They say a lot for the man and his ways.

A hero yes, what made this country great and sadly disappearing. A gentleman, a craftsman, humble and appreciative. Absolutely working-class Lancashire but with an outlook you will find refreshing and correct.

This is a man who, by age and birth, represents my father's generation. In truth he is easily more like my grandfather's generation and even beyond. This is how, as a boy, I remember all the old-time Lancastrian working men were like. Maybe not quite as eccentric as Fred.

There is no better demonstration of the Lancs accent than in this video, mainly by Fred. However, if you listen to the old lady still spinning in the cotton mill (is that mill there now?) you will hear an even broader accent. Once, even the womenfolk spoke thus. Hers is an extremely broad accent and all but disappeared to that degree now. Still, I could understand her!

Marvel at what he got up to. The video is an hour long and is a compilation.

Paul
 
Posts: 512
Joined: 02 Aug 2011, 11:37
Location: Lancashire, England.

Re: Fred Dibnah

Postby Paul » 15 Feb 2014, 17:52

Could you do this? There's a part two to follow this ten minute video clip. These clips are where the better reader's comments are to be found.

Paul
 
Posts: 512
Joined: 02 Aug 2011, 11:37
Location: Lancashire, England.

Re: Fred Dibnah

Postby Nathan » 22 Feb 2014, 14:41

I never took that much notice of Fred Dibnah while he was alive. I certainly knew who he was, but I doubt I'd have watched any of his programmes the whole way through. Watching those videos now though - it just seems so genuine! I just love it how enthusiastic he gets and how little consideration is given to safety and how he's smoking cigarettes on the job!

What's striking is that given his accent, earthiness, dress sense and how he evokes an extinct, black-and-white, pre-war world, he really wasn't all that old: born in 1938, within five years of people like Paul McCartney, Jimi Hendrix, Mick Jagger, etc, who represent a very different era. It's hard to believe that he spent more of his life living after the decommissioning of steam trains, Women's Lib, the Swinging Sixties, etc than before, and that presumably he only knew the decline of the world that made him. It makes me realise how sad it really is how he made a large part of his career out of demolishing the architectural heritage he was obviously so fond of.

Watching that second video of him climbing up the chimney so deftly makes me feel a little guilty at how useless I am at anything practical beyond wiring a plug! I used to be really into rock-climbing for a time when I was about 20, and while I had no problems physically reaching the top in the indoor climbing walls with the course already laid out, knowing it had been put in properly and was perfectly safe, I sometimes used to lose my nerve completely doing it outdoors on the rock face, because I could never trust I was putting the bolts in right.

One of my granddads grew up in the country in the 1930s, and could always name all the plants and the trees and the birds he saw, and knew a fair bit about livestock, could fix his own car, make things out of wood (he once gave me a home-made pinball table as a Christmas present), was knowledgeable about how almost anything was made, etc. None of that got passed down to my Dad for some reason, so I had very little of it to inherit, which has always made me feel a little incomplete. I dare say that's a familiar tale for many men of my generation.
Nathan
 
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Joined: 08 Dec 2012, 17:58

Re: Fred Dibnah

Postby Paul » 24 Feb 2014, 02:07

A good reply Nathan.

I would have thought that most British people would have watched Fred's programmes by now, at least those that still watch TVs. But no matter of course. I'm thinking of me. In the latter days of TV ownership I would only ever watch things like this - almost exclusively on the History (freeview) channel. The Romans, the Normans, those historians who re-live eras on period farms, the War, Fred Dibnah and stuff like that. Nature programmes too and a moderate amount (meaning hardly any) of cookery and gardening shows. I still see a TV at my Mother's and occasionally at a friend's. I did enjoy watching the 'War Time Farm' series sometime last year.

Of course Fred was local to me and involved with things I am. I never met him, though maybe could have. I know what he means about a lot of what he says and know (or have known) similar people who, though not famous, have felt as keenly the loss of such heritage and were as enthusiastic about (and brilliant at) the crafts involved.

It is very genuine yes, a good word to use for this age. The safety angle is unreal I agree. I don't know how he circumvented regulations even in the 1980s. Surely he cannot have been personally insured? Smoking of course everywhere in the 1970s and even 80s. People smoked in stuffy offices even, on buses - everywhere. You could even smoke in hospitals - in a day room for patients not bed-ridden, and so for visitors too. I don't want to get into the smoking ban here but I think it would be silly (and restrictive to no purpose other than meanness) to prohibit Fred from having a smoke atop a chimney or during the dangerous felling of one. I'm quite sure he wouldn't have dreamed to smoke within a cathedral or historic mansion, etc. He liked all this kind of engineering and building too.

Yes it's remarkable how different he is from those people you mention - from another age. The subject (oily, smelly machinery versus rock and roll) will have something to do with it but it does seem the entire mindset is different. Is there anything he experienced that they didn't? Maybe more definite memories of war-time (though that doesn't really explain Hendrix and similar) but also, maybe crucially - Fred had to do National Service.

I know where that chimney is that he climbed. It's still standing and seems in excellent shape. The mill is still there but is now multi-retail units, which is a good use for it I think. It's so sad, and seems foolish (no surprise) that the dozens (or hundreds more likely) that were demolished couldn't have been put to similar use. They all have multiple large floors, large outdoor land for parking and virtually all of them have or had a large lodge (pond) beside them, all of which used to be used by anglers, being well stocked with fish. There has a lot been lost in many ways. I would imagine that the loss of mill ponds in Lancashire alone has severely dented opportunities for angling, much of which would have been older men, often retirees from that factory and area.

Yes, most of the bowling greens have gone too and the parks are now a neglected and vandalised eyesore (in many places) and all the pubs are disappearing and one couldn't smoke (not even a pipe) if one did visit a pub and, along with the mill ponds, the little engineering works and the little back-street workshops ........... what is an elderly chap to do with his retired time these days?

Go shopping with a hectoring wife I suppose. Be a house husband. Go senile in front of banal TV, (excepting Fred Dibnah programmes of course and thus making it all the more painfully nostalgic).

No I couldn't climb that chimney, let alone in the carefree way he does it. He must have had iron nerves. It is only a ladder though after all. You just go hand over hand. It's when he has to get off the top ladder and just belly over the ledge at the edge that's spine-tingling even to watch. And then how does he get down? What is missing from those videos (did you watch part 2?) is the 3rd clip where he has to erect the ladders (my goodness!) and then scale them (upside down) as he works his way around the very considerable lip at the top of the stack. They are huge protuberances - many feet outwards. Yes, he climbs ladders upside down, right at the top of those chimneys, without any safety rope whatsoever. And imagine the wind. You never see him with gloves on either. It's insane.

Now having said all that, it's only the same as running up rope ladders and along spars, to dizzying heights onboard sailing vessels of old. At the same time the ship is seriously pitching and yawing in a heavy sea. The masts probably moved many feet on a calm day anyway and there was all the tremendous and lethal tension of rope, sail and tackle. Then you are under cannon and musket fire. Often, small boys had to run up the lines and fire little guns (cannon) onto enemy decks - from tiny crow's nests swinging wildly about. One slip and it was a crashing fall 100 feet onto oak planking or into an impossible sea. Thousands of people did it (maybe not the falling though no doubt the dying).

I must mention because I like the observation: I happened to be listening to Radio 4 LW a few years ago at work (after the cricket finished and you let the radio run on) and a programme came on about the navy in Nelson's day. It was one of those good historical programmes you get (or got) on R4 that are very interesting. A comment the presenter (or an expert interviewee) made was - "one could not be a midshipman until one was 12 years old". That's a junior officer or officer cadet, potentially in charge of adult seamen. Twelve years old. They don't make people like they used to do.

That's very interesting what you say in your last paragraph. I can believe it, but always sound too critical if I say it. The old men that I remember as a boy were like this. As I've said elsewhere they weren't necessarily uneducated at all. Fred would have been very clever in various disciplines, as mentioned by his steam enthusiast friend. His drawings (technical) will have been precise, even beautiful, and industry correct. His eye for detail will be there. His maths will have been right up there.

When you say you can only wire a plug and know hardly anything else practical, why do you say that? Just because you haven't done it? That doesn't mean to say you never could. It's not as if the most information you could ever need, right at your fingertips, isn't there. If one were really serious about a discipline, one can surely get DVDs these days actually showing you how to do it. I know it's a case of time, expense, the worth of a thing, clash with regular job - and safety.

Can you shut down the electricity, gas and water supply in your home in an emergency? Can you re-set any circuit breakers that trip? Better - can you replace old style fuse wire? Can you change a car wheel? Check the oil, water, brake fluid, etc. Top them up if needed? Could you make a fire in the outdoors - even at a tame camp in the woods? Safely of course. Can you walk a dog? Saw across a board in a straight line? Chop firewood safely? Tie fishing hooks on line? Know what fruits are safe in the hedgerows? Identify birds nests by the eggs? And so on. You must know many of these kind of things?
Paul
 
Posts: 512
Joined: 02 Aug 2011, 11:37
Location: Lancashire, England.


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