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Fred Dibnah (1938-2004) – Steeplejack, Industrial Engineer, Steam Enthusiast, TV Personality

    Fred Dibnah was always interested, nay obsessed with steam engines, but was more famous for his skill in knocking really tall things over without squashing and killing nearby shorter things, as well as his dynamite personality. Dynamite itself didn't actually enter into the equation; his felling methods harked back to less modern approaches, working away at the base of a structure instead of simply blowing it up. Fred took a perfectionist attitude towards his work, and this always shone through. He treated demolition as a craft, and this made his work interesting enough for massively popular television documentaries.

    The BBC originally approached Fred Dibnah with the idea of including him in a documentary series detailing the ins and outs of peculiar professions. However, after the crew had got everything in the can, they decided that Fred's episode was interesting and entertaining enough to be shown as its very own programme, and this is where the viewing public originally met our Northern hero. Over what became decades the BBC produced entire series of programmes focusing on Fred Dibnah, some about steeplejacking, and others about the man himself. A particularly personal series highlighted the effects that divorce and becoming a minor celebrity were having on him, whilst a later series followed him with his new family.

    A popular trademark associated with Fred was the vintage steamrollerBetsy” he obtained as a personal restoration project. He would often be seen at shows demonstrating his beloved machine, telling stories and generally delighting young and old people from all walks of life. I'm sure some people would attend these sorts of events without having any interest in the subject matter whatsoever – you'd go just to see Fred. Eventually Fred transformed his entire workshop so that it could be run from Betsy's engine whilst stationary. This was all in all a very Fred Dibnah thing to do.

    Fred was an icon for the north of England, not just an enthusiast of industrialisation, but the very embodiment of the spirit which made an entire country work. His recent death was sad news to all whose screens he graced over the years.


1986-1996: The Fred Dibnah Story
1999: Fred Dibnah's Industrial Age
2000: Fred Dibnah's Magnificient Monuments
2003: Fred Dibnah's Age of Steam
2004: Dig With Dibnah