Fred Dibnah - a Lancashire "character".

Why am I creating this web page I ask myself?

Simple. I spent many happy hours with Fred Dibnah every Saturday morning for a number of years, and I miss those days. I've got all the "official" books about him, seen all the TV programmes etc, but somehow the "personal touch" is missing. These pages try to show the "personal touch" and the "ordinary" man behind those TV pictures!

I remember the Saturday morning laughs, the pies at lunchtime, the ridiculous situations that occurred, the bizarre mixture of the "famous face" and the real person. The two faces were not actually too different - the public got the nice clever guy, those who knew him reasonably well got the nice clever guy plus the bad language .... and we usually had to pay for the meat pies at lunchtime too!!

"Don't look so grumpy Dave, I'm just cooling it down, tastes so much better knowing you've paid for it .... and Alan, don't pretend to look too startled, you've not paid for yours either"

For those of you outside the UK who've never heard of Fred Dibnah, let me explain. Fred was something of a British institution. He was "discovered" by the BBC many decades ago, when he worked as a steeplejack in Bolton in the north West UK. He was outspoken - to say the least - and a number of TV programmes were made about his work, and his views on life in general. One thing led to another, and Fred ended up making TV programmes about Britain's industrial heritage, famous buildings .... you name it ... and Fred could talk about it .... and explain it in plain language to everyone. He taught and entertained the public year after year on British TV, yet at the end of the day somehow, whilst a celebrity, he somehow retained his "normalness". I do of course use the word "normal" when referring to Fred in the loosest possible sense!!!! He WAS a celebrity, but he was also a "normal" person with all that entails, warts and all. He may have been awarded an MBE by the Queen, but he was still Fred, the man, the friend, to many people who knew him.

These pages show a few of my personal photo's of Fred taken over a number of years, not the type of pictures you see on TV. These show the "ordinary man", the hard working, straight talking, idiosyncratic person we all know as "Fred Dibnah". You may love him or hate him but you definitely couldn't ignore him.

"Now I know she's put the mugs and spoons in here somewhere .... and I promise I'll get this shirt washed next month!",

I first met Fred many years ago. He was a friend of a friend so to speak. I think the first time I met him was in a salt mine in Cheshire! He was of course wearing his flat cap underneath his mining helmet but one could never mistake him for anyone else! Come to think of it, I once went to visit him in hospital many years ago and he even had his cap on when he was propped up in bed - I could never make up my mind whether this was what he usually did - or whether it was just Fred, the personality, giving yet another show. A real Lancashire "character". He was a bit like industrial histories answer to Patrick Moore, the BBC astronomer.

A number of years ago, I was involved with an organisation called the "Wet Earth Exploration Group" - a number of people who enjoyed exploring old coal mines and other underground places. Fred was a sort of "honorary member" of the group, and popped up from time to time, Christmas do's, trips down, pub evenings at the Mort Arms in Tyldesley etc ... and he even turned up with a film crew on occasions! After being thrown out of "Wet Earth Colliery" by the "authorities" the group gravitated to exploring mines on Winter Hill, near Bolton. Unfortunately "the authorities" also discovered our explorations in that area, and suddenly we had nothing to do on Saturday mornings. Fred mentioned to a member of the group that he was "digging his own mineshaft in his garden, would you like to help?" ... and BINGO .... our Saturday mornings were resurected! The following photo's were all taken on those Saturday mornings!

Dave Lane.

 

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