Local Heroes
December 18, 2002 2:24 AM   Subscribe

There's one man that represents where I was brought up in Lancashire. Steeplejack Fred Dibnah. His interests include industrial archeology, traction engines and wearing flat caps. Recently he has been making history programmes for the BBC where his enthusiasm and interest in what other people are saying is given a fresh twist by his working class perspective and respect for the builders of castles, mills etc. A great man with his own way with words. So, who are your local heroes?
posted by quarsan (8 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Ah Dibnah - a man who used to brighten up my saturday evenings as a kid...

Local heros? Someone the net knows nothing about - a blind engineer who makes Jet engines (gods how I wish I was joking) using his own workshop, a PC with speach output and his 85 year old mother as gopher... Insane man... as a (sighted) kid he had the CAA (FAA to Americans) visit twice because he built an operational full size helicopter in his backyard, and got in trouble with the police for racing his 70 (ish) mph gokart up and down the high street.
posted by twine42 at 3:07 AM on December 18, 2002

As a Cambridge local, I suppose Stephen Hawking counts as a local hero type... if anyone wants to buy me Standing on the shoulders of giants for xmas... oh... okay...
posted by twine42 at 3:39 AM on December 18, 2002

posted by sgt.serenity at 4:59 AM on December 18, 2002

Fred Dibnah came to knock down a chimney in Bradford at about the time they started repeating the first documentary about him. He did it in his usual way of knocking a lump out of the bottom, then propping it up, then knocking another lump out, then propping it up, .... He lit the fire and we all stood around for ages until the fire went out. Then guys with explosives were called to try and bring it down before the wind sent it the wrong way.

I can watch people who are passionate and knowledgable about what they do all day though. He's definitely one of those.

There are plenty of people who come from Bradford worthy of my pride. None of them lived in either this or the last century though.
posted by vbfg at 5:01 AM on December 18, 2002

btw, twine42 ... the net demands to know more about your local hero. He sounds cool.
posted by vbfg at 5:25 AM on December 18, 2002

vbgf - I'd love to do a web page all about him - he's an incredibly talented and insane man, but I doubt he'd go for it.

My dad went to school with him and tells stories of shorting out the school electrics by putting paperclips in the light sockets and waiting for the teacher to flick the switch and managing to blow a chunk out of the Cuffley viaduct in an experiment that involed sugar and something stolen from the chemistry lab (anyone?).

He got the helicopter built in the back garden of his parents house. The CAA turned up after the local paper ran a story about it. They weren't happy. ;) He also had a 50cc bike (which are supposed to only do 50mph) running 110mph according to Herts constabulary. ;)

He was responsible for the toll barriers at Rye Meads which just happened to be 2 inches higher than the roof on his sports car.

Before he was diagnosed with tunnel vision he raced gokarts, speedboats and canal boats (they go fast when you take the governor off...) and was responsible for nearly killing a tug when he reversed the steering on a friends speed boat.

If you know ThornEMI, he was one of the first robotics/automated production line designers for them, and when they shut down he bought his workshop for scrap value, built up a company and then solid it for a small fortune to a company who then kept him on as manager for more money than he was making as owner. He's not retired and makes jet engines out of gas cyclinders. I've not seen one fired up (yet) but the last one had an emergency cut out after it broke free from it's test bed. He's just made his own Computer controlled CNC machine so that he can mill smaller parts for his machines.

He refuses to learn braille because they can't get the bumps at the same height and it pisses him off. ;)

Finally, the last time he drove was 10 years after he lost his license when my father took him to an airfield and gave him the keys to his Capri (shit, but fast at the time). A Blind man throwing a car around at top side of 100mph is an interesting sight. Sod scent of a woman, this was all too real and just as impressive to watch.

Oh (so I lied about finally) and he's the only person I know who can regularally get away with 'finding out what a woman looks like' by running the back of his hands over her face, down her neck, over her breasts and finishing with squeezing her arse. ;)
posted by twine42 at 6:00 AM on December 18, 2002

Ruthie the Duck Lady.

posted by HellKatonWheelz at 7:32 AM on December 18, 2002

we have a local Steeplejack, Garold Hoose. Does towers, poles, structural steel painting and as his card says; "Working High For Over 20 years". His hobby was old chevy motors. (he helped build a saw from one once)

But my favorite character was a fellow by the name of Irish Jack. That was his wrestling name . He was about 3'6'' and scared even me. (I worked on his truck once) He told me about the wrestling business, the evils of the 1930's amateur circus and how to set up a swiss bank account. He carried a small Berretta .25 and had a bank roll of 50 dollar bills. (when i started his truck after this tune-up, his tape deck was blaring Grieg)

interesting fellow to say the least.
posted by clavdivs at 8:18 AM on December 18, 2002

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