Blaster Bates

Showbiz demolition expert


Derek Mcintosh Bates, demolition engineer: born Crewe, Cheshire 5 February 1923: married 1946 Maud Lightfoot (one son, three daughters); died Crewe 1 September 2006.

Blaster Bates never expected to become a celebrity: he was a demolition expert whose stories amused his friends and then in the Sixties and Seventies came to the attention of a wider public. He could fill theatres, particularly in the North-West, with his one-man shows, but, through it all, he kept his demolition business going and in so doing gathered even more adventures for his records and stage shows.

He was born Derek Bates in Cheshire in 1923. His apprenticeship with Rolls-Royce in Crewe was interrupted by Second World War service. He flew bombers for the RAF and became a specialist in bomb disposal. He was intrigued by this work and planned to use his knowledge in peacetime.

In 1946, he started his own demolition business in Elworth; his van had the word of warning "Blasting" on the back and the company's slogan was "I'll blast anything". He changed the local landscape by demolishing over 500 tall chimney-stacks. In 1963, Bates blasted through rock to help build the M6. When he worked on the Oulton Park racing circuit, he had to contend with a courting couple in the grass and from this came his action-packed anecdote "The Naming of Knicker Brook". Everyone had great faith in what he was doing: he once blew up the underground vaults of a bank whilst business continued at ground level.

Even though Bates might walk around with explosives in his pockets, he was never seriously injured. He once hung by his fingertips at the top of a quarry whilst the fuses burned below, but was rescued in the nick of time. On another occasion, he had just laid explosives in a lake when the outboard motor on his boat stalled. He recalled that he "rowed away with a determination that would have won the Boat Race".

As a robust six-footer, Bates looked the part and he became well known as a raconteur at rotary clubs, where his regional accent and colourful language added to the amusement. Soon he was talking about the likes of Big Mick from Connemara on television chat shows including Parkinson. Asked how he might land a particular chimney-stack neatly into a confined space, he replied, "I've got a touch like a midwife." He had the repartee of a Northern comedian:

I've brought some of the gelignite with me. You'll notice it is like marzipan. Just the job for the mother-in-law's birthday cake. You get her to light the candle and you piddle off out quick.

His tale about the time he was hired to clear out a farm's septic tank contained some vivid descriptions:

Twelve seconds later, four and a half thousand tons of effluent leapt into the air. It climbed into the sky and, at 300 feet, it mushroomed out, and a shaft of sunlight hit it. You could see all the colours of the starling's wing, the greens and the golds and the browns, light and dark, and a lot of bottle-green in it.

Bates made a series of live albums about "The Explosive Exploits of Blaster Bates". The first volume, Laughter With a Bang (1967), recorded at the Congleton Round Table, was a huge seller and 1001 Gelignites (1968), TNT for Two (1969), Watch Out for the Bits (1971), Lift-Off (1973), Gelly Baby (1975), Blastermind (1980) and Hunting and Shooting (1984) followed. Although his albums and shows contained warnings about language, it was rarely worse than "bugger" or "bullshit".

Bates won trophies for shooting and rallying and would participate in Wall of Death stunts. To improve his chances on a hill climb, he would put home-made rockets on the side of his motorcycle. He undertook charity work and served as a special constable with Cheshire Police from 1968 to 1980. "He was an hilarious character and he enjoyed being what is called a community constable today," recalls Joe Roper, a former policeman who worked with him:

He used to take a stick of gelignite to his talks and he would light the fuse when he began. He would be telling his anecdotes and the fuse would be

getting shorter and shorter. When there was only a very small amount left, he would put it out. No one, of course, would be allowed to do that today.

In a sense, Bates set the path for the exploits of Fred Dibnah, but Bates's humour was coarser. In 2001, he had a stroke, but was able to continue with speaking engagements. He enjoyed his work, and he enjoyed talking about it, and said he was always sorry that he never got the call for the big one - Nelson's Column.

Spencer Leigh

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
Sport
Ronaldinho signs the t-shirt of a pitch invader
footballProof they are getting bolder
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
News
William Hague
people... when he called Hague the county's greatest
Voices
voicesBy the man who has
News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran performs at his Amazon Front Row event on Tuesday 30 September
musicHe spotted PM at private gig
Sport
Arsene Wenger tried to sign Eden Hazard
footballAfter 18 years with Arsenal, here are 18 things he has still never done as the Gunners' manager
News
Floyd
newsFloyd 'Creeky' Creekmore still performed regularly to raise money for local hospitals
Extras
indybestKeep extra warm this year with our 10 best bedspreads
News
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Year 6 Teacher (interventions)

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We have an exciting opportunity...

PMLD Teacher

Competitive: Randstad Education Manchester: SEN Teacher urgently required for ...

Real Estate Solicitor 2+PQE - City

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - HIGH VALUE REAL ESTATE / RESID...

General Cover Teacher

£120 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Luton: Are you looking for part time/ ...

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?