Steeplejack Fred Dibnah dies at 66

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The Independent Online

Fred Dibnah, steeplejack, unlikely TV star and passionate spokesman for the industrial golden age, has died aged 66. Mr Dibnah, was had cancer for a number of years, died in a hospice surrounded by his family yesterday.

He burst into the national consciousness in 1979 with the phenomenal success of a BBC documentary following his work as Britain's last steeplejack. Aside from the deeply satisfying sight of chimneys felled, viewers were treated to the spectacle of one of life's authentic eccentric enthusiasts.

Although he would celebrate a "drop" with champagne and pasties, Dibnah always said demolition was his least favourite job: his real passion was restoration.

He had been battling cancer for a number of years. Dibnah bravely played down his illness. With characteristic independence of spirit he gave up chemotherapy after only one course because it made him so ill. He was surrounded by his family when he died at Bolton Hospice, Greater Manchester.

Dibnah was appointed MBE by the Queen at Buckingham Palace in July. He left off his trademark flat cap for the ceremony.

Dibnah, who received his award for services to heritage and broadcasting, brought his green, black and gold eight-ton traction engine along with him, parking it at a nearby barracks. "We're going to have a ride round outside the Palace," he said. "As soon as I've got rid of this penguin suit, I will be in my engine driver's attire."

The father of six started work as a joiner but after completing his national service fulfilled his dream to become a steeplejack, servicing the chimneys that once crowded the skies of industrial Lancashire.

Roly Keating, controller of BBC2, said: "He will be sorely missed by both his colleagues at the BBC and his loyal viewers."