The Third Leader: Pipe dreams

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The Independent Online

Exciting news: we have, allegedly, our first million-pound plumber. Hail to Mr Charlie Mullins, top man at Pimlico Plumbers, dab hand at drips, facilitator of flow, wizard of the wrench, titan of the faucet thread, master of the male pipe swivel connection, and now revealed as the earner of that amount last year.

Not all will rejoice, of course. Indeed, I think it fair to say that admiration for the plumbing trade is somewhat qualified, as is so often the case when those two twin curses of humanity, lucre and envy, are involved. One thinks of similar burdens borne by, say, lawyers, or those hard-working toilers in the double glazing sector.

It is particularly a pity with plumbing, a noble and ancient calling honoured in Babylon and Egypt long before it became standard in Rome. The forerunner of Mr Mullins who persuaded Cheops, for example, that his pyramid needed plumbing deserves especial mention.

Let us hope, then, that the celebrations in Pimlico will mark the moment that plumbing begins to receive the respect it deserves for its undoubted expertise in both installing and extracting. And there are other contributions to the fabric of Life: I think that, on balance, I have encountered more happy plumbers than miserable ones.

But I do have one worry. Consider this list: Lon Chaney Junior, Fatty Arbuckle, Russ Conway, Matt Monro, Screaming Lord Sutch, Ozzie Osbourne, Michael Flatley, Joe Cocker and Lee Marvin. All plumbers, or plumbers' apprentices, who might never have moved on had the respect and rewards been greater. Will this flow of talent now be turned off?