On this day in history : 7th July 2004 – Bolton born Fred Dibnah, steeple jack, steam enthusiast and TV presenter, goes to Buckingham Palace to receive an MBE from the Queen….
Fred had planned to drive Betsy, his beloved traction engine, to the Palace – but was refused permission as the Royal Parks Agency were concerned its weight would cause damage to the surface of The Mall…. Instead he was allowed to drive the engine to Wellington Barracks, which is just a short distance from the Palace….
Fred collected his medal wearing morning dress and a top hat…. When he had initially learned of the honour he had said…. “I’m looking forward to meeting the Queen but I shall probably have to get a new cap”…. He went on to say…. “And I’d like to meet Prince Charles because we share the same views about modern architecture”….
He had received the accolade in the 2004 New Year Honours List for his services to heritage and broadcasting…. Fred had been famous in his home town of Bolton long before his TV days, for toppling many of the area’s landmark chimneys which had served the old mills – and which had dominated the skyline…. He became known nationally in 1979 when the BBC made a documentary entitled ‘Fred Dibnah, Steeple Jack’, earning producer Don Howarth a BAFTA for best documentary….
After receiving his MBE Fred said…. “I was slightly nervous shaking hands with the Queen, she asked if I was still climbing chimneys. It beats me how she keeps tabs on everybody. I never thought I would be receiving an MBE”….