This day in history

1983 Tomcat halts steeplejack

Chief chimney-toppler Fred Dibnah has been halted in his work after a ginger tomcat got to his latest assignment first.

Troublesome feline George has climbed a height of 160 ft (49 m) up an industrial chimney and is resisting attempts to bring him back down.

His escapade has stopped Lancashire based Mr Dibnah, 45, who has been the subject of several television documentaries.

An attempt by Mr Dibnah to reach the ginger feline failed when George climbed even higher.

An emergency meeting was called between the fire brigade, the RSPCA and Mr Dibnah to resolve the issue.

It was decided George should be left on the chimney in the hope a lonely night at such a height without food may encourage him to come down.

But Mr Dibnah is not impressed with the cat’s antics because there is work to be done.

Mr Dibnah said: “If we leave it up there all night it might get so fed up and hungry that it might come down on its own.

“Failing that it is holding my job up. I have got a few hundred pounds at stake and I can not be held up with a cat.”

He pledged to return to try to rescue George tomorrow if he still had not come down – this time perhaps armed with a sack.

Mr Dibnah won public acclaim after a local BBC Television broadcast included a news item showing him gilding and installing the topmost finial of Bolton Town Hall.

His new-found celebrity status was confirmed in 1979 when he was invited to take part in the making of an hour long television film series about people with unusual occupations.

The film Fred Dibnah – Steeplejack won two awards.

Courtesy BBC News

In context

Mr Dibnah was held-up for 30 hours in total as a distressed George paced and cried at the top of the chimney resisting another attempt to be rescued by the steeplejack.

Eventually an expert from Manchester coaxed him to the rim and then pulled him into a cage by the scruff of his neck.

Mr Dibnah then climbed the chimney to collect the cage from the expert.

The steeplejack has carved out a career in broadcasting and has starred in 20 documentaries since his first appearance on television in 1979.

They have included his work as a steeplejack, the restoration of his steamroller and industrial archaeology programmes.

He died in November 2004 only weeks after filming his final series touring the UK on a traction engine.

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