Fred Dibnah: master chimney demolisher and coal-mine enthusiast

One of the best things about being an immigrant is that there's an entire nation's worth of wonderful and weird pop-culture to absorb. Case in point: last night, my dinner guests told me about the notorious Fred Dibnah, a British steeplejack who made a career out of televised, dramatic demolitions of giant industrial chimneys, a feat he accomplished without explosions. Dibnah also owned a pair of lovingly restored steam engines, and dug a replica coal mine in his back yard. There's a wealth of Dibnah videos on YouTube -- they're endlessly entertaining.

Having mastered his trade repairing chimneys, Dibnah became aware of the demand for a cost-effective demolition method and offered to remove them without the need for explosives. His technique was to cut an ingress at the bottom of the chimney, support the brickwork with wooden props and then burn the props so that the chimney fell, hopefully in the intended direction. Alongside his demolition work he also continued to work as a steeplejack. He has always maintained that, although most famous for demolishing chimneys, he much preferred to repair and preserve them.

Link to Fred Dibnah's Wikipedia entry, Link to Fred Dibnah videos on YouTube

(Thanks, Ben!)