BREAKING NEWS… After a week of negotiation we can now reveal that the wooden headgear built by Fred Dibnah, for the coal mine he constructed in his backyard, is coming to the Lancashire Mining Museum. James Palmer is one of the volunteers at Lancashire Mining Museum, and when he heard about the sale of the headgear at auction, he knew the museum had to have Fred’s pride and joy.
But the wheel and headgear had already been bought by Andy Curle and was destined for his mill in Cumbria.
Fortunately, Mr Curle is a fellow enthusiast of all things industrial and recognised and understood the shared and genuine passion of Mr Palmer and his fellow museum volunteers.
“I thought about it for a bit and reasoned that more people would get to see it in the museum.” said Mr Curle. “It was the right thing to do.” James persuaded a private benefactor to step in quickly, to find the money to purchase it off Mr Curie, before it was lost to the area forever.
It will take a week to dismantle the wheel and headgear before it can be transported back to the museum. Then it will take a lot of care and attention before it can finally take its place displayed in the museum grounds.
“The headgear was built by Fred himself,” explained Mr Palmer. “He followed a design drawn up by local mining historian, Alan Davies, which was a copy of an original 1879 headgear at Blackrod Brow Colliery.
James and the volunteer team from the museum were on site yesterday to get the big winding wheel down before starting dismantling of the rest of the structure. Witnessing the proceedings was the still and solitary figure of Alf Molyneux, a long-time friend of Fred’s.
“He would have hated what’s happening,” Mr Molyneux remarked sadly as the dismantling continued. “It’s the last time all the equipment and machinery will be together.”
An ex-miner, Mr Molyneux became a great pal of Fred’s after a chance meeting in a pub.
“I actually helped him sink the shaft when he decided to try mining coal from his own back yard.”
As the sun came out, Mr Molyneux, aged 77, was able to make at least one positive reflection.
“I’m glad the headgear is going to a good home and to people who appreciate just how special it is. There’s some consolation in the fact that it will be looked after and that it will be seen by the wider public.”