Leeds nostalgia: Steeplejack Malcolm’s close shaves

29 may 2009.
Former steeplejack Malcolm Debenham, of Halifax.
Copy picture of Malcolm working on the Stella B Power Station in Newcastle.
29 may 2009. Former steeplejack Malcolm Debenham, of Halifax. Copy picture of Malcolm working on the Stella B Power Station in Newcastle.
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These amazing pictures show Malcolm Debenham sitting on top of a power station in the 1960s. You will note the lack of safety ropes and there’s nary a harness in sight, nor even a whif of health and safety.

Malcolm, of Halifax, worked on steeples, chimneys, airshafts and other buildings all over the country. He is pictured here working on Stella B Power Station in Newcastle. He would climb up a ladder on the the outside of the tower, again without safety gear.

29 may 2009.
Former steeplejack Malcolm Debenham, of Halifax.
Copy picture of Malcolm working on the Stella B Power Station in Newcastle.

29 may 2009. Former steeplejack Malcolm Debenham, of Halifax. Copy picture of Malcolm working on the Stella B Power Station in Newcastle.

In 2009, we published an interview with him, in which he said: “I’ve climbed to the top of chimneys 500ft in the air. We’ve been above the clouds and that high up chimneys sway. They are built to sway. The other thing you get a lot up there is static electricity. I remember this Aussie bloke once took a radio up and touched the aeriel on the scaffold and it blew it to bits. I remember working on a chimney in Rugeley, Staffordshire. The ladders used to fit into each other with male and female fittings. I got to the last ladder and when I reached the top, it just came away from the wall and I was just left dangling. What had happened was the day man had taken the lashing off and forgotten to put it back. The only thing stopping me falling was about three inches of metal.”

On another occasion he was working on the tracks in Bramhope Tunnel when he felt his ears pop. He asked their flagman whether a train was coming and the answer came back ‘no’ but Malcolm was wary and so ordered his crew out. It was lucky he did, too, because moments later, a train did come and almost hit them. Malcolm noted: “There can’t have been a cigarette paper between us.”

He’s also had another close shave with a train, this time in Woolly Edge Tunnel when he was working in an airshaft - a train came past and took his ladder away, leaving him stranded.

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