I married Fred for love

Sheila became Mrs Fred Dibnah No 3 in the summer of 1998.

Thursday, 19th September 2013, 7:00 pm
Sheila Dibnah
Sheila Dibnah

She joined him at steam rallies, even on a test drive of The Big One, and once scaled a 200ft industrial chimney – in heels.

But people close to the couple never accepted her.

And now she wants to tell her side of the story in print.

To launch her book, Sheila will be at Kirkham’s SilverDell Books to sign copies of her new autobiography ‘A Cast-Iron Will’ – ‘the true legacy’ of her late husband Fred Dibnah on Saturday, October 5 at 2pm.

And she has revealed how she bought into Fred’s life more than people give her credit for.

“I turned up at one rally, all hair, nails, heels, and a man came up and said what are you thinking of, you’ve got no place here.

“That’s what I was up against. I didn’t like some of Fred’s hangers-on because they were using him.”

But, on the same day Fred was told he had cancer, Sheila got a call from her mother saying her father had fallen from the roof while doing a repair.

He suffered irreparable brain damage and other injuries.

“I had to leave a man I loved who had just been told he had an aggressive form of cancer to be at the side of another man I loved who was dying.

“Fred understood. It was only after his mates got at him he began to say I left because I didn’t care. That was the beginning of the end for us.”

Fred redrafted his will and disinherited Sheila on October 15 2004. He died on November 6. “The others started to make plans for his funeral. It was like I didn’t exist.

“The most I expected, on his death, was to be treated fairly. In the event the only winners were the lawyers.”

The legal wrangle lasted for six years.

Despite this, Sheila still launched a fund -raising campaign for a bronze statue in memory of Fred in Bolton.

“I didn’t do it to make myself look better or play the celebrity widow’s card but because Fred deserved better.”

“I’m there to entertain and celebrate the good things we had – and his real legacy, how he changed the way people saw the industrial North.”

Sheila says she was never with him for the money.

She lived in Switzerland for years, working as a dancer, and turned down an Arab millionaire’s marriage proposal there.

“He pursued me relentlessly but I didn’t love him. I’m no gold digger.

“When I married it was going to be for love.

“And it was. If Fred had beer money he was happy, ” says Sheila.

“He’d tell others she’s not after me for my money, cock, because I’ve nothing. But he had charm, charisma and that spark was there.

“He was 20 years older but I was smitten. I’d never met a man like Fred before. I felt I could be myself with Fred, I didn’t have to be frightened if I put weight on, or got a spot , or was seen without makeup.

“We both came from Bolton, we liked the same things. I used to like to sniff and lick spanners when I was a child, I was entranced by manhole covers, loved gas mantles.

“Other people only saw the differences between us, never the similarities.”

Fred, celebrity steeplejack, champion of the industrial North, wrote her out of his will on his deathbed.

The rot had well and truly set into their relationship with the bladder cancer that claimed his life.

Fred accused Sheila of poisoning him. On the day of Fred’s funeral, a national newspapaper declaimed his “lavish lifestyle.”

Fred, the “champagne steeplejack, ” had swilled claret rather than pints and “scoffed” vegetarian food rather than pies - under his wife’s influence.

Sheila stresses it’s not about revenge. “It’s about setting the record straight.”

For more details on the event please call 01772 683444 or email [email protected].