The Workshop Team
Following seventeen years designing security products for the world’s automotive industry, Bill doesn’t have a proper job anymore, preferring to be in the workshop mending broken metal. Skipper of project work boat Predator and an experienced mixed gas diver, (though currently enjoying a hiatus) his work and diving explorations have taken him all over the world.
An engineer by profession, expert welder and fabricator in steel, aluminium and stainless, Bill has a habit of building the things that most people have to buy, and of taking on repair jobs that most people would throw away. Bill has often appeared on television as a sonar/wreck location expert and is a fellow of the Explorer’s Club of New York
Bill is ably supported by his wife Rachel, who has run the Bluebird Project shop since its inception.
John ‘Tidy’ Barron was the second man to dive K7 back in 2000 so he’s a veteran of the project and now he’s traded his fins for a hammer to join us in the good fight against twisted aluminium. John earned his nickname for constantly putting tools away before we’d finished using them until his wife tried to harness this effect around the house and he had to kick the habit. Unfailingly patient and uncommonly versatile around the workshop and a master of any gadget with more than the average number of buttons, John for a number of years also campaigned tirelessly for the United Colours of Benetton, until we finally stole his old sweatshirt and hung it on the workshop wall. A nicer man you couldn’t hope to meet.
Mike started in 2006 as a long-distance honoury team member/odd job man by sending cartoons, designing DVD covers, sourcing cockpit parts and creating the new cockpit seat for K7. Finally at the start of 2009 he packed his life up and moved 300 miles to permanently join his friends and the big tin boat, where he’s now a workshop regular. Particularly responsible for the boat’s cockpit and for generally making sure that she looks right historically, Mike is more often than not to be found interminably staring at archive photos for hours on end before turning back to the boat to exactly position…a solitary screw. Mike also creates all of our YouTube content and is engaged to Helen, who has also worked on the boat at times.
In some of his spare time, Richie likes to mess with armoured vehicles – the rest he devotes to boat building with the Bluebird crew. Having watched from afar for some time, Richie one day emailed to say he’d like to lend a hand and that was that. As John’s rivet-setting partner and all round handy fabricator, Richie became an instant hit around the workshop.
Barry first joined us in May 2013 after visiting the Ruskin Museum in Coniston and becoming interested in the project. He soon became a workshop regular, travelling up from Grimsby every weekend and immediately being christened ‘Barry from Grimsby’, or ‘BFG’ for short. A cracking hand all round, BFG makes a great job of everything he touches and rapidly made his mark by taking on tasks such as the main spar lifting lugs, the sponson planing wedge stabilising fins and the repair of the ram for the water brake; he’s not shy with the kettle, either.
Lifelong sidekick to Bill, Alain came to the Bluebird Project as a motor mechanic of 14 years experience before making a shift in career to become an officer manager. Due to his total inability to come back with any kind of witty response Alain often finds himself the butt of every joke, though his unfailing good humour ensures that he never gets upset; instead, he just sits and glowers.
Although a very enthusiastic member of the boat crew he isn’t happy to be in the water, preferring to stay in the wheelhouse and drive the boat and take care of the navigation. Alain has become our workshop caretaker, keeping our facilities running around us be it maintaining the compressed air system or anything else that needs doing. Bit of a thinking man, Alain is also our webmaster.
Jordan joined the team in 2009 and day to day is an ROV pilot involved in the decommissioning of Sellafield. He is a time-served Fitter and Turner with Vickers Barrow on various contracts from naval weapons to nuclear submarines. Jordan regularly makes the 280 mile round-trip to the workshop and stays with whoever will have him. Likes all forms of water craft but has a worrying tendency to enjoy those propelled by cloth and bits of string, though this is usually overlooked as he is more often than not the supplier of the bacon buns and enough absurd humour to fill the workshop twice over. Jordan had the honour of repairing and reinstalling Mr Campbell’s seat pan, aided by his wife Lucy who has proved equally adept at repairing bits of tin.
Robert ‘Checkie Rob’ White first came to the workshop in 2009. A radio communications engineer by trade with a particular interest in restoring K7’s wiring, poor Checkie (so named because of his penchant for chequered shirts) was instead presented with a never ending stream of things to paint strip, patches to make, and things to file before finally, at last, we decided that it wouldn’t hurt to have some elastic-trickery installed in the boat. The good-humoured butt of many a joke, Checkie once manfully aimed his laser RPM sensor up the back end of an old Orpheus while we span it up to start speed…and dumped a load of talcum powder through the front of it. (See photo) In the summer months Checkie will often appear on some monster motor bike clad head to toe in leather, before removing his helmet and reminding us that he really is ‘Born To Be Mild’.
Rob joined the project in 2005, initially as a shelf putter-upper, bench builder, and to generally do any other task not involving the boat. Known as Clark Kent in the early days due to the fact that when he did get the chance to do something interesting on the boat he was immediately called away to work, Rob’s speciality became the extensive de-riveting of Bluebird and the subsequent re-riveting as she went back together, and he also specialises in making an unholy mess when he takes things apart.
Novie Dzinora & Paul Hannaford
Novie and Paul earned their place on the team by dogged persistence in the face of adversity. They turned up on the beach one cold Saturday morning, trying to appear inconspicuous in their anoraks. They might as well have brought a banner and flashing lights! We demanded to know whether they were press only to find to our consternation that they were in fact "Speed Record Club Members" and thus were in fact potentially more dangerous than the press. Having discovered that they had travelled vast distances to freeze their bits off on the beach, and having seen them do it week in, week out, we took pity on them and adopted them as our independent observers when it came time to start recovering bits of wreckage. It's doubtful that we would have coped if it hadn't been for their help on the night when Beanie got hurt and without their CD ROM like knowledge of all things Campbell, we would have been stumped for answers on more than one occasion.
With the boat safely out of the water, Novie has gone on to become a workshop stalwart, regularly commuting over from Coniston, and Paul now works with ‘Sir’ Malcolm Pittwood as part of our Operations Team.
One Saturday in 2012 Bill wandered outside and found a self-confessed ‘Bluebird Project groupie’ loitering about in the road. Professing to be a fan of the diary and immediately proving it by answering ‘the curry sauce’ when quizzed as to her favourite story, we took Gillian in for the day and thereafter decided that she was clearly just the kind of slightly odd waif and stray that does so well on the team and invited her back, and she’s been with us ever since- when, that is, there’s no rugby to be pursued. Gillian has proved very able at all sorts of things around the workshop and is the ruin of our waistlines with her weekly supply of home baking.
Louise effectively joined the team in the dim and distant days of 2001, just subsequent to Bluebird’s recovery, as an eager young student looking to interview someone in the restoration world. Unfortunately for her she found Bill, but fortunately for us we eventually ended up with our very own fully qualified pet museum conservator and Lou has been with us off and on ever since. Lou has conserved various parts of Bluebird for museum display and has liaised on the project’s behalf with other museological type places such as the Mary Rose Trust; she is also just as adept at dressing a weld off with the rest of us.
Operations and Advisors
Ted is the nominated lead driver of our ‘refurbished’ big tin boat. He has been involved with boat racing and record breaking at all levels through to his current F1 quest to get a two-way world record average speed over 150mph, hopefully in the process gaining his Platinum star from the K7 Club. He is currently stuck at 149 mph or so, the elusive two-way average being just that. Ted also enjoys the odd cleaning and scrubbing session as the BBP works towards the day when he will press ‘start’ and head off down the lake to begin the ‘Bluebird Trials’, a time the whole team is looking forward to. Ted also knows never to pose the ‘stupid’ question and leaves it to Bill to tell him when……
Ted relies on Karen as his life support system and Robin-2013 to keep him somewhere near reality.
From Peebles in the Scottish Borders, Stew joined the RAF in 2003 and having proved reasonably handy over the years at keeping aeroplanes in the sky, he currently flies around with eight of his mates making pretty formations with little red jets.With The Bluebird Project operating a former Red Arrows Orpheus engine and receiving engineering assistance from the team, Stew- whose family have always had a strong interest in their famous namesake- immediately put himself forward and we are delighted to bring him onboard to work with Ted as Bluebird’s understudy driver.
‘Sir’ Malcolm Pittwood
The project’s head of bureaucracy, our cool, calm and collected chief of operations successfully drove the bid to have Coniston’s byelaws amended to allow K7 to run above the speed limit and that’s just one of his major successes. While not a workshop regular, Malcolm’s contribution behind the scenes is huge and vital; we are very grateful to have him on board.
Historian and successful Campbell author, Neil has worked quietly behind the scenes for many years supplying the project with invaluable historical information and especially in granting access to his unsurpassed collection of photographs. Sometimes we can only be as good as our reference materials and much of the historical accuracy in the rebuilt boat would simply not have been possible but for Neil’s kind generosity.
They also served...
Jack ‘Youth’ Younger
‘Youth’ joined the project in 2009, once we’d checked that it was ok with his mother! A mere 14 year old lad buried somewhere under a big mop of hair, it was decreed that hanging about with a bunch of sweary, politically incorrect middle-aged blokes couldn’t be any worse than his mates at the time, so he was allowed to stay and ‘Youth’ very rapidly became a very capable pair of hands, and a quick learner to boot. As he moved through school, then college, Youth decided that engineering was the way for him and he’s now a marine diesel engineer. He's moved on now and we’re very proud of the way he’s making in his life, and our small part in it.
‘Ah’ve never sin this bugger in one piece,” Alan observed in his rich Cumbrian accent when first he clapped eyes upon Bluebird’s scantily clad frame more than fifty years after he’d first worked on her.
As a 19 year-old apprentice panel beater for J Bendall & Sons of Carlisle, and under the watchful eye of Leo Villa, Alan did his bit first time around helping to make a silk purse of Donald’s sow’s ear of a boat during the summer of 1955.
In more recent times, Alan became one of the very few, master blacksmiths worldwide invited to contribute a piece for the gates of the Globe Theatre in London, for which he crafted a fabulous bunch of steel crab apples – so how he ended up in a workshop full of amateurs is anyone’s guess.
But it’s as well that he did.
With a trick of the trade for every situation, a simple way of doing everything and a treasure trove of handy tools, Doddy is definitely one of the lads; he's largely hung up his hammers now, but his contribution to the project will always be invaluable.
The Original Recovery Dive Team
Graeme Connacher forced himself onto the team in 1998 whilst they were involved in a body recovery near to his home in Glenridding on Ullswater. He learned from the local constabulary that a team were due on site with side scan sonar and ROV's. The local constabulary also warned the team that a certain Mr Connacher was due to arrive. Thinking that he must own the lake in which they were about to start work, the team waited for his arrival with a certain amount of trepidation. After a short wait, a battered old Morris Minor screeched to a halt from which sprang Mr Connacher equipped with more enthusiasm than the rest of us put together. Giving him the worst jobs imaginable failed completely to dampen his spirit so he was eventually given an ROV to play with.
Graham Woodfine, known to all as ‘Beanie’, earned his nickname for two reasons. Firstly there were too many Grahams on board and secondly, he was the only Chartered Accountant (bean counter) diver that we'd ever met. Graham took up diving after injuring himself so many times whilst rock climbing that the doctors threatened him with refusing to re-assemble his shattered bones if he broke them again. Within a very short time of taking up technical diving he had managed to land himself in intensive care by that means. There was no option but to make him designated safety officer due to his unrivalled knowledge of hospitals and medical procedures.
Sal Cartwright is living proof that the Bluebird Project is an equal opportunities employer, being one of only two female mixed gas rebreather divers to have worked on the project, and she carried out as many dives as anyone in that dark water. When she wasn’t getting cold and wet with us at weekends, Sal did something with horses though we never did quite find out what it was. Anyway that's what she told us and it was a convenient way to explain the collection of whips in the back of her van!
25th May 2009
It was with absolute shock that I learned of the death of my good friend, Carl Spencer yesterday. Carl was diving the wreck of Titanic’s sister, Britannic when he got into difficulties. I dived Britannic with Carl in 2003 when he led a British expedition to penetrate the wreck and explore the minefield that sank it but we met in November 2000 on the Bluebird Project.
We were short of a diver as I was being hauled away for press interviews so I asked if anyone knew a good diver with a disposition that would fit the team. Carl was immediately put forward so leaving word that he should be invited I went off to do more interviews. Next morning Carl arrived and within the hour he was on the Bluebird wreck. He said later it was a surreal experience and due to the birth of his son, Ben, only a few days earlier he commuted daily from Stafford to Coniston. We all liked him at once.
Carl was both the first and last diver to work on the recovery of Donald’s body in May 2001 demonstrating his immense skill under water; he was very methodical and completely natural in his element.
We next worked together in 2003 when Carl led an expedition to Greece to dive Britannic. I headed up his sonar team and it was a privilege and a pleasure to support such a gifted leader.
Since then we’ve worked on a joint project in Norway involving sonar work and diving in extreme conditions. The guys drove fifty-odd hours from Newcastle to the very top of the earth with a vanload of gear.
A strict teetotaller that’s the only time I ever saw alcohol pass Carl’s lips. We gave him a half of lager and he fell asleep.
He remained a staunch supporter of the Bluebird Project throughout and joined us again in early 2007 when we returned to the lake in search of a missing piece of frame. It was Carl who ultimately recovered it.
Our collaborations continued. Carl arrived in my office for a meeting one day but we’d run out of milk for the coffee. I was about to head off for the shop when he asked if I was taking the car. I explained that the shop was only a hundred yards away and I’d planned on walking. With that he threw his car keys at me and said, “Take mine…” I wasn’t expecting the brand, spanking new Aston Martin DB9 outside the office but I took it anyway.
Another time he texted to say he was overhead Leeds and could I call Newcastle air traffic control and organise for him to land in my garden. No sooner said than done.
We had planned to visit Norway again later this year but, sadly, we’ll never get there. It is absolutely heartbreaking that such a gentleman should be so tragically lost and he’ll leave a huge hole in the lives of so many people. He also leaves a widow and two young children. Our thoughts and prayers are with them.