26th September 2005 - 16:30

Well, I promised to let you know how it went with Bae so here I am. It went wonderfully.
I did a presentation for the heritage division and explained to a group of retired British Aerospace employees about our project and where we find ourselves today.

They’re essentially blokes who’ve given their working lives to Bae and now get together to help out the enthusiasts groups, archive material from bygone programmes and do a bit of engineering here and there. They’re also familiar with some of the older aircraft manufacturing processes, which is very handy from our point of view.
“These new things are made of plastic,” one of them told me, “and I know bugger all about plastic.”
He did, however, know all about aluminium.
Somewhere down the line, the guys had gained the impression that we wanted them to tackle the entire job of putting Bluebird back together and this was causing concern because, like I said, they’re all retired and only do a bit of dabbling.
But after I’d detailed all the other help that, even after four years, is still on offer we then discussed the possibility of them clearing a bit of bench space and knocking out a pair of sponsons to the original drawings. Oh, and if it was OK, could we have some new double-curvature panelling for the front end please?
At the end of the evening I was presented with a beautifully detailed desktop model of the Typhoon Eurofighter and a collection of ties from past fighter plane programmes. Cheers, guys. I was thrilled to bits.
So back to Bluebird, what we now have is the spaceframe repairs going to PDS, the tail assembly to Airframes, the middle we’ll have to do ourselves – anyone know an engineer?
We have a good engine, both spars are in excellent order and if Bae make our replacement sponsons and re-clothe the pointy end we almost have a complete boat. One of the younger and highly dynamic project managers at Bae has also offered to help on a voluntary basis too so yet another skilled volunteer joins the fray. And while we’re speaking of volunteers – remember the fluorescent paint question?
I’m yet to discover whether the HLF is still on board but if you recall, one of their desires (for our project) is that the old and new parts of the boat be clearly distinguishable… I’m not sure they weren’t expecting me to suggest a means that allowed for painting Bluebird blue all over but Dominic Owen we kind enough to pick up the idea and run with it. He’s also been good enough to write a diary piece with all the info so read on.

*

By way of an introduction, I’m the one in the photo - stood next to Thrust SSC and grinning like an idiot.

When the tragic events of 1967 unfolded it would be another eight and a half years before I was born. In fact, I don’t think that my parents had even met for the first time by then so I couldn’t even have been a ‘twinkle in my father’s eye’. So why am I so passionate about past speed records and, more specifically, a certain two and a half tons of steel and Birmabright??
Looking back, in a roundabout way I think that my father was principally to blame. Towards the end of September ’83 he was taken seriously ill and wound up in hospital. On the 4th October (you can probably guess where this is heading) I was ushered into the day room during a visit and found it packed with every male patient and visitor, all glued to the TV in the corner. My interest didn’t go un-noticed and several spiffing chaps of all age groups started to explain to me what Richard Noble had just done. The seed was well and truly planted.

A few years later we all took a family trip to the Lake District and had a day out at Coniston. The stunning scenery was completely lost on me (it just seemed similar to what I was used to seeing in Wales) and I was rapidly becoming bored beyond belief. Until, that is, someone mentioned DMC and K7;

“Donald who?.... Bluebird what?... He did what???!!... Here???!... When?... What happened??!!... Incredible!!!!... Must know more!!!... Must find out!!!!!!”.

I had found my new boyhood hero.

I should probably add at this point that three passions of mine, right from a very early age, have always been horsepower, engineering and speed, so an interest in speed records was probably inevitable.
What really caught my attention, however, was the attitude of those involved in the earlier records. Everything was done for ‘Queen (or King) and country’ and executed with the ‘best of British’ to ensure that the whole world had a polite reminder that Britain was Great.
Something about it all really struck a chord and it quickly became clear to me that Donald was probably the last true exponent of this, now virtually bygone, mentality.

It also struck me that perhaps there should be more of a tribute to this great man, the national pride he once evoked, and the brand of heroism he embodied. When I later saw ‘Across The Lake’ I couldn’t help but think that the most fitting tribute of all would be an exact working replica of K7 - reading about history in books or seeing it on TV is one thing but to actually see it, to hear it, to feel the vibration in the air and to even smell the exhaust fumes… It is almost indescribable!
If anyone is wondering what I mean, go to an airshow and try to get the chance to stand behind a Spitfire when it is being fired up.
It is also something proven by Owen Wyn-Owen every time he runs BABS.

I probably don’t need to say how I feel, therefore, about the restoration of K7.

When it was first announced that she was to be restored I e-mailed Bill to say that if he wanted volunteers then I would happily donate my time, even if it was only to make the tea and sweep the floor (Bill, it’s an offer that still stands by the way).
When Bill made the diary entry suggesting the use UV light to meet one of the HLF criteria I knew the solution and was compelled to e-mail him again to say “It’s a doddle mate”. Words I almost came to regret when what felt like the hundredth call to a paint manufacturer ended with “Well, thanks anyway for your help. I guess I’ll have to keep searching”.

On paper the solution really is ‘a doddle’ - add one part fluorescing agent to nineteen parts clear lacquer.

In reality, however, finding someone willing to make it and put their name on the tin was proving much more difficult.
Finally (and very much ‘thankfully’) two ‘heroes of the hour’ emerged - Mike from ‘Glowtec’ and Linda from ‘Selectamark’.
Without them both going out of their way to help I would probably still be no closer to a solution.
Instead, I have been able to provide Bill with details of products, prices, coverage, lighting, etc…
A huge ‘Thankyou’ to Mike and Linda.

The proposition is a quite simple one - paint the restored K7 in ONE uniform shade of ONE colour then mask around the new panels and apply a coat of the clear UV reactive lacquer. Once in situ at the Ruskin Museum, part of the display would involve a light switch which visitors could press to turn off the display lights and turn on the UV.

Et Voila!

The original appearance of K7 is retained, ‘old & new’ can be distinguished and ‘old & new’ are brought together with an innovative ‘visitor interactive’ display.

Who could possibly ask for more? (hopefully not anyone from the HLF! ;-D )

Looking into this one small thing for Bill has really given me an appreciation of the gargantuan task ahead of him. There is one thing I now feel qualified to say to the ‘nay sayers’, ‘Bill bashers’ and critics of the project - Don’t just sit back pointing a finger, get in touch and offer to actually do something. I’m sure he’d appreciate anything to lighten his load, even if for a few minutes.

Bill, ‘Best of British’ to you and the team!

Dominic Owen

*

A tremendous piece of work, and thanks for that, Dom, very much appreciated.
My next task is to try and discover whether anyone within the HLF is prepared to tell us if they’re still on board.
Doubtless I’ll be told that no one can say until a new application arrives but as it seems doubtful that Cumbria Council will throw good money after bad there probably won’t be another application – unless we sit down and do it ourselves that is. And besides, any new application will say all the same things, apart from the fluorescent paint thing, as the last one.
Surely we’ve demonstrated the fact that there’s no shortage of volunteers, I’ve offered to pay for bits of the job myself to make them shut up about value for money and if Bae make our sponsons, voluntarily of course, what else can there be to moan about?
Naturally, if someone is brave enough to tell me they’re still aboard I’ll not be able to tell you and will have to go through the rigmarole of the new application to make it look good. How frustrating would that be?
Incidentally, has anyone been watching the restoration of Sir Francis Chichester’s round the world yacht, Gypsy Moth? Some interesting fundraising ideas on there. Have a look at http://www.Gipsymoth.org and until next time...


4th October 2005 - 16:00

Sad news, very sad news indeed.
I was called on Sunday lunchtime to be told that Bluebird’s designer, Ken Norris had passed away quietly on Saturday afternoon.
I only met Ken twice.
The first time was on the beach at Coniston when we first recovered K7 and on that occasion I had no opportunity to speak with him properly.
The second time we met was here when he came to see what he always referred to as ‘the machine’ when we spoke of Bluebird. He brought with him a small model of K7’s frame and we later took it with us when we went for lunch.
Having a small spaceframe in the middle of the table did nothing to help the serving staff but a small party of us sat for hours looking out over the mouth of the Tyne and listening to Ken’s stories.
Ken also invited me to visit him in Bournemouth but I never made it and now must add the fact to my many other regrets of that type – like never flying on Concorde when I had the chance.
We did, however spend many enjoyable hours on the phone discussing all things engineering and I know that Ken was eager to see his creation put back together. A truly charming and gentle man, it was a pleasure to have known him – albeit only briefly – though I’d never consider myself sufficiently qualified to write the final diary piece on his passing.
Instead, I asked Brian who in turn asked Steve Holter and a far more accurate and openly heartfelt piece can be found below as a result. Thanks to you both. And thanks also to Fred Blois who visited recently and kindly allowed me to use some of his wonderful pencil sketches.

*

On speaking with Bill on Monday we talked about the sad passing of Ken Norris on Saturday. It was quickly decided that it would be appropriate that the Bluebird Project site should via its diary page mark the passing of a man that contributed so much to engineering, record breaking and the story of Donald Campbell and his record breaking achievements on land and water. We also quickly agreed that Steve Holter be approached to write a tribute.

Brian Millin

*

There are certain times, when no matter how you try, you can only think of clichés. That is because a cliché happens to tell the truth, and the truth cannot be argued with. Today’s “five minute wonder” society has demeaned many clichés and words to a point that they mean nothing.

Therefore the task of writing about one of Britain’s most unsung geniuses is made all the more harder, as the words available now fail to indicate the true genius that was Kenneth Norris.

Ken was born on the 15th of November 1921, and in the years that followed his position as the leading light in the field of record breaking, on land and water has become an indelible part of history.

He was apprenticed to the Whitley based Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft Company at the age of 23, and taught at Coventry Technical College. He obviously left his mark, as years later he was made a freeman of the city. During the war years he lost one of his brothers, a pilot, so it was no surprise when he enrolled into the Imperial College to study Aeronautical Engineering. His brother Lewis was already working, and had become part of Donald Campbell’s team to continue the resurrection of Sir Malcolm Campbell’s pre war hydroplane in an attempt to retain the World’s water speed record for Great Britain. By chance Ken became part of a Water speed record team, that of Frank Hanning-Lee, but as Ken said, “when I arrived, project HQ was the basement, and the plans merely a white outline drawn on the wall. It dawned on me, I was going to do everything, and there didn’t appear to be any money”. Soon the idea of joining forces with “brother Lew”, and older sibling Eric was made flesh, and Norris Bros the company was born.

That one of the fledgling companies first projects should be to design a hydroplane for the outright world water speed record was entirely apposite.

Turning the pages of Ken’s archive is guaranteed to open the eyes wide. Everyday appliances, heavy plant used worldwide, a myriad of devices ALL from the fertile minds of Norris Bros. From the inertia reel safety belt to cigarette lighters, from inflatable buildings to cement pumps, it is probable that that there is not a soul on earth who hasn’t benefited from a Norris Bros design. Which makes Ken’s humility and modesty even more surprising.

Ken will be forever linked with the career of Donald Campbell. He never tired of answering questions about his years of involvement, but not once did I hear him say “I” or “me”, with Ken it was always “we” and “us”. Ken was truly a team member, and any success was always due to the team. If Bluebird was mentioned, then so too were Eric and Lew. Whereas I would treat the reams of paperwork and notes Ken had amassed with reverence, Ken would unroll drawings, paw through masses of notes and always allow full access to anybody who had asked. From the smallest schoolboy, to a fellow engineer, Ken would listen and treat everyone with the same patience, answer as only he knew how, and was always, always interested in finding out more about whomever he was talking to and what it was they were doing.

From the moment I met Ken for the first time, it was obvious that he was an extraordinary man. It became obvious too, that he was well used to the situation, having produced a “visitors pack” that would answer any question posed and which was always freely given. He had managed to keep in touch with the past, but had moved on as well. It took me years to find myself capable of calling him Ken, it was always Mr Norris, and respect demanded that. He would always call me Steven. When he insisted I call him Ken I agreed, as long as he called me Steve, “yes”, he said, “that’s fine, now lets go and get lunch, is the flying club ok Steven?”

With Ken, if you had just met him, or had known him for years, he involved you, he respected your opinion, and was truly happy, albeit surprised as well, that you were interested in what had happened years before.

He had time for everyone, and however outlandish the plan, how bizarre the concept, he would listen, and would never say anything that would discourage. You only had to witness the amount of young minds he worked with and helped, to see he genuinely saw good works in everyone.

The last few years were not good to Ken. The recovery of Bluebird K7 visibly gave him a kick start, and upsetting as the event still was to him, the recovery and resulting inquest into his friends death was met with the same mindset as always, it was an engineering problem, but his eyes told you that it still hurt after all those years.

Having met Ken at A & G, huge Rotwieller at his side, his office immaculate, Barbara, his secretary flitting in and out with tea and biscuits as Ken let me loose in his archive, was a rare privilege. Occasionally he would walk in, pick up something, sit down and relate it’s history, or a story it reminded him of, it slowed work down, but I often felt Ken wanted accuracy and detail, and not curiously enough, speed. In recent years Ken’s health had deteriorated, and during the inquest I got a call for help. As he struggled to find the words he knew described his point, he suddenly stopped and looked me in the eye. For fifteen minutes the Ken Norris of twenty years ago was back. “I hate being like this” he said, “I know the words, but they aren’t getting out, it is so bloody frustrating”. And I knew it was, in all the years I had known Ken, it was the first time he had sworn, but those fifteen minutes served to remind me that Ken Norris was a genius in the true sense of the word.

Steve Holter


13th October 2005 - 12:30

Been a bit busy so I’m late with the diary though fortunately it’s been written by someone else again.
Thanks to Jerry Pownceby for putting together the piece below and no, I didn’t have to pay him to write all those good things about me.
We had a great time on Gondola as despite having watched her stately progress a thousand times, it was the first time I’d ever set foot on her.
So apart from having drunk a few glasses of wine and having fifty-odd people in a buoyant (no pun intended) mood, it was a rare and elegant experience to be smoothly propelled down the lake with the soft hiss of steam in the background.
Next time you’re in Coniston make a point of taking a trip on her.

In case anyone is wondering what Marshall and Gina were doing there, we’d all been filming with the BBC on the subject of our tempestuous relationship with the HLF – all good marriages have their ups and downs – and the programme is due to be shown at the end of this month.
Marshall, in true overgrown schoolboy fashion, was playing with his magnificent jet-powered K7 model but it got a bit damp inside and stopped working. The real Mr Whoppit made a surprise appearance as well as the beautiful, little St Christopher medal belonging to Donald that we recovered back in 2001. You can just make it out hanging around my neck in the pic that I’ve shamelessly added (kind thanks, incidentally, to Russ & Claire Johnson for the photo's below). I was immensely proud to be allowed to wear it for a minute.

I was also there for a meeting with another TV lot who want me to go sniffing about the lake bed in an effort to ‘dispel some urban myths’, whatever that means so Predator equipped with all our latest kit will be back on Coniston Water by the end of this month.
So what? Well isn’t it about time we had another look at the K7 crash site? We never did find any trace of the instrument panel and I’m still missing a sizeable piece of the cockpit spaceframe…

Bill Smith.

*

On Thursday 6th October, I joined 52 other National Trust members and members of the general public aboard the Steam Yacht “Gondola” for a round trip of Coniston. The main reason I was there was because Debbie (my better half) had spotted in the National Trust magazine that members get that this outing also incorporated a talk given by none other than intrepid diver Bill Smith about his discovery of Bluebird K7, the raising of the craft and, later, his finding Donald. My wife felt a ticket for this cruise would be appreciated by me as part of my birthday present (which date happens to co-inside with Gina Campbells nah, nah, nahnah!).

I left our converted barn, just outside of Ulverston, at 3 o’clock in plenty of time to sail at four (sorry, 1600 hours captain). It only takes twenty or so minutes to get from there to Coniston but as it was a bit drizzly I did not want to have to rush, although one is always tempted to “play” a bit on those roads (!). As I reached and saw the tip of the lake though I had to stop and take in the sight. Coniston was absolutely glassily, eerily smooth. Not a ripple. Perfect for a record run! A pot of tea and a slice of tiffin at the Bluebird Café and then I spotted Bill. He too had a welcome cuppa. I introduced myself as, although we have conversed by email, we have never met face to face so he would not recognise me. We chatted and one quickly felt “what a likable bloke”. Humorous, quick witted and most importantly not “full of himself”. I am just trying to give you a picture of the guy. At fifteen fifty hours (ahem, easy this nautical stuff!) we all boarded the “Gondola” and set off, or cast off or whatever, on the dot. The manager of the steamboat “Gondola” (they do not give themselves titles but I suppose if it had of been one of the Cunard liners he would have been the Captain) John Eaton, gave us an in depth history of the boat which I will try to summarise as it has great relevance to us all. I would most strongly recommend that whenever any of you visit Coniston, you take a trip on this fabulous boat. It really is a credit to all who took part in its reconstruction and who cares for it so lovingly. All the crew and in fact everyone associated with the “Gondola” are very knowledgeable as well as very amiable which all helps make it an experience not to be missed. The “Gondola” requires around 30,000 fare paying passengers a year to make it a financially a viable proposition to run and although it does manage that, even more would be preferred. The brief history then from what I remember John telling us:

The Steam Yacht “Gondola” was originally built in1859 by the Furness Railway Company as a tourist attraction. She was retired in 1936 and subsequently used as a houseboat from just after the war until the early sixties when she slipped her moorings during a storm and became beached. Incidentally, it was the “Gondola” which gave Arthur Ransome the idea for Captain Flints houseboat in his book “Swallows and Amazons”. Anyway, during the seventies a group of enthusiasts felt that what was left of the boat should be saved. She really was in a parlous state (there are photos that show her then) but she was patched up sufficiently to enable her to be floated down to Coniston Hall where she was taken out of the water, cut into four sections and then taken by road one early Sunday morning, and with police escort, to the Vickers shipyard in Barrow. There it was found her hull was too weak to allow her to re-ply her trade as a passenger boat so the decision was made to lay down a new hull. As much as possible of the original “Gondola” was repaired and reused during its reconstruction while a steam engine of a similar type to the original was manufactured while a boiler was sourced from the Ffestiniog railway in Wales as a replacement for the missing item. Oh, the “spell check” didn’t like that. It wanted me to call it the “fastening” railway in Wales but that doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, does it? Eventually, the rebuilt “Gondola” was once again cut into four, brought back to Coniston, welded back together and re-launched in 1980. This is why this cruise was quite special for the National Trust and Gondolas crew and was, to give it its official title, “The 25th Anniversary Celebration Sailing to Lake Bank following the route of the original Gondola of Victorian times”

Back to the cruise! We landed at Lake Bank where we had a chance to stretch our legs and saw the original (important word that!) ticket office and also the site where the craft spent that part of its life tethered as a houseboat before falling into such terrible disrepair.

The return run had Bill talking about diving. In particular, with relevance to us, he spoke about the dives in Lake Coniston which eventually and successfully of course found Bluebird. He managed to convey the difficulties and dangers faced in this kind of pursuit with much humour and also the sense of achievement felt when he finally realised he had discovered K7 (or would it be more K7 discovered your “fin” Bill …….. not flipper ….. notice I was listening?! I should also have asked about the constituents of the “mixed gasses” you used as I imagine a man-made one was breathed here!). The talk obviously took on a more sombre tone when relating about the search for, and ultimate discovery of, Donald himself and once again I feel it should be emphasised that this feat took tremendous skill, courage, and determination to accomplish. A free for all of questions ended the session and it was patently obvious that the majority of those present had an awareness of Donald Campbell and his father and an undoubted admiration for them and their exploits. Many questions were thrown and all were neatly fielded by either Bill or by John Eaton him self who is also a Campbell enthusiast. When you finish messing about in the wet stuff Bill, become a raconteur; it pays good money by all accounts. I should also mention here that I do know that Bill gave his talk for free. I am aware he was informally given a bottle of wine as a thank you but his services were free. Good man!

Before disembarking (am I right there?), Bill asked me whether I had ever met Gina or Marshall. I hadn’t and told him so and was “gob smacked” to discover they would be at the pier doing a sound bite with the BBC and that he would introduce us. He was waylaid though so told me to introduce myself. Of course, I recognised from behind the blond hair. I waited until she had finished talking to someone and introduced myself. Gina remembered me from letters I had written to her in the past and to which she has always kindly replied. I felt so pleased, and I have to say very pleasantly surprised, that she was so approachable. She has not put herself on a pedestal because of her Dad and is definitely not basking in reflected glory. She is just an alright type of person as is Marshall who had brought along his, one sixteenth I think, model of K7. Would have been nice to see that run! Marshall also let slip to me that he and Gina intended buying a couple of tickets for the cruise without any ones knowledge so that they could pull funny faces at Bill while he gave his presentation! Unfortunately though, the couple did not arrive until ten minutes after we sailed. I also did inadvertently nearly manage to smuggle Mr Woppit away from Gina. She handed the bear to me but was then asked to do a “photo shoot” with Marshall and Bill. I got out of the way only to realise I was still clutching Mr Woppit! Ooops! Anyway, absolutely no illusions shattered there then!

Just before we all said our good nights, we discussed whether it was worth trying to put the forward the argument that we had debated with regard to the comparison of our cruise on the “restored Gondola” and how that relates to the ongoing, for some, argument surrounding the whether to “display a restored K7” versus the “K7 should be displayed as she is” opinion. I did say I felt though that it would be rather too long as a contribution for the “speedrecordgroup”. Bill then suggested I email the letter to him so he could put it in the Bluebird Project diary. He feels that other people should be given the chance to submit entries so that readers can have something other than him just “blathering on”. Bill, never mind blathering, you could turn your diary into a book and it would be, or deserves to be, a best seller! I just hope, though doubt, that this is equally worthy.

John Eaton emphasised how derelict the “Gondola” had become and that it was always borderline whether the boat could be saved at all after it was beached and became derelict following the storm in1963. All the wood was rotten, windows smashed, prop and engine robbed, hull rusted through in places and it was only through the foresight of National Trust member, Arthur Hatton, who dug a ditch and dragged the “Gondola” into it to partially submerge it, that it survived at all. John points out with pride a brass cleat given to them by a private individual, and after its “refit”, which the crew feel certain was a part of the original vessel. So then, it is fair to say that not a lot of the “Gondola” belongs to that boat which was originally built in 1859. The cleat, some of the wood work, a few rivets and screws but in reality the bulk of the craft we went on was circa 1980’s! Nevertheless, as far as those of us on the cruise and I imagine anyone who has ever been on the “recreated Gondola” feels, we were on an original boat with the “spirit” of the original and one which would never have happened but for the “Gondola” of 1859 being built.

Bluebird K7 was launched in 11th February 1955 and it was immediately apparent that it would have to have alterations carried out to get the trim right. Over the years many further changes were made to K7, most notably I suppose being the re-engine from a “Beryl” jet engine to an “Orpheus”. To do this entailed several alterations to K7 not only to make this different engine physically fit in but to also make it work! Tail fins of differing shapes and sizes were also tried out and incorporated through the years as well as many more subtle changes so basically one can say without any argument that there is only one “original” Bluebird. That was K7 when it was first built and launched. One can correctly state of course that there is a “pre-crash” Bluebird and “post crash” Bluebird but neither of them can be classed as “original”. So, if one accepts that point, why can we not put out of our minds once and for all the chance to see physically for ourselves where Bluebird hit the water and where a great man died in the process but instead hope for some Heritage money with which to rebuild Bluebird K7, complete with working engine, so that we can then gaze in wonder and admire just how the craft should rightly be? Should not Bluebird K7 be remembered as the remarkable achievement it so obviously was rather than that final magnificent failure we all know so well? One should bear in mind it was designed by the late Ken Norris (who, I understand, also wanted to see it rebuilt) in 1952, with just gut feeling, experience and a slide rule but without a computer in sight to reach a speed of “only” 230mph but eventually reached nearly a third as much again fifteen years later. As a sort of comparison, how would Nigel Mansells Williams of 1992 compare with the modern Williams let alone the 2005 McLaren or Renault?

John Eaton, and all who work on and have dealings with the “Gondola”, is under no illusions as to what the boat is. John can see both sides of the argument. The majority of the “Gondola” has had to be recreated but, never the less that does not in any way detract from the final article. The majority of K7 would be “post crash”, that is, as recovered from the lake bed. It will not be a replica. It will be the real thing. It is also interesting to note that the National Historical Ship Society has placed, after inspection, the “Gondola” at number 30! And anyway, 30,000 passengers a year can’t be wrong!


17th October 2005 - 15:00

Monday morning and back to work – well back to the interesting question of what gauge goes where on the right-hand side of Bluebird’s fuselage.
I’m not sure who started this discussion, and for those who aren’t aware there are three gauges on the side of the boat beneath a (now broken) Perspex cover.
They wouldn’t have been visible to the pilot and were presumably for the benefit of the ground crew – or water crew – and it’s probably where I’d mount the speedo if I had to drive K7.
So instead of a quiet Monday morning with a cup of coffee and some e-mails to ease me gently into the day I ended up the wrong way up in K7’s bilges trying to make sense of a nest of pipes.

My coffee went cold as I dug and ferreted and even then I didn’t learn much as short of starting the engine I can’t tell what the gauges are for.
My best guess is that the right hand one is connected to the low-pressure side of the start system to avoid over-pressurising the poor little start-turbine. The small gauge in the centre is definitely plumbed into the high-pressure side of the start bottles so should indicate the contents, and the other is something of a mystery but possibly related to part of the hydraulic gubbins.
Not a very satisfactory answer, is it?
Having returned to my desk in a state suggestive of having fought (and lost) with a ball of razor wire in the bottom of a builder’s skip, I made a new cuppa and addressed myself to the issue of our forthcoming HLF application.
We must have it on the table by December 1st and that’s a tight deadline – but it’ll be done.
Remember our ‘very constructive’ meeting in Manchester (see diary entry for 8th August), and the recommendations that came out of it?
1. More volunteers please – no problem, in fact we’ve stoked up the volunteer effort and had a tremendous response.
2. Tell the old bits of boat from the new when she’s finished – quickly sorted with a bit of lateral thinking, which I’m assured went down rather well in museumological circles.
It originated with an off the cuff suggestion, the horns of which were grasped firmly by volunteer, Dominic Owen who then quickly wrought the fluorescent lacquer theory into something we can use.
But there was another request, a lurking danger that had to be approached with the utmost caution if it were to be successfully disposed of – that being to acquire the services of a genuine museum person who wouldn’t flee down the path of least resistance in the face of such an ambitious project.
Because, you see, we need a thing called a ‘conservation management plan’ to make this work.
I can only surmise that some deviant museumologist had their wicked way with the last one or this was the document that unfortunately dropped out of our application when we suffered catastrophic paperclip failure.
Having decided that at the very least I ought to know what on Earth I was asking for when approaching the museum community I then set about discovering what the creation of such a plan actually entails.
This time my coffee went cold as I waded through a voluminous guidebook entitled:

‘Conservation Management Plans’

Once upon a time someone would have been paid to slim-down its stodgy content into a succinct and informative flyer because of printing costs but not now – not in the age of high-speed Internet and PDF files.
Instead, I downloaded 36 pages, ate lunch while it printed then eyed it rather dubiously for a further ten minutes before sallying forth to discover that it’s actually quite entertaining.
It gently lulls the reader into the idea that no effort will be required:

‘Heritage’ includes many different things that have been, and can be, passed on from one generation to another…
…What makes something part of the heritage is its value or significance to other people.


And then just as nine-tenths of the little grey cells have shut down for the duration you get something like:

The conservation management plan should be compatible with the access policy of your organisation and show that you will improve access without damaging the value of the asset. For this, you may need a more detailed access plan…

Eh? – Then a quick leaf back through a half dozen pages to find out what this access thing is all about.
It’s mildly frustrating that virtually every page makes specific reference to old buildings, gardens or habitats – where uncooperative weeds, local planning authorities and kids can run riot all over ‘the asset’ – but contains no specific instruction on what to do with a big blue hydroplane or anything resembling one.
Nothing daunted though, I ploughed on to discover that it’s not the end of the world as its entirely possible to see where they’re coming from even if it is a bit like trying to rebuild your old MG by reference to an Alan Titchmarsh book.
In fact, there’s another version I found much easier to digest at:
http://www.unitar.org/hiroshima/world%20heritage/Background%20Material%20by%20F.LeBlanc/Management%20Plans/Conservation%20Management%20Plans%20-%20A%20Guide.pdf
How’s that for a link!
I’m not sure whether the good people at the HLF wrote this one but it’s certainly clearer – and it’ll save two sheets of paper for anyone wishing to print it off too.
And as for procuring the services of someone who not only understands museums but also the engineering side of things and the aims of the project….
Such is the draw of Donald’s legendary boat that we’ll be starting work on the conservation management plan next week with more expert help than I’d ever dared to hope for.

*

On a different note, our intrepid reporter Paul (Hannarack) Hannaford has been to Airframe Assemblies and snapped a few pics. Better still he’s written another diary piece for us so I can stop ‘blathering on’ for now.

Airframe Assemblies Ltd. Paul Hannaford.

Whilst in the Isle of Wight recently I took the opportunity to visit Airframe Assemblies Ltd. one of the myriad of companies waiting in the wings to play their part in carrying out the restoration of Bluebird K7 as soon as that happens.

“Waiting in the wings” seems to be a very apt phrase as their stock in trade as aircraft sheet metal specialists is the restoration of historic aircraft and on the day of my visit they were working on two examples of one of the most famous aircraft ever – the Spitfire.

I had pre-arranged my visit to their workshops at the Isle of Wight Airport and when I arrived I could not have wished for a better welcome. Not only was I anticipated, but also my arrival was announced over the phone to the Managing Director! I hastened to explain that I had no official standing within the Bluebird Project other than being an enthusiast and volunteer. Nevertheless, at that time they made me feel that I was the most important person on the project, for which I was very grateful.

Over a coffee I had a good chat with Production Manager Paul Ridgway and Workshop Manager Chris Michel. They had previously had meetings with Bill both at their own workshop and in Newcastle in their capacity as the prospective company to remove and re-skin the body panels of Bluebird during her restoration. Costings from Airframe Assemblies Ltd. had formed part of the overall submission to the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Chris Michel then gave me an outline history of the company and a guided tour of their workshops. What really impressed me apart from the skills of their craftsmen was the friendliness and enthusiasm of the workforce and their excitement at the possibility of working on Bluebird. To a man they all asked, “When is Bluebird coming here?” It was a question I couldn’t answer and would never be in a position to answer, but expressed my hope that it would be very soon.

Airframe’s current major projects involve the restoration of two Spitfires, LZ842 and RM927, as well as producing wings for another customer. There were Messerschmitt fuselage panels and various other components for their client base of “war-bird owners the world over.” Chris explained that private customers owned the two Spitfires in the workshop. A vital factor for both customers is that they are very insistent on re-using as much of the original aircraft as possible in the restoration. This ties in very well with the principle being applied to the restoration of Bluebird.

I had the opportunity to have a close look at the work going on with Spitfire Mark IX, serial number LZ842, formerly of the South African Air Force and Spitfire Mark XIVe, serial number RM927, formerly of the Royal Belgian Air Force. Both had been stripped right down to the smallest component and were at differing stages in the process of being lovingly restored from the ground up. The rear fuselage of RM927 was in a large jig in the early stages of reconstruction.

In the context of the history of the Spitfire, these particular aircraft had been relatively recent discoveries. RM927 for instance had crashed in Belgium and only been rediscovered in recent years. All previously restored Spitfires throughout the world, either to flying or museum condition, were relatively “easy” restorations in comparison. Because of the enormity of the accidents that befell them and the length of time they have remained buried at their crash sites, these two examples have required many new components to be made utilising the varied skills within the workshop.

As I said, the emphasis from their current clients to re-use as much original material in the restoration as possible is paramount. However, Chris showed me several parts that although they had been repainted had very obvious pitted surfaces caused by corrosion. Although the parts still looked pretty solid and functional to my untrained eye, Chris confirmed that some of them were unusable. I quizzed him about this and he said as a general principle any component that has suffered more than 10% degradation cannot be re-used - particularly if it has a structural function. In some cases a “non-essential part” (in terms of structural function) may be re-used where appropriate.

Chris went on to explain that many restored Spitfires – especially those still flying – do not now carry such detail as gun fitments. These are usually blanked off with a cover panel, but in both instances here, their clients are adamant that all gun placements are included in their restored example. Dummy guns will therefore be fitted although Chris wonders sometimes that they wouldn’t like the real thing fitted so they could carry out a few aerial dogfights for old time’s sake!

Elsewhere in the workshop they hold pattern parts, original drawings and maintenance manuals for all sorts of aircraft, but they can also produce their own drawings of pattern parts and redraw, retool and manufacture or repair any metal component for the aeroplanes. I was shown patterns being produced and formers being made around which even the smallest metal component can be worked to shape.

Within their team of expert craftsmen they also possess the rare skill of being able to produce "wheeled" panel skins for some of the compound curves needed for such items as engine cowlings.

Throughout the workshop all the guys were very enthusiastic about what they are doing. I got the impression that for the employees it wasn’t “just a job,” there was an obvious passion and pride in what they were doing.

The history of the company is that Airframe Assemblies Ltd. was formed in the mid 1980’s by Managing Director Steve Vizard. His interest started as a small boy collecting memorabilia and crash wreckage from the many wartime crash sites in his home county of Kent.

Becoming a bit of a collector he became involved with another collector, which lead to forming a company. Ultimately he came to the Isle of Wight teaming up with another “Warbird” restorer before going it alone and forming Airframe Assemblies in 1985.

Starting out in small premises with just three employees they have undergone three moves to arrive at their current premises with a highly skilled workforce of 12, with further access to additional skilled manpower as required. Added to that they have a wealth of links to other specialist companies offering specialist processes.

Aircraft enthusiasts amongst you will remember a Channel 4 programme a while back where a “live” excavation took place near Buckingham Palace where a crashed World War II Spitfire had been located. Airframes were at the forefront of that recovery and senior personnel were interviewed during the programme.

As their name suggests, Airframe Assemblies are primarily metal airframe specialists, involved in the restoration of the framework and skin of an aircraft. Engines, controls and systems they do not touch. In the case of Bluebird, Airframes would carefully strip the existing skin from the craft and re-work, replace where appropriate and produce new panelling for the missing sections of the craft.

Since 1994 the Company has held CAA approval, BCAR A8-2, A2 for manufacturing and is believed to be the only company holding this approval, which specialises in this type of work.

©PaulHannaford2005


24th October 2005 - 16:15

…yes I’m still working on that Conservation Management whatnot, which I’m going to call a CMP from now on, only my load has been lightened somewhat by a tremendous offer.

Remember Tim Parr… that most loveable and knowledgeable naval architect who delights in making old things operate again and who worked so hard on the original CMP?

Well he’s very kindly allowed me to use his work as a basis and offered to help me out when it comes to re-jigging it to suit our present circumstances.
Tim put in a massive amount of effort and travelled hundreds of miles to create his report and it certainly wasn’t his fault that it seemed to go missing at a crucial moment,

‘loss of original fabric’…Pah!

There are several people involved who worked bloody hard on the application – much harder than me – and who are deserving of so much credit in this endeavour. Tim is obviously one of them, Vicky has always been with us in the trenches and there’s Paul Jardine from Jura Consulting.
Way back in early 2002 we interviewed three consultants and gave the task to Paul as, of the three, he was the one who said there and then that he could make it happen. Yes, we had a recent setback (mutter, mutter, grumble…) but it seems only fair that he be allowed to finish the job.
And so, to that end, we have all committed to having that new application on the table at HLF central by December 1st come hell or high water. The blinkers are on, Paul has assured us that it can be done and Tim is with us too.
We’ve done everything asked of us, more volunteers, fluorescent lacquer and help from the museum community so with a pile of paperwork safely delivered we can all relax with our Christmas dinner and wait to see what happens next

Any of you enthusiasts want to come to Manchester to help us drop it off?

*

Right, back to what I was doing…


26th October 2005 - 13:15

Here’s an interesting one for you. Dom Owen has been on an other of his crusades and this time he enlisted the help of his pal. Gary Harding of 424 City of Southampton Sqn , who not only seems to have a complete Gnat at the end of his garden, (I think it’s a gate guardian), he was also prepared to crawl about inside it with a camera to further address the gauges question – and whose pictures we include with his kind permission.

Does this look vaguely familiar? (Stop getting excited, Ernie) And what about these two little clocks set in the side of the fuselage?

It appears that when K7 had her water-brake installed along with various other bits of Gnat fighter, someone considered what might happen if the engine were to flame-out at speed or stop working for some other reason.
It would spool down very quickly as those small turbojets were prone to doing and so the mechanical hydraulic pump would also come to a standstill leaving Donald with no brakes!
To this end, they grafted in a hydraulic accumulator straight from the aircraft to store hydraulic pressure in the event that the rest of the system chucked it. It would get the water-brake down in the even that everything else had stopped working.

Remember I said I’d found a cylinder in there?

…a cylinder remarkably similar to this accumulator in the Gnat. It’s actually a Lockheed part.

And as my cockpit photos are at home I can’t check this but what about this airspeed indicator?

Did anyone out there know about the accumulator? I’ve mailed Gary for some more info and I’m sure he’ll be good enough to help us again so I’ll report in due course.
Oh by the way, if you’re visiting this site for the first time, don’t forget to sign the guestbook and tell us what you think.
We have broad shoulders – we can take it.

Right, back to the CMP.


31st October 2005 - 12:45

And so into battle we go again – the Inside Out programme goes out tonight – and I’ve already had a call from Border TV asking if I’ll be around later should they choose to send a satellite truck over and grab an interview.
Naturally I said yes.

Is it a quiet news day or is this big news?

Sadly, it’s the same old argument but my conscience remains clear as support continues to pour from every quarter.
I went to Croft Circuit near Scotch Corner yesterday to collect a car and discovered that although it’s many years since I attended a rallycross meeting, many of the faces hadn’t changed.
I found it impossible to take two steps without being accosted by some old acquaintance I hadn’t seen for four or five years only to be told what a disgrace it was that our project had been denied its cash and when were these do-gooder bureaucrats who love to squander our money uselessly going to start behaving?
I told ’em to watch the telly tonight.
I was also sent a quote from the North West Evening News – something about a ‘rebuilt boat not telling the story of the crash that killed Mr Campbell’
Should I come out with something like that at home my wife has a sweetly, sarcastic way of pointing at the ground by my feet and saying, as though speaking to one of the infants that she so recently taught in class…
“You are here…”
Then she’ll indicate somewhere in the far distance.
“…and the point is over there!”
And so, HLF, in response to this rebuilt boat not telling the story of the crash that killed Mr Campbell, I put it to you that a rotted pile of scrap will not adequately tell the story of the most glorious water-speed-record contender in history either.
This is why we want to rebuild the boat using as much original material as possible and conserve the crash-damaged bits separately to improve access, meet display requirements and make interpretation easier, which has been proven to me over the past week can be done whilst staying within museumological boundaries.
Bluebird’s crash was the tragic final chapter in a long and magnificent tale and we want to keep it in perspective – but we said all this ages ago.
It was put most eloquently by a gruff, Yorkshire race mechanic whom I’d not seen for ages and who I remembered especially for his economical use of words. After a minute of monosyllabic conversation and the occasional grunt as he too garnered the latest on our boat project, he put down his torque-wrench and stood stiffly.

“Tha knows,” he muttered, scratching his balding head with greasy fingers.
“It’s bloody good job there’s a few Concordes left or them buggers would ’ave us all lookin’ at that crashed un.”

Thirty odd years of triumphant, supersonic commercial air travel…

*

By the way, go and have a look at the guestbook and if this is your first visit don’t forget to leave a message – thanks to one and all for the support.

Bill Smith.


1st November 2005 - 13:45

Good day yesterday and a BIG thank you to all those who took the time to add your thoughts to our guestbook. The site took over 2000 extra hits and I watched, satisfied as page after page of encouragement poured in, and that’s without the zillion e-mails that I’m still working on – promised to reply to everyone – rod for my own back!
Our piece on BBC1 was skilfully put together by Ed the producer and wasn’t Vicky truly inspirational?

It’s a boat, not a stage prop!

I loved that one.
There were a few other classic lines with one observer describing the soon to be flying Vulcan as a ‘weapon of mass destruction’ whereas Bluebird is pure heritage. It was said with tongue in cheek and I speak for a great many people when I say I can’t wait to see that stunning machine flying again but still… it’s true, isn’t it.

Here are a few more-

I would like to record my support for full restoration.
Donald Campbell piloted a beast of a machine, not a pile of scrap…

Or what about this one?

Just popped in after reading the article on the BBC. I totally agree with what Gina wants to do and feel that the HLF do not fully understand the importance of live, working museum pieces. The Railway museum made this mistake originally when they did not fully restore the engines but left them as painted shells of little interest to anyone. Bluebird should ROAR again.

And finally;

Only a ghoul would want to only partly restore the bluebird.
She was the sleekest boat ever built a monument to the British engineers and craftsmen who built her…

It goes on and on and if you don’t believe me go have a surf through the guestbook.
Come on, HLF!

On another note, here’s a pic of Gnat fighter XM691, which believe it or not was Bluebird’s donor aircraft so here’s K7’s tail doing what it was originally designed for. Presumably all those valves, gauges and accumulators are hiding away in there too.
Thanks to Andy Wilson for sending that over along with enough Gnat info to swamp me – temporarily that is.
(I’m not sure whose copyright this picture is but if we cause offence by its use please give us a shout and we’ll ask nicely or remove it forthwith).

And while we’re on the subject of accumulators, an airline pilot called Andy Scull mailed me last night and with his kind permission I include the text for those of you as interested as me in what I called ‘hydraulic gubbins’.

I have been following the Bluebird project ever since the lift, and have been wondering when I could do something to help. I'm an airline pilot and thus familiar with the workings of aircraft hydraulic systems.

Regarding the hydraulic accumulator and the purpose of the three gauges behind the perspex panel:

I'm sure that, as a pilot, you know how a hydraulic accumulator works, so please forgive me for going over old ground for the sake of those less familiar:

A hydraulic accumulator usually consists of a cylinder, divided by a piston which, when the cylinder is empty, is free to move up and down the cylinder. Normally, one end of the cylinder contains a gas (usually nitrogen but sometimes just air) which is pressurised to several thousand pounds per square inch. The other end has a connection that admits fluid under pressure from the engine driven hydraulic pump. Thus, when there is no hydraulic pressure in the system, the piston rests on the hydraulic side, held there by the gas pressure. When the hydraulic pump is running, the pressure of the hydraulic fluid forces the piston towards the opposite end, further compressing the gas. Thus, if the pump stops pumping for any reason, there is a reservoir of hydraulic fluid under pressure which is available to ensure continued availability of essential hydraulic systems. (a non-return valve prevents all the fluid simply escaping back through the pump).

Now to the crux of the matter: For the accumulator to work properly, it is essential that the gas is maintained at the correct pressure, and occasionally recharged. In order to make checking this a quick and easy task, a remote pressure gauge which could be read from outside would seem a logical fitment. Perhaps this is the purpose of the "mystery gauge"?

Regards,

Andy Scull

Thanks Andy and if there’s anything else you can explain to us please don’t hesitate.

Bill Smith.


2nd November 2005 - 16:15

Just another quick note.
We must have prodded extra hard this time because having listened to an entertaining exchange last night on Radio 4 about our Bluebird debacle I just heard Gina sparring with the HLF’s head of bureaucracy on Radio 2.
He’s a nice guy apparently, well respected in HLF circles too, so I’m told, and a specialist in Roman brickwork…

The office of public misdirection demonstrated some deft footwork by pointing us at the fact that there is no live application currently on the desk at HLF Central whilst skilfully avoiding the fact the recently demised one was meticulously crafted by masters of the lottery bid and with HLF’s full knowledge.

“It didn’t meet our criteria!” came the cry.

Take a look at the list of what was actually sent in support of our application and tell me that so voluminous a document would be prepared by professional consultants and NOT meet with their criteria.

HLF APPLICATION

CONTENTS PAGE


HLF Application

appendix A

 

Business Plan

appendix B

 

Architect's Drawings

appendix C

 

Quantity Surveyors Report

appendix D

 

Access Report

appendix E

 

Environmental Report

appendix F

 

Evidence of Ownership of the land on which the extension will be built

appendix G

 

Exhibition Works Interpretive Plan

appendix H

 

Independent Valuation of Bluebird

appendix I

 

Memorandum of Understanding between the Campbell Family Heritage Trust and the Ruskin Museum

appendix J

 

Naval Architect's Method Statement

appendix K

 

Conservation Plan

appendix L

 

Contingency and Inflation Justifications

appendix M

 

Evidence of other contributions to the project

appendix N

 

How we will appoint people to work on the Project

appendix O

 

Tender Report

appendix P

 

CV's of Project Managers

appendix Q

 

Market Research

appendix R

 

Photos relating to the Project

appendix S

 

Letters of support

appendix T

 

Audited accounts for year ended March 2003

appendix U

 

Forecast of income and spending for first year of project (compared to previous years)

appendix V

 

Value of non-cash contributions to the Project

appendix W

 

Minute Authorising Vicky Slowe to make this application and declaration

appendix X

 

Articles of Association

appendix Y

 

Education Policy

appendix Z

 

Equal Opportunities Policy

appendix AA

 

Acquisition Policy

appendix BB

 

Customer Care, Access and Charging Plan

appendix CC

 

Collections and Management Plan



It’s also time also to quell the misunderstanding that Gina is looking for a million quid of public money to rebuild her dad’s boat.
In reality the greater part of that money is needed for the museum, (which HLF have no problem with, allegedly), with most of the rebuild being taken care of by dedicated volunteers and offers of free help.

Another thing that tickled me about that particular interview – something that’s been tried a few times but without success – was the attempt to convince the world that this argument is a private affair between Vicky at the Ruskin and the HLF, and that neither Gina nor I have any influence.
We’re only the ‘say what everyone else is thinking’ department methinks.
And still, despite all the bluster there’s just no getting around it – for every person who says no to the rebuild there are a dozen more urging everyone to stop messing about and get it sorted – million quid or otherwise.


4th November 2005 - 14:00

Well today I was hoping to share with everyone some of the work I’ve been doing on the restoration / conservation / preservation plans and my strenuous efforts to simultaneously placate HLF, project team and public. But yet another spanner has appeared in today’s workings of which I’ll tell you more, some other time.
This situation really is crazy when you take a step back. I mean, HLF are actually doing some fantastic things out there.
I know we bitch about them incessantly but at the end of the day the nation is soon to have a flying Vulcan. We have a Flying Scotsman too and it works again, as does the paddle steamer Waverley so I can take my daughter on board one day and show her how her granny used to visit her own granny at Dunoon.
Charles Parson’s boat, Turbinia looks great in the Newcastle Discovery Museum after the expenditure of six-million quid and Leazes Park is back to its Victorian splendour so the process clearly works – sometimes.
But in our case it’s become so wearisome I sometimes wish they’d just take their ball and go home. At least we’d be able to make a start.
Below is an article that appeared in today’s Guardian, reproduced without any permission whatsoever so I’ll most likely be shot at dawn but what the hell, it’s a beautiful piece of writing.
In my defence, I’ve mailed and asked but no reply as yet.

And there’s another thought – newspapers. Hmmmm, I wonder what the Sun readers would make of this?



The cult of the ruin has given us a restoration tragedy

Donald Campbell's Bluebird was a thing of engineering beauty. But our heritage chiefs only appreciate the wreck

Simon Jenkins
Friday November 4, 2005
The Guardian


Donald Campbell's daughter, Gina, was this week refused a government grant to restore her father's speedboat, Bluebird K7, for public display. The reason given was that it would no longer be the same boat as the mangled wreck it is now. The boat was recently raised from the bottom of Coniston Water where it has lain since its fatal crash in 1967. If bent back into shape and otherwise patched up, according to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), it would become something quite different, a restored Bluebird. Gina Campbell would be entitled to money only if she left the wreck mangled and thus "true to history". But then, of course, she would not need the money to restore it. I can sense the HLF bureaucrats dancing a little jig.
Coniston is the most exquisite of the lakes. It was here alone, said Ruskin, that England challenged Switzerland for natural beauty. He had declared that for every hundred people who could talk, there was one who could think; and for every hundred who could think, just one who could see. It was from his Brantwood turret at Coniston that Ruskin "saw".

Had he been seeing that day in 1967, Ruskin would have been appalled. The idea of someone trying noisily to smash a world water-speed record on his sublime lake would have horrified him. Ruskin loathed engines and speed. But he would have appreciated Campbell's dedication to his boat, honouring his belief in an art where "the hand, the head and the heart go together". The monomaniacal Campbell embodied his creed that "there is no wealth but life". As the boat hit its own wake, tilted upward and cartwheeled to oblivion, Ruskin would have been awestruck at Nature taking heroic revenge on Man. Either way, he and Campbell are now bonded as Coniston's most revered sons.

Hence it is to the Ruskin Museum at Coniston that Gina still wants a restored Bluebird to go. She wants it as an inspiration to the young, "shiny, bright, engineering perfect", as when her father set out to race through the 300mph barrier. It was a thing of beauty fit for purpose, as Ruskin proclaimed. Gina does not want to put on display what the HLF wants, her father's ghoulish coffin, a "historical narrative" culminating in destruction. She would rather bury the boat once more in Coniston. It would be like commemorating Princess Diana with a statue of her crashed Mercedes.

As for the suggestion of one official, Tony Jones, that he might tolerate a patched-up Bluebird but only if it were still "clearly a wreck" with black sticky tape showing where the new bits start, I wonder on whose authority people issue such ludicrous diktats. If heritage is about narrative, surely Bluebird's is one of guts applied to engineering. It is about speed and design, not crashes. If the Imperial War Museum can restore (on superb display at present) the motorbike on which Lawrence of Arabia died, why not Coniston and Bluebird?

In truth, heritage ideology is in a mess. When is old not old? When is it so patched and repaired as to have become a replica? When the Queen and her admirals dined on HMS Victory last month, were they aware that barely a plank or spar saw action at Trafalgar? They were sitting in what amounts to a replica. The historic Buddhist temples of the orient are rebuilt whenever the wood needs it. You can remake the parts of a vintage car and still call it "vintage", provided all are not replaced at once. Uppark House in Sussex is still Uppark, despite being rebuilt facsimile after a fire in 1989.

These restored things still convey their essence. We marvel at the carvings of Wells or Chartres despite their being replicas, or the new bricks and beams holding up Hampton Court. We can sense the historical continuum, the genius loci. Better a replica than a wreck.

The ever-confident Victorians respected the past by bringing it to life through restoration. A Gothic church was rebuilt, its carving retooled. Medieval walls rose again. Sculpture was mended, paintings cleaned. Much of this was overdone, but to respect the past, it was not thought necessary to freeze-frame it. The present too had its contribution to make to the "narrative" of a building or object.

Ruskin and Morris reacted against this radicalism. They honoured the Georgian cult of the ruin and cried that "all restoration is a lie". That cry remains the ruling ideology of Britain's conservation establishment. They sing with the Mikado: "There's a fascination frantic/ In a ruin that's romantic;/ Do you think you are sufficiently decayed?" Any tampering with the evidence of the past is illegitimate. The past is sacred and best left in peace, even if condemned to meaninglessness and destruction.

I am sure Ruskin, if he must be called in aid, would have approved the restoration of Bluebird. He would have accepted its purposeful design, built for speed and not for crashing. Its message to the modern world lies in the beauty of what Campbell built, not the manner in which he died, let alone some Blairite moral discourse on the danger of exceeding the speed limit.

The cult of the ruin is now rampant among the regulators. In Scotland it has blighted the fate of the magnificent Tioram Castle in Moidart, once home of the Clanranald MacDonalds. A new owner wishes to make it habitable at his own expense, and admit the public to its medieval glory. No, says Historic Scotland. This cannot be. Tioram is like Bluebird, a historic ruin whose "documentary evidence" must not be distorted or destroyed.

Protesting against the Tioram decision, last month's Country Life pointed out that the restoration of Scottish castles is as much part of their "narrative" as their original construction. As recently as 1960 the Stewarts' Castle Stalker in Argyll was restored, and thus saved from ruin, by a Surrey solicitor. Only a necrophiliac could oppose such a new chapter in the story of an old building.

Such decisions are getting heritage a bad name. They treat the past as so much academic data. Officialdom has lost its nerve in policing the boundary between conservation and reuse. It has retreated behind a screen of professional dogma, handing over the past to archaeology for its private study. The public is fobbed off with "interpretation". Grants awarded by the HLF go ever more to a coterie of such neo-professionals as trainers, outreachers, inclusion experts, learning executives, website designers and general consultants. They are the triumph of spin over content.

A castle without a roof is not a castle but a ruin, useless to anyone but scholars and photographers. Yet the British state must own more ancient buildings without roofs than with them. This does not respect history, whose inclination is to keep a building in constant repair. It does not sustain a narrative, but rather cuts it dead.

Likewise with Bluebird. It was built for speed. If it is to be restored, it should evoke the heritage of speed. If they want mangled metal, the HLF's crash fetishists can go visit a junkyard.

simon.jenkins@guardian.co.uk


10th November 2005 - 15:30

Been out of the office for a few days for a bit of a break but I’m back again to find one or two small developments in the offing.
The e-mail below seems to have popped up recently as it’s been mailed to me privately a couple of times then someone was good enough to post it on the guestbook.
It seems to be another of those ‘Positioning Statements’ or something similar and was kindly supplied by Lucy Regan, an information officer at HLF central. It reads -

Thank you for your email - your comments will be noted for the future. The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) was unable to support an application from the Ruskin Museum in Cumbria in March 2005. We were asked for almost £1million of Lottery money to buy the remains of Bluebird K7, to rebuild the craft to run again at full performance standard, and to extend the Museum to house it. As our key aims are to conserve, open up and increase people's understanding and involvement in our heritage - rather than funding substantial reproductions to a high specification - we were unable to help them with this request. We absolutely agree that the Bluebird and Donald Campbell story has a special place in our history but this expensive rebuild was not for us to fund. We are still talking to the Ruskin Museum about other ways of telling this fascinating story in future.

Well, thanks for that, Lucy. Unlike many others within those hallowed halls you are at least speaking to us.
A small suggestion if we may – purely in the interests of factual correctness – where it reads,

‘- rather than funding substantial reproductions to a high specification -’

Could we have something like…

‘– rather than funding what our good offices would have you believe to be a substantial reproduction despite the applicant’s overwhelming evidence to the contrary, and considering that as no one from HLF or indeed any of our appointed representatives have EVER actually seen Bluebird, we remain far from qualified to pass judgement –‘

There, that’s more like it and on another note…
I received a message from Steve Rothery of Marillion to say that they’re playing the Middlesbrough Empire on Friday 18th and did I want to go along as a guest of the band? Daft question!
Remember the song that started the whole Bluebird Project? ‘Out Of This World’ from the album ‘Afraid of Sunlight’. (http://www.marillion.com/music/lyrics/aos.htm#ootw) I responded at once to say it would be a pleasure to which Steve replied by asking if I’d like to bring a few other folk along.
So, if a few of you keen Bluebirders want to travel to Middlesbrough next Friday I’m sure we can arrange to have a few beers then enjoy the gig… Mail me privately if you’re interested.
And finally.
Andy Wilson, chief Scottish aircraft ferret has been scavenging about for Gnat parts – more volunteer involvement. His short diary piece is below. Cheers, Andy.

1967-I was 14 and watching tv,(2 channels!) I remember Reginald Bosanquet reading the news in perfect BBC English telling us that Donald Campbell, the world speed record holder had just been killed on Lake Coniston in his Hydroplane Bluebird K7.It was like being told that Dan Dare or any of my other boyhood heroes had just died.
Many years Later- I watched with interest on the same news,the recovery of K7 from Lake Coniston,the only thought which ran through my head was "How they going to fix that"?
I was about to find out!
Sitting at the computer one day, doing my usual search for Lambretta scooter parts, I dialled in the word Bluebird onto Google-and the magic animation appeared- a wee k7 running across the screen!
So I left a message in the guestbook and bookmarked the site,visiting now and again and reading all about the trials and tribulations of the various scenarios appearing there.Then one fine sunny day(I'm kidding myself here- I'm in Scotland!) I innocently emailed a Mr Smith to ask him a bit more about K7-and got bit by the bug! Bill was speaking about K7's engine and the hunt for her number- well- couldn't take much to find that out surely?-days later I had the numbers down to a block of 5 which may or may not have been fitted to k7.In the process I also discovered that K7 was fitted with a lot of parts from a Folland Gnat-hmmm- I was never lucky (or unlucky ) enough to be posted to an operational Gnat equipped squadron but hang on- I seem to have seen one in a computer site somewhere-had a look and bingo!- not only found a Gnat- found them all! including a section on the very Gnat Donald had "obtained" to refit k7!-XM691.No problem I thought, just get on to the RAF and ask them about it"-Ohhhh no!- not that easy pal-"said the RAF- "XM691 wasn't one of ours- it was the first prototype Gnat after the Folland Midge and as such belonged to the Ministry of Supply!"
Oh well- back to the drawing board!- after another bum numbing session on the computer-I finally found what was needed-a Photograph of XM691 in flight, complete with a very familiar tail- K7'S!
Right- got that- now go find a tail to use as a template for the restoration! Aww Geee thanks Bill-anything else?-A Unicorn or mebbe Lord Lucan riding Shergar? och not really a problem I thought, surely someones got a tail section off a Gnat?-I know- HAL in India!, they built them till 1994!- they'll have one off a HAL Ajeet- and yes they did have one, problem being that it wouldn't fit!
Och well drawing board again!- hang on whats this?- a Gnat nosecone in a furniture shop- mmm looks nice wonder where the rest is?- nothing else for it- ring the bloke and ask him!Oh you mean the fuselage and wings lying in Essex?-Yes yes yes!- ok are you thinking of disposing of it?- Think Andy- tell him about what it's for!- throwaway line- "Well actually it's needed to fix up Bluebird."
"Whaaaaaaaaat you mean THAT Bluebird?"- "Yup!"- "oh well in that case certainly"-EH? I think we just obtained a jet fighter!- my wife will murder me! "Ok- I'll get the guy who heads the project to call you and arrange the rest"-At last- we got bits! and Bill's got another storage problem!-and the Gnat (XS100) is the exact same type of Gnat as XM691-a T1 prototype so all the bits are the same,said he confidently!-so with a bit of luck we now have a braking system, another Orpheus engine and glory of glories the tail's still on it! Phoned Bill and let him know-Great!-"Oh bye the way Andy fancy writing a piece for the Diary?"-oh well suppose so- wonder what my title should be?-aaahhh!-got it!
PROJECT FERRET!


18th November 2005 - 13:30

I had another delicious dream on Monday in which I floated silently through the marble and glass atrium of HLF Central and then upwards, straightening my tie confidently in the mirrored lift before coming to a halt in front of the reception desk at which I addressed the smiling receptionist and requested an audience with the chief bureaucrat.
“Certainly,” came the reply. “Won’t be a moment.”
Amazingly, the official in question materialised almost immediately and ushered me into their inner sanctum.
“We’ll use this office,” I was told whilst being shown to what was clearly the most salubrious spot in the suite; nine floors above the street with an awe-inspiring view over the bold construction projects that currently dominate Manchester’s skyline.
“Coffee?”
“Er… yes please.”
“Chocolate biscuit?”
This was too much… and yet, in my dream odd things continued to happen - the laptop fired up first time and to my continuing amazement, PowerPoint didn’t hang whilst trying to display the video clip of Bluebird breaking free of the mud.
But then in true dream-like fashion - and not unexpectedly - I found that the harder I tried to run with this blissful scenario the slower I seemed to move.
I felt every thrust of sound engineering practice parried by deft museological common sense and ethical know-how until the realisation dawned that here was being driven a hard bargain by a worthy adversary.
Hmmm.
“Can I weld that to this then?” I tried without much hope.
“Nope, you’ll destroy it’s history...”
“Bugger! Well can I bolt a clamp around there and spanner a piece of bar onto it then get some nails and…”
Clamps seemed to evince slightly less suspicion though nails were definitely out, yet not once did I hear a single piece of jargon or the dreaded ‘possibly’. Could this be the same bureaucrat or were the biscuits drugged?
I decided it had to be the biscuits when I awoke two whole hours later (sort of), to find myself speeding north on the M6 and the staggering realisation that HLF had very graciously,

a. Allowed me into the building in the first place without hurling me from a ninth floor window.
b. Given me the opportunity to present a mass of pictures and data - let it never be said again that they don’t have all the facts after what I made them sit through!
c. Fed me on dodgy chocolate biscuits.

Even more worrying was an absence of that overwhelming desire to close the northbound M6 with a satisfying act of road-rage such as I’d felt after every previous meeting.
Then I realised that there’d never been a meeting quite like it.
Fair enough, I’d been thoroughly beaten up at the negotiating table but that wasn’t unusual only this time I felt nothing but positive vibes.
It had to be those biscuits!

I ruminated on the above as I made my bemused way to Barrow – what a place to get to – then asked around town until someone pointed me at the Police station.
There I stood at the desk with a patient group and sympathised with an elderly gentleman who’d come to pay a fine on behalf of his son.
The poor old guy weighed over at least a grand then asked the officer on the desk if they could possibly arrange to hang the boy to save him having to do it.
“His mother still thinks he’s a baby,” he explained apologetically to the queue that’d quietly formed behind him.
I stood listening and wondered if I’d soon wake up.
The Coroner, Mr Ian Smith, knew exactly why I’d arrived unannounced in Barrow and after wheeling a trolley down narrow passages of polished, green linoleum and metal window frames I was soon on my way again with a large plastic box in which Coniston lake-water sloshed sinisterly.
For inside lay Donald’s recovered items of clothing destined for the skilled ministrations of a textile conservator and ultimate display.
I stole a guilty peek four years after I first saw them to discover the crossed union-jacks of the breast pocket glaring defiantly back at me from the blue fabric.

If you look carefully, the Bluebird emblem can just be seen between the flags.

*

If Monday was a dream then Tuesday was a nightmare though not in any bad way – it’s more that it lacked any dream-like qualities at all.
Having returned from Manchester bursting with great ideas I then collected Chris Knapp from Newcastle train station and hurried back to the factory with him to see whether any of them were even feasible.
Chris Knapp? I hear you ask.

Chris is head of conservation at Imperial War Museum Duxford and with 129 aircraft, dozens of priceless aero engines, a sizeable assemblage of rare vehicles plus a few missiles and other flying things to take care of I reckon he knows his onions. HLF asked us to invite an expert onto our team so we did.
He lectures in ‘industrial conservation’ doesn’t suffer fools at all and seems to know absolutely everyone who’s anyone in the museum world.
Chris has been fundamental to Bluebird’s care from a time before the first rivet was returned to the surface and remains the first person I call when a worrying white flake appears or something falls off the old girl.
This time he travelled from Cambridge to take a proper look and tell us how to use spanners on the boat without breaking museological guidelines or offending the purists with their cotton buds and rubber spoons. What an education!
Plug-inserts, tensioned steel cables, cherry-lock fasteners and industrial adhesive all went on the shopping list along with glass-bristle brushes, ‘Deoxydyne’ corrosion remover, cotton wool balls, de-ionised water and an especially gentle detergent for use on delicate paintwork that I later discovered was to be found in baby products.

So here am I with a baby daughter in the house and sudden requirement for cotton buds and baby shampoo in unheard of quantities to mend Bluebird – I feel trouble ahead when bath time comes around.

*

Wednesday involved obtaining answers to those late-night questions that had popped into my whirring brain as I counted flakes of blue paint long after the last sheep had fallen asleep. And as a further feasibility test was needed we’d invited John Getty from PDS to come over and have a crack at some of the problems.
With him this time came his daughter, Annette who took notes and showed John no mercy when it came to deciding exactly who had left the camera behind.

John, like me, sees a bit of wrecked metal as something to weld, cut and hit with a hammer but he had to hurtle up the same vertical learning curve as I had the day before when confronted with Chris’ novel, conservation-led proposal for sticking structure back together without the aid of a welding torch. It’ll be as strong as welded joints without ever getting warm. Clever bods sometimes – these museumologists.

What I’m hoping we can do shortly – and as a result of these meetings – is to begin the first phase of work on the boat, this being mainly conservation of the rear end as it’s all stuff that needs to be done anyway even if Bluebird spends the rest of time in my factory.
With a little luck and a tail wind I’ll be calling for volunteers – people who can spend a few days up here, learn the techniques then soldier on with our boat getting her into shape to accept her new front end.
There’s more to follow shortly but in the meantime, if you want to commit to spending some time working with us in the near future please mail me quietly and even if you don’t, leave us a message on the guestbook so we know what you’re thinking.

Bill Smith.


25th November 2005 - 16:00

Not much going on with Bluebird this week except the endless rounds of telephone calls and e-mails to try and pull everything together.
December first we committed to having the Lottery bid back in shape and so far we’re on target. My stuff is all done apart from having to discuss some bits and bobs with Jura, who in turn have their ducks in a row. Vicky has some number-crunching left to do but we’re about there.

*

We’ve firmed up our conservator training with Chris too so that’ll be happening on 5th and 6th of December – ought to be interesting.
But this brings with it the sticky problem of what we can and can’t do to the boat because, as we now seem to have a plan, (not that we didn’t have one all along), we’re caught in yet another minefield.
HLF clearly stipulate that we can’t start work on the boat, the logic seeming to be that as we don’t yet have a successful bid and still may have to go it alone if the committee discover an insoluble problem, they don’t want us wielding spanners in case it results in massive expenditure that we then try to pin on them.
Fair enough, can’t argue with that, but if we do volunteer work strictly on the basis that the work was necessary whatever the outcome and we’ve at least done more good than harm…
Because the things we want to do are merely essential stabilisation work to hang onto as much of the original paint as possible. There seemed little point in spending thousands of man-hours before, (or perhaps ‘Euro-person-hours’ for the PC brigade), on conserving flakes destined for the back of a cupboard somewhere but that was then...
So here’s the question – as we’ve now undertaken to conserve something that has been gradually destroying itself for the past four years, can we not voluntarily prevent another six months of inevitable deterioration while we wait to see what happens next with the rest of the project?
I’ll let you know what the answer is when I get it.

*

Another thing of interest – well it would have been had it not become something of a flop. We sneaked back to Coniston over the weekend with the intention of flying our new super-duper sidescan sonar through the Bluebird site in search of that missing spaceframe member and Donald’s instrument panel. Even the searching hat came out of retirement for the afternoon!

Dave Coxon at the boating centre kindly allowed us to use one of those electric hire boats as an improvised survey ship and Capt. Connacher did his usual spaghetti-like wiring job until the Tupperware-Navy vessel became a worrying blend of battery driven fibreglass, condensation and state of the art computer technology.

Then off we sailed to shoot some images of the lakebed with a view to processing them into a mosaic with the all-new geosurvey package in which I’ve just invested. This worked fairly well though without the winch, hauling the towfish up and down was a chore and by using a boat that developed about half a horsepower we had no way of accelerating the fish out of danger with a blip on the throttle either as it repeatedly plunged towards the undulating topography that is the bed of Coniston Water.
But by far the biggest problem was that the fish we tried to use is the baby one that we normally employ in rivers and canals, and despite having 100m of cable, we couldn’t get it anywhere near the 43m depth at which Bluebird used to lie.
And so for an afternoon spent in freezing conditions all we had to show were some nice shots of the jetty pilings and a handful of targets that may turn out to be gangland murder victims – oh, and don’t forget the dreaded tumbleweed!


9th December 2005 - 14:30

Much to tell but no time… The team came back together this week – loyal bunch that they are – to attend our training course in the ways of an industrial conservator. Chris journeyed north once more to put us through two rigorous days of how to put a boat back together without destroying its history.

What an odd subject.
Let me explain, remember the HLF ‘expert’ moaning about ‘considerable loss of original fabric’ and the need for a ‘conservation-led approach’?
Well we have the rear two thirds of Bluebird’s frame in good order and most of the remaining third in a slightly flat-packed condition, but at least it’s here.
Now I imagined that the best way forward was to take the original front frame and weld it – using the correct processes and materials – to the original back frame thus putting Humpty-Dumpty back together again. No loss of original fabric there.
Wrong! If we weld it we’ve destroyed its history, apparently, and the correct answer is to make a completely new front from scratch despite the fact that the original cockpit will now end up hidden forever or most likely returned to the lake because it can’t go on display. Told you it was odd.
I’m assured that paint is sacrificial too – at Duxford they stripped the wing of a B52 with the shot-blasting equivalent of a fire hose while volunteers shovelled blasting media the machine with the zeal of crazed stokers.
But our paint is different in that it has to stay – at least that which hasn’t been lifted by corrosion does. So we have to pick and scrape and chemically clean leaving what blue paint still adheres in place whilst applying a ‘recognised conservation technique’ to the bare metal thus revealed.
Any guesses as to what technique we favour? Yep… blue paint – silver for the inside. You can drill out nuts, bolts and rivets though, or worse still, grind the heads off them in a shower of sparks, as these are ‘proprietary fasteners’ with nothing to teach us because the poor things have no history even if Donald was the last man on the other end of the screwdriver.
I argued that a weld had to be a proprietary fastener too and I think I won that one, which means I probably added a grain to the quicksand of museum ethics.
Because, you see, it’s a fantastic subject this museumology. It has so many ethics that it has none at all. It’s like religion. If you want to cut the heads off innocent aid-workers or give your last crust to old Mrs Miggins down the lane you need only read the right books and align yourself with those of a similar persuasion and I love it!

And now here’s one for the anoraks. All this scraping and scratching has revealed some odd things. Anyone know what these D-shaped inserts are for or what part of K7’s illustrious history they relate to?

And another thing – all this ‘advanced engineering… rocketry, what have you’ presumably accounts for the half a ton of body filler in the tail section alone.

And finally... Orpheus revealed.


19th December 2005 - 10:00

Those of you who’ve been following this mad journey from the off will remember the days of mud-sucking with the vacuum from hell. For those who’ve joined us since, you can find images of our mud-spattered selves in the archive from April 2001 onwards if you want a laugh.
The problem that plagued us back then was that we never quite got into all the corners despite inserting more pipes and suction tubes than you’d see on the Casualty Christmas-special so some of the dreaded stuff got left behind.
We were warned this fine sediment would set solid but it hasn’t. It’s dried and shrunk into feather-light grey blocks more reminiscent of loft insulation than concrete and it disperses the finest, choking dust at the lightest touch.
Not only can this stuff blind a diver, (as it frequently did), but it seems equally deadly in its airborne form.
We’ve been stripping out the section between the front of the engine and the bulkhead immediately behind the main fuel tank, to get it clean and assess what has to be done in there – the dust is horrendous.

Off came the start system after a week or two of daily-administered penetrating oil and gentle persuasion on the fasteners with a host of spanners I thought I’d never wield again. We slung it on top of the air-intakes – well, rested it there very carefully – because it was too heavy and awkward for only two people to manhandle.


The inlet trunk fought against removal – but only briefly – though it did spite us with our first snapped bolt…

I’d entertained ambitious hopes of stripping the old girl without snapping anything but she put paid to that on Monday.
Next came the batteries – they were a real bitch to shift – mainly because the bolts are all inaccessible and trying to get a spanner on them releases yet more dust whilst head-down in the dingy hull.

So now we’re down to the floor in said compartment and it’s sparkling – cleaned out anyway – if for no other reason than to exact revenge on the dust!

One result of stripping the gubbins from forward of the engine is that the three gauges have been removed for bagging and tagging. They’re past redemption, (I think), as is the bracket that once held them so here’s a challenge for whoever wants to take it on.
Who wants to make its replacement?
If anyone genuinely wants to replicate an important piece of Bluebird and has the necessary skills I’ll supply the drawing and pics for you to work from.
We’ll record the fact that the new part is new and hopefully incorporate it in the finished boat, (but must ask our conservator in residence for the final word).
You’ll be able to take your kids to the museum, point it out and proudly say.
“I made that bit.”

*

On another note, we’re having a couple of days in the workshop between Christmas and New Year - it’s that time of year when I’m usually sick of food, beer and relatives and would rather be doing anything than sit about.
We have to get Bluebird’s workshop into some kind of order. Disarm the death-traps of accumulated junk, sweep the floor – that sort of thing.
So to this end we have a few folk coming over with dustpans and brushes but one issue that needs taking care of is the lighting.
No problem moving about in there normally or seeing what you’re up to but when it comes to working on delicate paint or hanging upside down in a dust-cloud…
To the rescue came Mark Forster of ECS Wholesale Electrical Distributors in Leeds who has not only enrolled to come up and do the occasional day with us but who also very kindly supplied us with a whole bunch of brand-new light fittings for the soon to be refurbished workshop.
Thanks, Mark.
Having adequate lighting will make one hell of a difference!

Bill Smith.


20th December 2005 - 14:30

I don’t think there’s a vacuum cleaner in the world that can catch this dust – not even Mr Dyson’s cyclonic whatnot with more suck than a wild night in Amsterdam can do it. But after a couple of days on the blunt end of a Hoover things were looking acceptably clean in K7’s inner corners.
Then we messed it up again.
First to go was that mass of squished metal that once was the air-intakes. Unfortunately the only way to shift it was with brute force and ignorance as it was never designed to be carefully dismantled after being forcibly wrapped around the back of the main spar. Using our proven method of pulling on battered aluminium – mole-grips and a rope – we took hold on an overhead beam and used a chain pull to exert a little heave on a damaged section down out if sight so as not to compromise the bit that everyone recognises…

…until it finally came free…

…leaving the way clear for Alain to report on what was in the resulting hole. There was nothing but mud – yes, more mud – and bent metal.

Next to go was the fuel tank. It was badly crushed by water pressure as K7 sank and we thought initially that it was trapped in there by the deformation. That was until I tried to jiggle it free and discovered to my consternation that it was almost full to the top with jetfuel and water. After siphoning out the liquid it proved light as a feather.

Not so simple were the engine mounts, which we imagined to be made of steel like the bedplates to which they’re bolted.
But no – someone, for reasons unknown, made them out of aluminium then bolted them down with steel bolts.

So with, lots of heat and a hammer…

Followed by more heat, a bigger hammer and a ton-and-a-half of pull from above…

We finally got the caps off.

She’s now ready to have the engine removed.

Bill.


23rd December 2005 - 12:00

Christmas 2005

From the jaws of failure… At least that’s the hope.
It’s been an exciting twelve months to say the least with all our shenanigans over the lottery bid followed by the determined scramble to pull it all back together.
Thanks to Vicky at the Ruskin and Paul up at Jura for once more throwing themselves into the fray and, of course, the chief bureaucrat at HLF Central whom I sadly cannot name and thank in person for working with us towards the middle ground. We’re talking about one of the good-guys here.
Thanks to Gina & Co for trusting us all this time and to the multitudes of people who’ve supported us in the trenches.
Hopefully this time next year, and under Chris’ expert guidance, we’ll be looking at pictures of K7 taking shape and in the meantime we’ve a workshop to paint, light and equip so keep dropping by the site.
And if the food, beer and boredom get to you over the holidays you can always look us up, stop merely talking about K7 and swapping cigarette cards, and come up here and get your hands dirty.

Merry Christmas.
Bill