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Stanley
Local Historian & Old Fart


36804 Posts
Posted -  14/11/2010  :  06:37
New topic to make loading easier for slow connections.

Steeplejacks corner part four

Click on this link for the last section of the topic.


Stanley Challenger Graham




Barlick View
stanley at barnoldswick.freeserve.co.uk
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bob hulin
" its going leg it "


1800 Posts
Posted - 01/08/2011 : 19:57
 seen any steeplejacks knocking about.Wink hope your all ok chaps.


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Stanley
Local Historian & Old Fart


36804 Posts
Posted - 02/08/2011 : 06:03
Good Old Bob! They're all in the pub!

I missed a pic one morning of a cat sat on a chimney pot in Barlick, no camera with me. Your pic reminded me of that missed opportunity.....


Stanley Challenger Graham




Barlick View
stanley at barnoldswick.freeserve.co.uk Go to Top of Page
colsack
Regular Member


831 Posts
Posted - 03/08/2011 : 16:35
Found this on the net. It's a chapter from the book  "Carrers of Danger and Daring" by Cleveland Moffett, published 1901. Theres some good pics but i was unable to copy and include them, maybe someone else can? Heres the link http://www.gutenberg.org/files/33146/33146-h/33146-h.htm

CAREERS OF DANGER AND DARING
THE STEEPLE-CLIMBERIIN WHICH WE MAKE THE ACQUAINTANCE OF "STEEPLE BOB"DURING the summer months of 1900—what blazing hot months, to be sure!—people on lower Broadway were constantly coming upon other people with chins in the air, staring up and exclaiming: "Dear me, isn't it wonderful!" or "There's that fellow again; I'm sure he'll break his neck!" Then they would pass on and give place to other wonderers.The occasion of this general surprise and apprehension was a tall man dressed entirely in white, who appeared day after day swinging on a little seat far up the side of this or that church steeple, or right at the top, hugging the gold cross or weather-vane, or, higher still, working his way, with a queer, kicking, hitching movement, up various hundred-foot flagpoles that rise from the heaven-challenging office buildings down near Wall Street. At these perilous altitudes he would hang for hours, shifting his ropes occasionally, raising his swing or lowering it, but not doing anything that his sidewalk audience could see very well or clearly understand. Yet thousands watched him with fascination, and a kodak army descended upon neighboring housetops, and newspapers followed the movements of "Steeple Bob" in thrilling chronicle.[4]That is what he was called in large black letters at the head of columns—"Steeple Bob"; but I came to know him at his modest quarters on Lexington Avenue, where he was plain Mr. Merrill, a serious-mannered and an unpretentious young man, very fond of his wife and his dog, very fond of spending evenings over books of adventure, and quite indifferent to his day-time notoriety. I call him a young man, yet in years of service, not in age, he is the oldest steeple-climber in the business, ever since his teacher, "Steeple Charlie," fell from his swing some years ago in New Bedford, Massachusetts, and died the steeple-climber's death.I often saw books of the sea on Merrill's table, and accounts of whaling voyages; and he told me, one evening (while through an open door came the snores of his weary partner), about his own adventurous boyhood, with three years' cruising in Uncle Sam's navy on the school-ships Minnesota and Yantic (he shipped at the age of twelve) and two years at whale-fishing in the North Sea. Quite ideal training, this, for a steeple-climber; he learned to handle ropes and make them fast so they would stay fast; he learned to climb and keep his head at the top of a swaying masthead; he learned to bear exposure as lads must who are washed on deck every morning with a hose, and stand for inspection, winter and summer, bare to the waist. And he gained strength of arm and back swinging at the oar while whale-lines strained on the sunk harpoon; and patience in long stern-chases; and nerve when some stricken monster lashed the waters in agony and the boat danced on a reddened sea."I HAD TO CRAWL AROUND AND OVER IT."Merrill laughed about the climb up old Trinity's spire, the first climb when he carried up the hauling-rope and worked his way clear to the cross, with nothing to help him but the hands and feet he was born[5]with, and did it coolly, while men on the street below turned away sickened with fear for him."I'm telling you the truth," said Steeple Bob, "when I say it was an easy climb; any fairly active man could do it if he'd forget the height. I'm not talking about all steeples—some are hard and dangerous; but the one on Trinity, in spite of its three hundred-odd feet, has knobs of stone for ornament all the way up (they call them corbels), and all you have to do is to step from one to another.""How much of a step?""Oh, when I stood on one the next one came to my breast, and then I could just touch the one above that."[6]He called this easy climbing!"The only ticklish bit was just at the top, where two great stones, weighing about a ton apiece, swell out like an apple on a stick, and I had to crawl around and over that apple, which was four feet or so across. If it hadn't been for grooves and scrollwork in the stone I couldn't have done it, and even as it was I had two or three minutes of hard wriggling after I kicked off with my feet and began pulling myself up.""You mean you hung by your hands from this big ball of stone?""I hung mostly by my fingers; the scrolls weren't deep enough for my hands to go in.""And you drew yourself slowly up and around and over that ball?""Certainly; that was the only way.""And it was at the very top?""Yes, just under the cross. It wasn't much, though; you could do it yourself."I really think Merrill believed this. He honestly saw no particular danger in that climb, nor could I discover that he ever saw any particular danger in anything he had done. He always made the point that if he had really thought the thing dangerous he wouldn't have done it. And I conclude from this that being a steeple-climber depends quite as much upon how a man thinks as upon what he can do."A funny thing happened!" he added. "After I got over this hard place, I slid into a V-shaped space between the bulging stone and the steeple-shaft, and I lay there on my back for a minute or so, resting. But when I started to raise myself I found my weight had worked me down in the crotch and jammed me fast, and it was quite a bit of time before I could get free.""How much time? A minute?"[7]"Yes, five minutes; and it seemed a good deal longer."Five minutes struggling in a sort of stone trap, stretched out helpless at the very top of a steeple where one false move would mean destruction—that is what Merrill spoke of as a funny thing! Thanks, I thought, I will take my fun some other way, and lower down."You would be surprised," he went on, "to feel the movement of a steeple. It trembles all the time, and answers every jar on the street below. I guess old Trinity's steeple sways eighteen inches every time an elevated train passes. And St. Paul's is even worse. Why, she rocks like a beautifully balanced cradle; it would make some people seasick. Perhaps you don't know it, but the better a steeple is built the more she sways. You want to look out for the ones that stand rigid; there's something wrong with them—most likely they're out of plumb.""Isn't there danger," I asked, "that a steeple may get swaying too much, say in a gale, and go clear over?""Gale or not," said Merrill, "a well-made steeple must rock in the wind, the same as a tree rocks. That is the way it takes the storm, by yielding to it. If it didn't yield it would probably break. Why, the great shaft of the Washington Monument sways four or five feet when the wind blows hard."Then he explained that modern steeples are built with a steel backbone (if I may so call it) running down from the top for many feet inside the stonework. At Trinity, for instance, this backbone (known as a dowel) is four inches thick and forty-five feet long, a great steel mast stretching down through the cross, down inside the heavy stones and ornaments,[8]and ending in massive beams and braces where the steeple's greater width gives full security."What sort of work did you do on these steeples?" I asked."All kinds; stone-mason's work, painter's work, blacksmith's work, carpenter's work—why, a good steeple-climber has to know something about 'most every trade. It's painting flagpoles, and scraping off shale from a steeple's sides, and repairing loose stones and ornaments, and putting up lightning-rods, and gilding crosses, and cleaning smoke-stacks so high that it makes you dizzy to look up, let alone looking down, and a dozen other things. Sometimes we have to take a whole steeple down, beginning at the top, stone by stone—unless it's a wooden steeple, and then we burn her down five or six feet at a time, with creosote painted around where you want the fire to stop; the creosote puts it out. Once I blew off the whole top of a steeple with dynamite; and, by the way, I'll tell you about that some time."Conversing with a steeple-climber (when he feels like telling things) is like breathing oxygen; you find it over-stimulating. In ten minutes' matter-of-fact talking he opens so many vistas of thrilling interest that you stand before them bewildered. He starts to answer one question, and you burn to interrupt him with ten others, each of which will lead you hopelessly away from the remaining nine."Did you ever have any experiences with lightning?" I asked Merrill, one day."Oh, a few," he said. "A thunderbolt struck the Trinity steeple the very day we finished our work. We had just taken down our tackle and staging after gilding the cross when—by the way, they say there's a hundred dollars in gold under that cross."[9]"Really?" I exclaimed. "How did it get there?""Somebody ordered it put there when the steeple was built. People often do queer things like that. I painted a flagpole on a barn up in Massachusetts where there was four hundred dollars in gold hidden under the weather-vane. Everybody knew it was there, because the farmer who put it there told everybody, and my partner was crazy to saw off the end of that pole some night and fool 'em, but of course I wouldn't have it."Here was I quite off my thunderbolt trail, and although curious about that farmer, I came back to it resolutely."Well," resumed Merrill, "this lightning stroke came down the new rod all right until it reached the bell-deck, and there it circled round and round the steeple four or five times, wrapping my assistant in bluish-white flame. Then it took a long jump straight down Wall Street, smashed a flagpole to slivers, and vanished. Say, there are things about lightning I've never heard explained. I know of a steeple-climber, for instance, who was killed by lightning—it must have been lightning, although no one saw it strike. There were two of them working on a scaffolding when a thunder-storm came up, and this man's partner started for the ground, as climbers with any sense always do. But this fellow was lazy or out of sorts or something, and said he wouldn't go down, he'd stay on the steeple until the storm was over. And he did stay there, without getting any harm, so far as anybody on the ground could see, except a wetting. Just the same, when his partner went up again, he found him stretched out on the scaffolding, dead.""Frightened to death?" I suggested.AT THE TOP OF ST. PAUL'S, NEW YORK.Merrill shook his head. "No, they said it was lightning;[11]but it's queer how lightning could kill a man without being seen, isn't it?"Then Merrill gave an experience of his own with a thunderbolt. It was during this same busy summer of 1900, while he and his partner were scraping the great steel smoke-stack that rises from ground to roof along one side of the American Tract Society Building, that towering structure which looks down with contempt, no doubt, upon ordinary church steeples."We were in our saddles," Merrill explained, "swung down about two thirds of the smoke-stack's length, when some black clouds warned us of danger, and we hauled ourselves up to the roof. My partner, Walter Tyghe, got off his saddle and stood there where my wife was waiting (she often goes to climbing-jobs with me—she's less anxious when she can watch me); but I thought the storm was passing over, and kept on scraping, sort of half resting on the cornice, half on my saddle. Suddenly a bolt shot down from a little pink cloud just overhead, and splintered a big flagpole I had just put halyards on, and then jumped past us all so close that it knocked Walter over, and made me sick and giddy so that I fell back limp on my saddle-board, and swung there helpless until my wife pulled the trip-rope that opens the lock-block and drew me in from the edge. That's not the first time she's been on deck at the right minute. Once she came up a steeple to tell me something, and found the hauling-line smoldering from my helper's cigarette. If that line had burned through it would have dropped me to the ground from the steeple-top, saddle, lock-block, and all. The man with the cigarette was so scared he quit smoking for good and all.""'THEN MY PARTNER STOOD ON MY SHOULDERS.'"Here, in reply to my question, Merrill explained the working of a lock-block, which is simply a pulley that[12]allows a rope to pass through it, but will not let it go back. With this block the steeple-climber can be hauled up easily, but cannot fall, even if the man hauling should let go the rope. When it is necessary to descend, a pull on the trip-rope releases a safety-catch and the saddle goes down."Do steeple-climbers always work in pairs?" I asked him."Usually. It would be hard for one man to do a steeple alone. There are lots of places where you must have some one to fasten a rope or hold the end of a plank or pass you something. Besides, it wouldn't be good for a man's mind to be spending days and days upon steeples all alone. It's bad enough with a partner to talk to. That makes me think of poor old[13]Dan O'Brien. If I hadn't been up with him one day—" Merrill checked himself and changed the subject."I'll give you a case where a man alone could never have done the thing, I don't care how clever a steeple-climber he might be. It was on St. Paul's, New York, after we had finished the job and taken everything down. Then somebody noticed that the weather-vane on top of the ball wasn't turning properly. I knew in a minute what the matter was; it was easy enough to fix it, but the thing was to reach the weather-vane. I don't mean that the climb up the steeple was anything; we had done that before; but if I tried to climb around that big ball again (it was the same sort of a wriggling business as that over the bulging stones at Trinity) I would be sure to scrape off a lot of the fine gilding we had just put on. And yet I couldn't get at the weather-vane without getting over the ball. I studied quite a while on this little problem, and solved it with my partner's help. We both climbed the steeple as far as the ball; we went up the lightning-rod; then we roped ourselves on the steeple-shaft by life-lines, and then my partner, that was Joe Lawlor, stood on my shoulders and did the job. You see it was easy enough that way.""Easy enough!" Think of it! Two men clinging to the point of a steeple. One of them braces himself with the toes of his rubber shoes in crannies of the stone, and the other, balancing on his shoulders like a circus performer, does a piece of work, no matter what, with a reeling abyss all around (what is looking over a precipice compared to this?), and all the time the spire swaying back and forth like a forest tree. And then you hear that, instead of getting a large sum for such an achievement, these men, taking it through the year, get scarcely more than ordinary workmen's wages.

[14]IIHOW THEY BLEW OFF THE TOP OF A STEEPLE WITH DYNAMITEKNOWN over all Connecticut was the Congregational Church in Hartford, that stood for years on Pearl Street, and was famous alike for the burning words spoken beneath its roof, and the tall, straight spire that reached above it; two hundred and thirty-eight feet measured the drop from cross to pavement. But churches pass like other things, and near the century-end came the decision by landowners and lease interpreters that this graceful length of brownstone and the pile beneath it must move off the premises, which meant, of course, that the steeple must come down, the time appointed for this demolition being August, 1899.Now, the taking down of a steeple two hundred and thirty-eight feet high, that rises on a closely built city street, is not so simple a proceeding as might at first appear. If you suggest pulling the steeple over, all the neighbors cry out. They wish to know where it is going to strike. Are you sure it won't smash down on their housetops? Can you make a steeple fall this way or that way, as woodmen make trees fall? How do you know you can? Besides, how are you going to hitch fast the rope that will pull it over? And who will climb with such a rope to the steeple-top? It must be said that there is usually some young man at hand, some dare-devil character of the vicinity, who is ready[15]to try the thing and is positive he can succeed at it. But, luckily, he seldom gets a chance to try."It's queer," said Merrill, telling me the story, "how people ever built a steeple like this one without a window in it, or an air-passage, or anything for ventilation. Between the bell-deck and the cross there wasn't a single opening from the inside out, so I had to break my way through up near the top. What a place for a man to work, squeezed in the point of a stifling funnel, with no swing for his hammer, and no air to breathe, and the scorch of an August sun! After fifteen minutes of it, my wrists and temples would be pounding so I'd have to come down and rest."Of course the purpose of this hole that I knocked through the steeple-top was to make fast ropes and pulleys, so my partner and I could hoist ourselves along the outside, and not have to climb up the inside cross-beams, which, I can tell you, is a lively bit of athletics. Well, we got our ropes fixed all right, about twenty-five feet below the top, and the 'bosun's saddle' swung below for us to travel up and down in, and then we made fast another set of ropes and pulleys about fifteen feet higher up; this was for hoisting timber and stuff that we needed.""How did you get up that fifteen feet?" I inquired."Worked up on the stirrups—that is, two nooses around the steeple, each ending in a loop, one for the right foot, one for the left. You stand in the right stirrup and work the left loop up, then you stand in the left stirrup and work the right loop up. Sometimes in hard places you have to throw your nooses around the shaft as a cowboy casts a rope. Come down some day and watch us work; you'll see the whole thing."To this invitation I gave glad acceptance; I certainly wished to see this stirrup-climbing process.[16]"SOMETIMES IN HARD PLACES YOU HAVE TO THROW YOUR NOOSES AROUND THE SHAFT.""The next thing," continued Merrill, "was to make another hole in the steeple through a keystone a little below our first hole. In this hole we set a block of Norway pine resting on an iron jack. The block was about a foot square and twenty-two inches high, a big tough piece, you see, and by screwing up the jack we could make that part as solid as the keystone was. We made this hole on the east side of the steeple, which was the side we wanted her to fall on, the only side she could fall on without injuring something; and we had it figured out so close that we dug a trench on that side straight out from the steeple's base, ten feet wide and four feet deep, and told people we intended to have the whole top of that steeple, say a length of thirty-five feet and a weight of[17]thirty-five tons, come off at one time and land right square in that trench and nowhere else. That's what we intended to do."Now began the hoisting of materials; first a lot of half-inch wire cable, enough for four turns around the steeple, then eight sixteen-foot timbers, two inches thick and a foot wide, then a lot of maple wedges. We bandaged the steeple with the cable and drew it tight with tackle. Then we lowered the timbers lengthwise inside the cable, which we could do because the steeple was an octagon with ornamented corners, and these left spaces where the wire rope was stretched around. Then we wedged fast the eight timbers so that they formed a sixteen-foot half-collar on the west side of the steeple just opposite our hole where the jack was. In other words, we had the steeple shored in so that when we let her go no loose stones could fall on the west side; everything must fall to the east."Last of all, we widened our hole on the east side, stripping away stones until that whole side lay open in a half-circular mouth about four feet high. And in this mouth were two teeth, one might say, that held the stone jaws apart, the iron jack biting into the block of Norway pine. On those two now came the steeple's weight, or, anyhow, one half of it. To knock out one of these teeth would be to leave the east side of the steeple unsupported, with the result that it must topple over in that direction and fall to the ground. Anyway, that was our reasoning, and it seemed sound enough; the only question was how we were going to knock out that block of Norway pine."Well the day of the test came, and I guess five thousand people were there to see what would happen. Everybody was discussing it, and farmers had driven in for miles just as they do for a hanging. You understand[18]I was under the orders of the contractor, and he had his own plan about getting the block out. He proposed to hitch a rope to it, drop this rope to a donkey-engine in the yard, and set the engine winding up the rope. He said the block would have to come out then and the steeple fall. I agreed that the block might come out, but was afraid it would tip up through the strain coming at an angle, and throw the steeple over to the west, just the way we didn't want it to go. And if that steeple ever fell to the west, there was no telling how many people it would kill in the crowd, without counting damage to houses."However, the contractor was boss, and he stuck to it his way was right, so we hitched the engine to the block and set her going. She puffed and tugged a little, and then snapped the rope. We got another rope, and she broke that too. Then we got a stronger rope, and the engine just kicked herself around the yard and had lots of fun, but the block never budged. All that morning we tried one scheme after another to make that engine pull the block out, but we might as well have hitched a rope to the church; the steeple's weight was too much for us. And all the time the crowd was getting bigger and bigger, until the police could hardly manage it."Finally the contractor, being very mad and quite anxious, said he'd be hanged if he could get the block out, and for me to try my scheme, and do it quick, for some men were going about saying the thing was dangerous and ought to be stopped. He didn't have to speak twice before I was on my way up that steeple carrying an inch auger, a fifty-foot fuse, and a stick of dynamite—I'd had them ready for hours. It's queer how people get wind of a thing; the crowd seemed to know in a minute that I was going to use dynamite, and before I was twenty feet up the ladder[19]a police officer was after me, ordering me down. I went right ahead, pretending not to hear, and when I got to the bell-deck he was puffing along ten yards below me. I swung into my 'bosun's saddle' and began pulling myself up outside the steeple, and I guess the whole five thousand people around the church bent back their heads to watch me."As soon as I began to rise in the saddle I knew I was all right, for I coiled up the hauling-line on my arm so the officer couldn't follow me. All he could do was stand on the bell-deck and gape after me like the rest and growl."When I reached the block I bored a six-inch hole into her at a downward slant, and in this I put some crumbs of dynamite,—not much, only about half a teaspoonful,—and then I stuck in the fuse and tamped her solid with sand. Then I lit the other end, dropped it down inside the steeple, and slid down the rope as fast as I could, yelling to the officer that I'd touched her off. You ought to have seen him get out of that steeple! He never waited to arrest me or anything; he had pressing business on the ground!"By the time I got down you could see a little trail of bluish smoke drifting away from the hole, and there was a hush over the crowd, except for the police trying to make them stand back behind the ropes. I don't know as I ever saw a bigger crowd; the street was jammed for blocks either way. Well, sir, that was a queer acting fuse. It smoked and smoked for about ten minutes, and then the smoke stopped. The people began to laugh—they said it had gone out; and the contractor was nearly crazy: he was sure I had made another failure. I didn't know what to think; I just waited. We waited ten minutes, twelve minutes; it seemed like an hour, but nobody dared go up to see what the matter was. Then suddenly the explosion[20]came—no louder than a pistol-crack, for dynamite isn't noisy, but it stirred me more than a cannon."'Start your engine!' I shouted, and the little dummy had just time to wind up half a turn of the hitch-line when the old steeple-top swayed and broke clean in two, right where the block was, and the whole upper length fell like one piece, fell to the east just as we had planned it, and landed in the trench, every stone of it; there wasn't a piece as big as your fingernail, sir, outside that trench. And while she was falling I don't know how many kodaks were snapped in the hope of getting a picture; men and women with cameras had been waiting for hours on the roofs of high buildings, and two or three of them actually caught a picture of the steeple-top as it hung in the air for a fraction of a second at right angles to the base."PICTURE OF THE FALLING STEEPLE, PHOTOGRAPHED JUST AFTER THE DYNAMITE EXPLODED. THE FALLING SECTION WAS 35 FEET IN LENGTH AND WEIGHED 35 TONS.

[21]IIITHE GREATEST DANGER TO A STEEPLE-CLIMBER LIES IN BEING STARTLEDIT appears that professional steeple-climbers are quiet-mannered men, with a certain gentleness of voice (like deaf people) that impresses one far more than any strident boasting. This habit of silence they form from being silent so much aloft. And when they do speak it is in a low tone, because that is the least startling to a man as he swings over some reeling gulf. Next to an actual disaster (which usually kills outright and painlessly) what a steeple-climber most dreads is being startled. This was explained to me in one of our many talks by "Steeple Bob," famous over the land for daring feats, but never reckless ones. How plainly I call up his pale, serious face and the massive shoulders, somewhat bent, and the forearm with muscles to impress a prize-fighter! Pleasant to note that Merrill uses excellent English."Did you ever have an impulse to jump off a steeple?" I questioned, recalling the sensations of many people in looking down even from a housetop."I've kept pretty free from that," said he; "but there's no doubt climbing steeples does tell on a man's nerves. Now, there was Dan O'Brien; he had an impulse to jump off a steeple one day, and a strong impulse, too. He went mad on one of the tallest spires in Cincinnati; right at the top of it."[22]"Went mad?""Yes, sir, raving mad, and I was by him when it happened. I forget whether the church was Baptist or Presbyterian, but I know it stood on Sixth Street, near Vine, and there was a big hand on top of the steeple, with the forefinger pointing to heaven. We were putting fresh gilding on this hand. I was working on the thumb side and O'Brien on the little-finger side, both of us standing on tiny stagings about the size of a chair-seat, and both of us made fast to the steeple by life-lines under our arms. That's an absolute rule in climbing steeples—never to do the smallest thing unless you're secured by a life-line. It was coming on dark, and I was hurrying to get the gold leaf on, because we'd given the hand a fresh coat of sizing that would be dry before morning. We hadn't spoken for some time, when suddenly I heard a laugh from O'Brien's side that sent a shiver down my spine. Did you ever hear a crazy man laugh? Well, if ever you do, you'll remember it. I looked at him and saw by his face that something was wrong."'What are you doing?' said I."He answered very polite and steady like, but his tone was queer: 'I'm trying to figure out how long it would take a man to get down if he went the fastest way.'"I thought I had better keep him in a good humor, so I said: 'I'll tell you what, Dan, you brace up and get this gold on, and then we'll race to the ground in our saddles.'"'That's a fair idea,' said he in a shrill voice, 'but I've got a better one. We'll race down without any saddles; yes, sir, without any lines, without a blamed thing.'"'Don't be a fool, Dan. What you want to do[23]is to get that gold on—quick.' I tried to speak sharp."'No, sir; I'm going to jump, and so are you.'"I caught his eye just then and saw it wasn't any time to bother about gold leaf. I reached up and eased the hitch of my line around the hand so I could swing toward him. I knew if I once got my grip on him he wouldn't make any more trouble. But I'd never had a crazy man to deal with, and I didn't realize how tricky and quick they are. While I was working around to his side and thinking he didn't notice it, he was laying for me out of the corner of his eye, and the first thing I knew he had me by the throat and everything was turning black. I let go of the line and dropped back on my saddle-board helpless, and if it hadn't been for blind luck I guess the people down below would have got their money's worth in about a minute. But my hand struck on the tool-box as he pressed me back, and I had just strength enough left to shut my fingers on the first tool I touched and strike at him with it. The tool happened to be a monkey-wrench, and when a man gets a clip on the head with a thing like that he's pretty apt to keep still for a while. And that's what O'Brien did. He keeled over and lay there, and I did, too, until my head got steady. Even then I guess we'd both have fallen if it hadn't been for the life-lines."The rest was simple enough after I got my senses back. Dan was unconscious, and all I had to do was fasten a rope to him and lower away. They took care of him down below until the ambulance came, and he spent that night in a hospital. And he's spent most of his years since then in an asylum, his mind all gone except for short periods, when he comes to himself again, and then he always starts out to put an end to[24]me. That last impulse to destroy me has never left him."It was after this that I learned about that other danger to steeple-climbers, of being startled. Merrill says that men of his craft, whether they realize it or not, work under constant nervous strain. However calm a steeple-climber may think himself, his body is always afraid, his muscles are always tense, his clutch on ropes and stones is always harder, two or three times harder, than the need is; his knees hug what comes between them so tightly that it hurts, even when they might safely be relaxed. That is the trouble, a steeple-climber cannot relax his body or control its instinctive shrinking. It is not looking down into the gulf around him that he minds (the climber who cannot do that with indifference is unfit for the business); what he sees he can cope with; it is what he cannot see that does the mischief—what he fears vaguely. And a sudden noise, an unexpected movement may throw him into all but panic. So the veteran climber, swinging at the steeple-top opposite his partner, is careful to say in a low tone, "I'm going to lower my saddle," before he does lower it; or, "I'm going to strike a match," before he strikes it.Sometimes a new helper at the hauling-line down on the bell-deck will shift his place from weariness or thoughtlessness, and let the line move up an inch or two, which drops the saddle an inch or two far aloft—drops it suddenly with a jerk. It's a little thing, yet the climber's heart would not pound harder were the whole steeple falling. Merrill told me that one of his greatest frights came from the simple brushing against his legs of a rope pulled without a word by a careless partner. To Merrill's nerves, all a-quiver, this was not a rope, but some nameless catastrophe to overwhelm[25]him. He knew only that something had moved where nothing had any business to move, that something had touched him where nothing was. A steeple-climber is like a child in the dark—in terror of the unknown. In all the world, perhaps, there is no one so utterly alone as he, swinging hour after hour on his steeple-top. The aëronaut has with him a living, surging creature—his balloon; the diver feels always the teeming life of the waters; but this man, lifted into still air, poised on a point where nothing comes or goes, where nothing moves, where nothing makes a sound—he, in very truth, is alone.LOOKING FROM THE GROUND UPWARD AT ST. PAUL'S SPIRE, BROADWAY, NEW YORK CITY."It's always the little things that frighten you," reflected[26]Merrill, "not the big things. I'll give you an instance. When I went up inside St. Paul's steeple the first time (I wanted to inspect the beams, and see how the dowel was anchored) I got into a tight place that might well frighten a man. I got squeezed fast between timbers that fill nearly all the slender top space, and couldn't get up or down, but just hung there, breathing air full of dust and calling for help. I called three quarters of an hour before any one came, and then it was only by accident. But I wasn't frightened. On the other hand, a day or two later, when I was making fast a rope outside (I was just under the ball that holds the weather-vane) I got a bad start from nothing at all. I had my arms around the spindle of the steeple, making a hitch, and my head pressed against the copper sheathing, when I heard a most unearthly screech. I guess the shock of that thing did me five hundred dollars' worth of harm—shortened my life days enough to earn five hundred dollars in. And what do you think it was? The weather-vane had turned a little in the wind and creaked on its bearings, that's all. It doesn't seem as if that ought to scare a man, does it?"There was something quite touching, I thought, in the humble frankness of this big-shouldered man. Yes, he had been afraid, he whose business it was to fear nothing, afraid of some squeaking copper, and his face seemed to say that there are things about steeples not so easily explained, things not even to be talked about. And abruptly, as by an effort, he left this part of the subject and told a funny story of his adventures coming home late one night without a key, and getting in by way of the roof and an iron pipe; a simple enough climb had he not been taken for a "purglaire" by an irate German lodger, who appeared in[27]nightgown and phlegmatic fright, and vowed he would "haf him a revolfer, a skelf-skooter, in the morning."This effort at diversion turned Merrill into gaiety for a moment, but straightway memory brought back the somber theme."I'll give you another case," said he, changing again abruptly, "where I wasn't frightened, but should have been. It was out in Chicago, and two of us were on a staging hung down the front of a clothing factory. We were painting the walls. My partner had made his end of the staging fast, and I had made mine fast. Perhaps if I'd been longer in the business I would have taken more notice how he secured his rope, for it meant safety to me as well as him, and I knew he'd been drinking, but I supposed it was all right. Well, it wasn't all right; his rope held for three or four hours, and then, at just about eleven o'clock, it slipped, and the staging fell from under us. We were six stories up, and right below were the sidewalk flagstones. That's the time I ought to have been frightened, but I only said to myself, 'Hello! this thing's going down,' and caught the window-ledge in front of me. Then I hung there, wondering if I could pull myself up or if any one would come to help me. I called out not very loud, and I wasn't excited. Pretty soon I saw I couldn't pull myself up, for I had a poor hold with my fingers, and the ledge was smooth stone. Then I saw they'd have to hurry if they were going to pull me in. Then I didn't care. I—I—""You fell?"He nodded."What, six stories down?"He nodded again. "The thing that saved me was an awning over the sidewalk. Some man across the way saw me hanging from the window, and he ran[28]over quickly and let the awning down. I'd like to shake that man by the hand, but I never knew who he was. When I came to myself I was at the hospital done up in plaster, and I stayed there nine months.""Badly hurt?" I asked, shrinking.Merrill smiled. "It didn't do me any particular good. I'm a big, strong fellow now, but I wasn't much after that fall. Both my legs were broken. Both my arms were broken. My right shoulder and right wrist were dislocated, and—let's see. Oh, yes, I had three ribs torn away from the breast-bone.""And your—""My partner? Poor lad! You wouldn't care to hear how they found him. They laid him away kindly the next day."He smiled in a sort of appealing way, and then came the worn, wistful look I had noticed, and his forehead lines deepened. I fancy all men who follow steeple-climbing get those strained, anxious eyes.

[29]IVEXPERIENCE OF AN AMATEUR CLIMBING TO A STEEPLE-TOPIT came to my knowledge, one bracing day in October, that "Steeple Bob" had agreed to "do" that famous Brooklyn Church of the Pilgrims, with its queer, crooked spire and big brass ball, a landmark from the river on Columbia Heights."It's one of those easy jobs that are the hardest," said Merrill. "If you want to see us use the stirrups come over."That was exactly what I did want to see, this puzzling stirrup process which allows a man to lift himself by his boot-straps, as it were, up the last and narrowest and most dangerous length of a steeple; so I agreed to be there."If you like, you can go up on the swing yourself!" said Merrill, with the air of conferring a favor. I expressed my thanks as I would to a lion-tamer offering me the hospitality of his cages, then asked how he meant that easy jobs are the hardest.GILDING A CHURCH CROSS, ABOVE NEW YORK CITY."Why, easy jobs make a man careless, and that gets him into trouble. Another thing, little old churches look easy, but they're apt to be treacherous. Now, this steeple on the Church of the Pilgrims is built of wood, with loose shingles on it, and a tumble-down iron lightning-rod, and rickety beams, and shaky ladders, and—well, you feel all the time as if you were walking[31]on eggs. It's just the kind of a steeple that killed young Romaine about a month ago."Of course I asked for the story of young Romaine, and was told of certain climbers who advertise their skill by using a steeple-top for acrobatic feats that have nothing to do with repairing. Upon such Merrill frowned severely."Romaine was a fine athlete," said he, "and a fearless man, but he went too far. He would stretch out on his stomach across the top of a steeple, and balance there without touching hands or knees, and he'd do all sorts of circus tricks on lightning-rods and weather-vanes and flagpoles—anything for notoriety. I told him he'd get killed sure some day, but he laughed at me. Well, it wasn't a week after I warned him when he was killed. He climbed an old lightning-rod without testing it (it was on a little church up at Cold Spring, New York), and just as he was reaching the steeple-top, with a whole town watching him, the end of the rod pulled out, and he swung off with it, ripping out every dowel, like the buttons off a coat, right down to the ground—smash. Poor fellow, when I read the news I left my job at Trinity and took the first train up to bury him."This sad story lingered in my mind that night, and was there still the next afternoon as I drew near the Church of the Pilgrims to witness the first day's climbing. Already, at a distance, I knew that the men were at work from the upbent heads of people on the street who stared and pointed. And presently I made out two white figures on the steeple, one swinging about fifteen feet below the ball, the other standing against the shingled side without any support that I could see. Up the old tower (inside) I made my way, and two ladders beyond the "bell-deck" came upon Walter[32]Tyghe, "Steeple Bob's" assistant, astride of a stone saddle on one of the four peaks where the tower ends and the steeple begins. There was a clear drop of a hundred feet all around him. He was "tending" the two men aloft, as witnessed a couple of ropes dangling by him. It was two jerks to come down and one to go up. Were he to lose his balance and let go the hauling-rope, the men on the swing would instantly be killed, as they had no "lock-blocks" on."Come out here," said Walter, "there's plenty of room," and, thus encouraged, I straddled the peak, and we sat face to face, as two men might sit on a child's rocking-horse, while the tower pigeons circled beneath us, alarmed at this intrusion. Far down on the sidewalk were little faces of distorted people; far up at the steeple-top were legs kicking at ropes. And off over red housetops was the river, and the great towers of New York spread with silver plumes by the steam jets."Now you can see the stirrups working," said Walter, and, looking up, I saw a figure swing back from the steeple, an arm shoot out, and a length of rope go wriggling around the shaft, cast like a lasso. Then the rope was drawn into a noose, and the noose hauled tight. The legs kicked, the figure hitched itself up about a foot, and again the rope was cast (another rope), and a second noose still higher made secure. That is all there is to it. The steeple-climber stands in a stirrup held by one noose while he lassoes the shaft above him with another noose, supporting another stirrup on which he presently stands. And so, foot by foot, the climber rises, shifting noose and stirrup at each change, resting now on one, now on the other, and finally reaching the cross, or ball, or weather-vane at the very top."That's Joe Lawlor chuckin' the rope," explained[33]Walter; "Merrill, he's on the swing. Say, Lawlor's a wonder at rigging. He can do anything with ropes. He's the feller that climbs up the front of a house with suckers on his feet."Of this fact I took note, and then inquired if I couldn't get up further inside the steeple, so as to be nearer the men. Walter said I could climb ladders up to where they had punched a hole through for the rope to hold the block and falls, and I tried it. Alas! when I got there, after breathing dust and squeezing between beams, I found that I could see nothing. I was almost at the steeple-top, and could hear Merrill, through the wooden shell, humming a tune as he worked, but I was further away than before."Hello in there!" came a voice. "Don't monkey with that line." And it came to me that this rope, reaching down by me from yonder little hole (the one knocked through), held the block which held the swing which held the man. And an accident to this rope would mean instant death. I touched it, and drew my hand away, as one might touch some animal through the cage bars, and I felt like saying, "Good little rope!"It was coming on to dark now, and we all went home together, over the bridge and up the avenues, talking of steeples the while. And Lawlor explained the action of his suckers in climbing walls, which is precisely that of a boy's sucker in lifting a brick. The big climbing-leathers, well soaked in oil, are pressed alternately against the stones, the right leg resting on one while the left leg presses the other against the wall a step higher. And so you walk right up the building or church or flagpole, and the smoother the surface the easier you go up. In fact, if the surface is rough you cannot use the suckers at all, as the air gets under and prevents their holding.[34]Then the men spoke of various jobs aloft that called up memories. Merrill told of cleaning the fifteen-foot Diana statue on the Madison Square Garden tower. "It's hard getting over her," he said, "because she's so blamed smooth. I guess I took three quarts of rust out of her ball-bearings. You know she's a weather-vane, and turns with the wind." I wondered how many New-Yorkers who see the Diana every day of their lives have ever dwelt on the fact that she turns.Talking of weather-vanes reminded my friends of a ticklish job they did on St. Paul's steeple, in New York, when Merrill, standing under the ball, held Lawlor on his giant shoulders so that Joe could lift off the weather-vane on top and ease the shaft where it had jammed. With Lawlor's weight and the weather-vane's weight, "Steeple Bob" held four hundred pounds on his shoulders during those important minutes, and, it might almost be said, stood on the dizzy edge of nothing while he did it.Finally, Lawlor expressed the opinion that there isn't any meaner job in the business than a chimney."A chimney?" said I."That's what. I mean one o' them big ones you see on factories. We have to scrape 'em and paint 'em just like steeples, and that means climbing up the whole length inside. The climbing's easy enough on bolts and braces, but it's something fierce the air you breathe. Why, I've gone up a two-hundred-and-forty-foot chimney with a five-foot opening at the bottom, and found the soot so thick about half-way up—so thick, sir, that I've been almost stuck in it. Yes, sir, just had to shove my head into an eight-inch hole and bore through black stuff, beds of it. And mind, not a hole for air as big as a pin-head from bottom to top."After bidding the men good night I reflected, with a[35]kind of shame, that I had drawn back from daring only once what they dare every day, what they must dare for their living. And I reasoned myself into a feeling that it was my duty under the circumstances to go up that steeple on the swing, as Merrill had proposed. Having begun this investigation, I must see it through; and in this mind I went to the church again the next day.I found all hands on the "bell-deck" spreading out packets of patent gilding for the ball which awaited its new dress, all sticky from a fresh coat of sizing. Lawlor remarked that there was better gold in these little yellow squares than in a wedding-ring. "It's twenty-four carats fine," said he, "and about as thick as a cobweb."As to my going up on the swing there was no difficulty. Lawlor would go first, and be there to keep me in good heart, for they say it is not well for a novice to be at a steeple-top alone. Merrill would see to the lashings, and Walter would give a hand at the hauling-line. Thus all conditions favored my ascent; even the sun smiled, and after taking off coat and hat I was ready. There we were at the top of the tower, and at the base of the steeple Lawlor, red-faced and red-shirted, preparing to ascend; Merrill, pale, as he always is, but powerful, standing at the ropes; and I, in shirt-sleeves and bareheaded, watching Walter make a little harness for my kodak.After a time Lawlor, having reached the top, called down something, and Merrill answered. It was my turn now. I climbed out through a small window and stood on the ledge, while "Steeple Bob" dropped the swing noose over my head and proceeded to lash me fast to seat and ropes."That's in case a suicidal impulse should get hold[36]of you!" he said, smiling, but meaning it. "Now, keep this rope between your legs, and work your hands up along it as we lift you. It's anchored to St. Peter."Then he explained how I was to press my toes against the steeple side, so as to keep my knees from barking on the shingles."And don't look down at all," he told me. "Just watch your ropes and take it easy. Are you ready?"At this moment Walter said something in a low tone, and Merrill asked me to lend him my knife. I handed it out, and he stuck it in his pocket. "You don't need this now," said he, and a moment later the pulley ropes tightened and my small swing-board lifted under me. I was rising."Shove off there with your toes!" he cried. "Take short steps. Put your legs wider apart. Wider yet. You don't have to pull on the rope. Just slide your hands along. Now you're going!"I saw nothing but the steeple side in front of me, and the life-line hanging down like a bell-rope between my spread legs, and the pulley block creaking by my head, and the toes of my shoes as I pressed them against the shingles step by step. It struck me as a ridiculous thing to be climbing a steeple in patent-leather shoes. I smiled to think of the odd appearance I must present from below. And then for the first time I let my eyes turn into the depths, and caught a glimpse of men on housetops watching me. I saw Merrill's upturned face down where the ropes ended. And I saw little horses wriggling along on the street.HOW THE STEEPLE-CLIMBER GOES UP A FLAGPOLE.There were three places where the steeple narrowed into slenderer lengths, and at each one was a sort of cornice to be scrambled over (and loose nails to be avoided), and then more careful steering with legs and toes to keep on one particular face of the steeple and[38]not swing off and come bumping back, a disconcerting possibility. "Hello!" called Lawlor presently, from above. "You're doing fine. Come right along." And before I knew it the swing had stopped. I was at the top, or as near it as the tackle could take me. The remaining fifteen feet or so must be made with stirrups. And there was Lawlor standing in them up by the ball. There was not a stick of staging to support him (he had scorned the bother of hauling up boards for so simple a job), and he was working with both hands free, each leg standing on its stirrup, and several hitches of life-line holding him to the shaft top by his waist.This steeple-lassoing exploit was one of the things I certainly would not attempt—would not and could not.Strangely enough, as I hung here at rest I felt the danger more than coming up. It seemed most perilous to rest my weight on the swing-board, and I found myself holding my legs drawn up, with muscles tense, as if that could make me lighter. Gradually I realized the foolishness of this, and relaxed into greater comfort, but not entirely. Even veteran steeple-climbers waste much strength in needless clutching; cannot free their bodies from this instinctive fear.I stayed up long enough to take three photographs (some minutes passed before I could unlash my kodak), and here I had further proof of subconscious fright, for I made such blunders with shutter and focus length as would put the youngest amateur to shame. Two pictures out of the three were failures, and the third but an indifferent success. There is one thing to be said in extenuation, that a steeple is never still, but always rocking and trembling. When Lawlor changed his stirrup hitches or moved from side to side the old[39]beams would groan under us, and the whole structure rock. "She'd rock more," said Lawlor, "if she was better built. A good steeple always rocks."There wasn't much more to say or do up here, and presently we exchanged jerks on the line for the descent. And Lawlor cried: "Lower away! Hang on, now!" And I did over again my humble part of leg-spreading and toe-steering, with the result that presently I was down on the "bell-deck" again, receiving congratulations."Here's your knife," said Merrill, after he had unlashed me."What did you take it for?" I asked."Oh, men sometimes get a mania to cut the ropes when they go up the first time. And that isn't good for their health. I was pretty sure you'd keep your head, but I wasn't taking any chances."After this came thanks and warm hand-grips all around, and then I left these daring men to their duties, and went down the lower ladders. I am sure I never appreciated the simple privilege of standing on a sidewalk as I did, a few minutes later, when I left the Church of the Pilgrims and came out into the pleasant autumn sunshine.

Edited by - colsack on 03/08/2011 16:37:33


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Stanley
Local Historian & Old Fart


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Posted - 04/08/2011 : 06:41
Colin, interesting stuff. I've copied the file, only 640kb. Haven't we come across Steeple Bob before somewhere? I shall have a good read!


Stanley Challenger Graham




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colsack
Regular Member


831 Posts
Posted - 04/08/2011 : 09:17
I havn't heard of Steeple Bob before, but there is a book called               " Steeple Jim". Interesting to see that the Americans were way behind the Brits at that time. By 1901 we were using laddering and staging, and the job had become a trade in itself known as Steeplejacking, while the Yanks, calling themselvs Steeple Climbers, were still in the medievel age.


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Stanley
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Posted - 05/08/2011 : 07:49
I remember Jim, wasn't he the one that painted a lot of flagpoles?


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Invernahaille
Regular Member


669 Posts
Posted - 15/08/2011 : 01:28



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Invernahaille
Regular Member


669 Posts
Posted - 16/08/2011 : 01:52
Hi Guys,
             The reason I posted the above photo of Ellenroad Mill, is to highlight the changes that took place after this photograph was taken.
1 The fire escape shown on the right hand side of the building was removed in the earlly sixties.

2 The company built a wall  in front of the mill where the mill stored its coal reserves this was in the late fifties.

3 They also built a nursery (creche) on the left hand side of the picture where it shows he coal being stored , this was also in the early fifties.

After the retaining wall had been built the remaing land became known as St Stephens Playing Fiels. Newhey County School used it as their sports field, though the name suggest that there was some form of relationship with St Stephens Congregational Church next door to the old Milnrow Fire Station. 

Edited by - Invernahaille on 16/08/2011 01:54:23 AM

Edited by - Invernahaille on 16/08/2011 03:04:54 AM

Edited by - Invernahaille on 16/08/2011 03:09:19 AM


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Stanley
Local Historian & Old Fart


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Posted - 17/08/2011 : 06:03


Nice one Robert, haven't seen that pic before. It looked a bit different when Norman go at it with the 30cwt ball in 1985!


Stanley Challenger Graham




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Invernahaille
Regular Member


669 Posts
Posted - 17/08/2011 : 22:59
I can see that Stanley. Ellenroad with air conditioning installed.


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Invernahaille
Regular Member


669 Posts
Posted - 20/08/2011 : 20:16


Heres one for young Tom.


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Stanley
Local Historian & Old Fart


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Posted - 21/08/2011 : 05:54
Looks as though they are taking the ladders down.


Stanley Challenger Graham




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TOM PHILLIPS
Steeplejerk


4164 Posts
Posted - 21/08/2011 : 10:03
25 years ago,doesnt time fly !!



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blokman
Senior Member


1119 Posts
Posted - 21/08/2011 : 15:13
Any further on with Grane Mill stack, Tom?


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Stanley
Local Historian & Old Fart


36804 Posts
Posted - 22/08/2011 : 05:24
You'll find it's accelerating as well Tom!


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