Here we go again! We had a raft of pi**ed off people a couple of weeks ago when the HLF decided to send us away to think again and the reason we were all so annoyed is because we really thought we’d done all our homework and brought aboard the right people.

Paul and the gang at Jura did a tremendous job, they actually understand all the paperwork and innermost machinations of the HLF, and although we threw him an ambitious project, he was confident of being able to bring it to fruition.

Tim Parr, our naval architect, was appointed by Paul and a better man we couldn’t wish to have aboard. Tim’s experience is so broad that it includes working on John Cobb’s Crusader! He also oversaw the rebuild of the paddle steamer Waverley. The world’s last ocean-going paddle steamer, which was rebuilt from the keel to the mast tops with HLF money. Waverley wasn’t consigned to a museum when her life came to an end.

Despite the efforts of the Waverley Trust, the poor old girl was about finished and had the HLF applied the principles suggested by their ‘expert’ advisors for Bluebird, she’d now be laid up in some glorified ships’ graveyard as a static display for people to look at only. Instead, she was completely overhauled and brought back to full working order so people can feel the plates trembling beneath their feet, feel the heat of her engines and watch so much polished brass turning with smooth precision. Kids will be able to say ‘I’ve been on a paddle steamer’ for another hundred years due to the efforts of the HLF. My mother used to travel across the Clyde on Waverley to visit her granny, I’ve travelled on her and chances are that my kids will do likewise. Have a look and what you’ll see is not some museum-type conservation exercise where they clean stuff with a rubber teaspoon and put it in a glass case. This is a major engineering endeavour with acres of new material and beautiful fabrication. The site has a diary page not dissimilar to our own where you can check out the miles of new pipe-work and in particular, have a look at those brand-new, state of the art boilers (reproduced with kind permission below). We’re not proposing anything so drastic for K7!

Anyway, enough ranting, the people involved in our bid are too numerous to mention but they include museum people, engineers, contractors and several members of the various councils and local government, which is why we were all so stunned when the thing went wrong.

Naturally, I immediately went in search of the problem but what I seem to have discovered surely cannot be true. You see, the decision seemingly turned on three reports compiled by ‘expert’ advisors appointed by the HLF to guide their committee.

I’m in the process of looking into this and will report in due course but according to my diary for the past three years I cannot discover that any of these advisors ever actually visited the wreck. Nor can I find any reference to any of them ever attending one of our numerous meetings. Worse still, I don’t even recall speaking to any of them or supplying detailed information of our proposals. I therefore ask the question, how the hell can they be ‘experts’?

Because it’s not possible to reliably comment on K7 until you’ve stood beneath that tail fin and felt the peculiar power that she still seems to possess. Those who have been here will know what I’m talking about. As I said, it surely cannot be the case that these people have not been very thorough in doing their homework. I’m assuming that an organisation as professional as the HLF would not allow themselves to be misled by ‘experts’ who have never even clapped eyes on the object about which they are being consulted. Especially on such a high profile project (don’t mention the dome!) So I’ve requested a whole bunch of paperwork from the HLF and will let you know but I’m hoping to find that these people did actually sneak in somewhere because it could have happened. Many people have been through the door and I may have missed something, hmmmm.

22nd March 2005 - 13:30

I wasn’t going to post anything today; I have to ease back into this gently. But I received a letter from the HLF today, which I read carefully and then read again. Next I phoned a few folk and read some bits out and finally I concluded that our application must have gone in with most of its pages missing.
As far as I can tell, those hundreds of pages compiled by myself and our naval architect, the x-rays, metallurgical surveys and numerous reports from aircraft restorers must have gone astray because it says in the letter.

HLF can only offer support to project applications which clearly demonstrate how they will conserve and enhance our diverse heritage…

So having demonstrated until we couldn’t demonstrate any further that virtually all of K7’s structure is in almost pristine condition and that we can replace practically everything recovered from the lake in a rebuilt Bluebird and that which isn’t suitable can be displayed anyway, I can only conclude that those pages went astray. As to whether this would ‘enhance our diverse heritage’, I cannot demonstrate that with digital, gamma radiography or sound engineering practice so I don’t claim to be able to answer that one with any authority. My gut feeling however, is that it ought to enhance our diverse heritage in some way or other because our diverse heritage is currently sitting in a darkened workshop gathering dust while they bugger about!
It goes on to say…

It is evident that the Bluebird is important to our heritage and has an urgent conservation need. However, the application did not demonstrate that the proposal to restore the vessel to full working order would be the most appropriate method for meeting this need.

Now there’s a contentious issue, at least it becomes contentious if you choose to totally disregard Gina’s wishes for her dad’s boat. On the other hand, if it’s simply a case of meeting the conservation need, then surely restoring every corner of K7 will leave her in tip-top condition for an indefinite period and as the plan is to conserve everything we have before building any new bits we imagined that we’d done enough. Maybe that page fell out of our application too but the above paragraph is not the good one. The next one is a real corker. It says…

HLF can only offer support to project applications which clearly identify how the project will encourage more people to be involved in their heritage. It is clear that the museum benefits from the support of a committed and enthusiastic pool of volunteers. However, the application did not demonstrate how the project would create further opportunities for involving people in their heritage.

If anyone is reading this from the HLF, I’d like to say on behalf of the entire Bluebird Project that when the boat is finished and we put it in the museum…

We absolutely promise to open the doors and turn the lights on!

23rd March 2005 - 16:35

Here I am again, it’s a famine or a feast with me isn’t it. Once again I wasn’t going to post anything today but something came up.
Whilst searching the corridors of power for the missing pages from our application I was reminded of something.
I keep bitching about how the HLF let us get so far down the line before falling on their collective backside… Well I’m perhaps being a little harsh on them because it’s not strictly true. You see the last thing we needed was the wheel coming off and some smart-arse, armchair expert saying ‘I told you this would happen’, so we went in search of answers at an early stage, told the HLF of our proposals and asked for an early indication. Then the wheel came off anyway and the armchair experts said…
But that’s another tale, this is the reply we were given.

“The HLF would, in principle, look favourably upon a request for restoration to running order, providing that there were absolutely proper safety precautions in place, both for the safety of the pilot and the boat”

Now is that encouraging or what? So we ran off to demonstrate that we could do exactly this. Remember all the discussions with the Seattle Raceboat and Hydroplane Museum, and their quote that still sums it all up as far as I’m concerned? It appears here again for those of you who can’t be bothered to find it in the diary archive.

“When the Hydroplane and Raceboat Museum first began restoring boats, we were faced with a choice. We could simply do cosmetic restorations, and make the boats look like they used to, or we could do full restorations and bring our heroes back to life. It was a difficult choice to make. Restoring the boats cosmetically would be easier and cheaper, but was it the right thing to do? Ultimately we realised that just doing a cosmetic restoration was like stuffing and mounting a bald eagle. You end up with something that looked like an eagle, but you learn nothing about flight, dignity or grace. You could teach people about the appearance of an eagle, but you could teach them nothing about the spirit of an eagle.” (David Williams, Director – Hydroplane & Raceboat Museum, Seattle)

The HLF also had the following to say at the same time.

They [The HLF committee] would, however, pay special attention to the amount of original material that would be incorporated in the restored boat. They would want to see as much of the original retained, but are not prepared to say what percentage they would require.

The above is more than fair and I’ll not bore you by repeating myself on the subject so off we went to build a proposal on that basis. So how come we hit a snag?
Best guess so far is that, like I said, half of the pages fell out of our application before it made it to the meeting so we’re not messing about changing anything. We’re going to borrow a stapler from Cumbria Council, run another copy off and have another go.
In the meantime, I have to get Predator back in the water for the coming season so no more updates until after the holidays.

I went looking for a picture of Predator just in case anyone wasn’t sure what I was talking about, she’s our survey vessel and the boat on which Donald finally came ashore after 34 years in the lake. What I actually found was a picture of the salvage barge with predator tied alongside. You’ll also notice on the left a strange yellow duck with what seems to be a camera lens poking from it.

This image, entitled ‘Duck-Cam’ was presented to us by the photographers who lined the lake road waiting for action as we raised K7. They’d just got their hands on some clever picture editing software and were acting like kids with a new toy.

Had we come up with something so disrespectful at the time we’d have been pilloried for it, but they got away with it.
Have a good holiday.

6th April 2005 - 15:00

I’ve had a pile of mails regarding the HLF decision, as many people perceive this as the end of the road or at least a serious setback. However, almost from the outset comparisons have been made between our project and that to return the last flightworthy Vulcan bomber to the air. Take a look at the following link and you may see a disturbing pattern beginning to emerge, .

Any of that sound vaguely familiar?

Now take a look at this one, .

I may have this completely wrong, but I’m rapidly concluding that it’s all part of the game and in order to get a result it’s necessary to sling your irreplaceable piece of British heritage (in this case an almost flightworthy Vulcan) over your shoulder and keep climbing until you find a vein of common sense. I know from talking with members of the Vulcan team that they have had to go to extraordinary lengths to succeed and richly deserved it is too.
Whether the HLF do this on purpose to weed out the nutters I have no idea but it’s somewhat infuriating. As this seems to be merely another bridge to cross on the route to having them do something useful with our ‘iconic’ blue boat we’ve carried on undaunted and last week found us visiting with none other than Malcolm Wilson (pictured below) whose M-Sport operation in Cockermouth operates the Ford World Rally Championship team.

Mr Wilson, it seems, is equally adept at driving a desk as he is a rally car because his facility at Dovenby is a stunning blend of classic architecture and state-of-the-art facilities for preparing and running a world-class motorsport team. More importantly from the project point of view is that many of the skills and certainly all of the facilities exist on one secure site to not only rebuild K7, but also to allow enthusiasts and members of the public to visit as this process takes place. It was a breath of fresh air to escape the committee-driven environment for a few hours too. Malcolm is very definitely the captain of his ship. He makes all the crucial decisions and accepts the fallout if they go pear shaped. Except that he’s good at what he does so they don’t go pear shaped.
In order to secure part of our package from the various Cumbrian funding pots we need to demonstrate that Cumbrian folks will benefit, which all seems fair enough. Obviously the funding organisations would prefer if we spent a tiny proportion of their cash and provided a raft of jobs but it’s swings and roundabouts and what we can’t offer in terms of bulk job creation we can certainly replace in specialist training and uniqueness. Hence the drive to base the project in Cockermouth.
Unfortunately this means returning to the committee philosophy where no one can make their minds up about anything and where the dialogue goes something like.

“To qualify for funding, it’s of the utmost importance that as many people as possible receive the greatest possible experience of K7 per pound spent,” say the committee.
“Fine,” we reply, “so we take the boat out and run her on Coniston in a triumphant, homecoming event and the whole world will see her.”
Worried looks on the committee’s faces…
“Ooooh, we’re not sure about that, isn’t it terribly dangerous?” they ask, whereupon they take no notice as we explain for the umpteenth time how the Seattle guys have made it perfectly safe and offered to help us out. But the thought of a museum exhibit moving, making a noise and burning fuel seems too much for them so we try a gentler tack.
“Okay,” we offer cautiously, “how about we simply float her on the lake, maybe start the engine for a tethered test, then at least the museum visitors will appreciate that what they’re seeing is the real deal and we’ll still have a massive audience.”
More worried looks.
“Ooooh, but what will the conservationists say about taking out the old engine? It won’t be original anymore…”
“It’s held in with four bolts and two pipes,” we explain patiently. “So we can put the old one back when we’re finished if you prefer.”
Still a general aura of concern hangs over the committee.
“But what if the noise upsets old Mrs Miggins at the end of the lake?” they ask worriedly. “She was in the blitz, you know… Maybe we should just clean the boat with cotton buds and put it in a glass case…”

It’s at about this point when I would normally begin tearing out my hair, if I had any. Because having emasculated the project by committee, the next item invariably becomes the lack of benefit per pound spent and so off we go again. I shudder to think what would happen to Malcolm’s rally cars if he had to endure the same hopeless process.
They’d come last!
On another note, I’m eagerly anticipating the arrival of my copies of the ‘expert’ advisors reports, though an unexpected piece of nonsense has promised to delay their arrival. It transpires that a minor plot was hatched by the HLF to send the paperwork via our good friend Vicky at the Ruskin in the hope that some of the more ludicrous pages might fall out before it arrived on my desk. They’re especially good at losing vital pages as we’ve seen but Vicky and I have been in the trenches together since day-one so it was an ill-conceived plan at best. I’m still waiting…

28th April 2005 - 16:00

I seem to have prodded a hornet’s nest this week, I thought it was only a local thing but it seems to have sent shockwaves as far as Cumbria. One of the Newcastle papers published a typically inaccurate report that our funding application has been turned down for the SECOND time though where they got that notion from no one seems to know. This in turn attracted the news crews from both local TV stations as well as BBC Radio Newcastle and provoked all sorts of defensive manoeuvres on the part of an HLF spokesperson when cornered by our intrepid Geordie reporter. One quote reads:

‘With regard to the expert advice, the committee view all the information that is presented to them and make a decision based on that information – they debated this case long and hard.’

There is no doubt that this is true. We’re sure they did review all the information and we know that the debate was intense because we had a friend in court who fought our corner valiantly but against insuperable odds. But, in all fairness the HLF were absolutely right to turn down the application on the basis of what their ‘experts’ wrote so the committee are off the hook for the moment as they really had no other option.

My radio interview later in the day provoked a second masterful body-swerve by the HLF and whilst deftly avoiding any mention of ‘experts’ who seem to be above actually having to view our ‘iconic object’ with its ‘urgent conservation need’, they suggested that if we were to roll over and adopt a ‘conservation led approach’ things might be different. The fact that we’ve always had a conservation led approach to restoring the boat seems to have been overlooked yet again.

There’s no escaping it, the so-called ‘experts’ have let the side down. Their reports, (yes I received my un-adulterated copies in the end), are filled with technical inaccuracies. The information contained therein is largely incomplete, frequently contradictory and as a consequence each of the documents is riddled with questions that could have been answered in a single phone call had any of them bothered their lazy backsides to properly research the subject about which they’d been asked to compile a report. One of them discusses the following option:

‘Restore it as a working vessel using original documents. This would involve a new engine and considerable restoration. There would be some gain in technical knowledge through the work but considerable loss of original fabric.’

This is absolutely typical in that it is poorly researched, inaccurate and misleading to the committee. Fair enough, we’d need to replace the engine in order to run the boat but it’s held in with four bolts and two pipes, oh, and don’t forget the throttle linkage. We could swap the original back in an afternoon if that’s what they wanted. Worse still, this ‘considerable loss of original fabric’ is complete nonsense as the conservation plan that I wrote in 2001 involves keeping all but a few shreds of the original boat and had they bothered to ask I would have been glad to explain it in detail.

Incredible as it seems, my original, unbelievable supposition appears to be true; not one of the ‘experts’ to whom the HLF turned to for guidance ever actually visited the wreck or communicated with the project team at any time or in any way. The thrust of their argument evokes both optimism and dismay and they mostly agree that if we’re going to return K7 to running order and then not actually run her then they’re not getting value for money!
Quite understandable and just as easily sorted; we’ll run her, OK?
Had the ‘experts’ called me – ever - I’d have sent them copies of our original proposals for operating K7, which would have answered all of their questions on that particular subject whilst their other favourite topic seems to be the general condition of the cockpit, who owns it, how much of it we recovered, etc. etc.

So for future reference, any would-be expert advisors can e-mail me at [email protected] and I’ll tell you all about it!

It’s not all bad, mind you. One of the reports was filled with positive ideas for running the boat and most agreed that it was technically feasible to rebuild her but imagine what a farce this would be if we were fighting a legal case? The judge would have thrown it out long ago. So in keeping with the legal theme we thought we’d politely request that we be heard at appeal.
Great plan but the HLF doesn’t have an appeals procedure and it’s been hinted that the only way forward is through a completely new application (and another 6 month delay), but surely this must be for those whose planning requires more work or is lacking in some way. Maybe ours needs work too but until we obtain fair representation from ‘experts’, who are actually expert in the subject at hand, no one will know for sure. The alternative is to pursue this injustice through the official complaints procedure but we didn’t want to embark on anything as contentious as a complaint. After all, to quote a top secret HLF source on the absolute promise of anonymity we’re-

“raising smiles / hackles in equal measure” down at HLF central.

Of course, we’d rather have the smiles, but as the problem clearly doesn’t lie at our end of the table we’re optimistic that the HLF will do what is proper and enter into some sort of formal dialogue with us in order to straighten this out. Time will tell and in the meantime, below you will find another sample of ‘expert’ advice that was declared by one of our number to be-

‘So far wrong that we can’t even get upset about it…’

It reads as follows and is taken verbatim from the report.

‘This case requires a judgement to be made about the significance and heritage value of a boat that was wrecked during an attempt to advance the world water speed record in 1967. The project as proposed is almost certainly achievable and would provide an additional visitor attraction for Coniston and the surrounding region. However, it poses a number of questions relating to overall heritage merit and long-term significance, and these lead to related questions of value for money.

Almost everyone in the UK who is aged over 40 will know the story and be familiar with the footage; on the other hand most people under 40 are unfamiliar with the events and, when told of them, often evince little interest. This is in large part because the breaking and holding of speed records, on land or water, is no longer an activity that excites a great deal of interest. The reasons for this are unclear, although it may have something to do with the general increase in the speed of everyday life – we are all now used to travelling in aircraft or on the TGV at high speeds ,and watching Formula 1 race cars achieve a velocity not far short of the older land-speed records. Whatever the reason, speed records are now seldom seen, as they were forty years ago, to be of great importance and a matter of national pride.’

[Didn’t the HLF spend a few million buying Thrust SSC not so long back, or did I get that bit wrong? It goes on to say.]

‘The question that arises, therefore, is whether the undoubted national enthusiasm for speed records, and for Campbell in particular, that characterised the 1950’s and 1960’s, really represents a significant aspect of national heritage or whether they are an interesting sidelight on the social history of the times. If the latter is the case, there must be serious question of what interest there will be in the Bluebird story in the future, when those for whom it is part of their personal experience are no longer alive. If it is the case that interest in the story will further diminish over time, then the Bluebird Project would not be value for money in HLF terms, despite its undoubted romantic appeal.’

[Isn’t the whole point of museums to let us look at stuff that’s from before our time? Or am I from a different planet? - And finally, you’re going to love this bit!]

‘There is no doubt that the story of Donald Campbell and Bluebird is a dramatic, romantic and tragic one that is still alive and vivid for the local population of Coniston. It will probably remain so for a longer period in the Lake District than in the rest of the UK. Despite this, the project is not one that can be strongly recommended since the history of water speed records does not represent a major aspect of the national heritage and this significance will probably decrease for future generations.’

So there you have it, ‘expert’ advice at its best and a stark demonstration of the sort of thing we’re up against here. What really concerns me is how such an important project (or perhaps it’s not important at all, I’m not the expert here), can get into such a ridiculous position…

More to follow soon.

5th May 2005 - 16:00

Now that the dust has settled after last week’s storm in a teacup I thought I’d offer my thoughts on a few of the issues that landed with the fallout.

I was accused of being a little unfair on the HLF for two reasons. Firstly, I have been reliably informed that the bit about not being interested in Bluebird / Campbell unless you’re aged 40 or over was met with the same derision by the committee as it has been by everyone else. And so it ought to be, so that effectively takes one ‘expert’ out of the loop – no bad thing if you ask me.
Secondly, the quotes that I included from the reports were seen by some to be the pick of the crop and my response to that is that of course they were. There are many more positive quotes than negative ones but I reckoned that showing the worst of it was appropriate enough.
Of the four reports, one was pure rubbish as you’ve seen. One was all-for the project. The third couldn’t quite make up its mind and there were a ragged, couple of pages from some office-bound museumologist preaching the old, ‘clean it with cotton buds and stick it in a glass case’ thing.
Then there’s this question of whether K7 will actually offer the area, and Coniston in particular, any benefit at all? Maybe she should be housed in the Science Museum where more people can visit but no interest has been shown by the Science Museum. When I spoke with them in the early days they told me something like…

‘Our collecting policy precludes us taking on any new objects of this sort at this time.’

I did invite Beaulieu to get involved with K7 at an early stage too as they have CN7 and the two would look good alongside each other but they told me:

‘It’s not a car.’ So that was that.

I next tried Duxford as they’d been so helpful with the early conservation of K7 but they simply pointed out that it’s not a plane either. I argued that it flew once and had a jet engine but they have plenty of aircraft to go at and boats aren’t really their thing.
At that point I gave up on the big-boys and Vicky has championed the cause ever since. Incidentally, someone mailed me this link to a Cumbrian triumph so well done to them for wringing about 1.6 million out of the Lottery pot.

I include this not in order to knock their efforts in any way. They are clearly as passionate about their subject as we are about ours, as well as having succeeded where thus far we’ve failed. But I suspect that this is the sort of thing with which our ‘experts’ probably feel more comfortable rather than the frightening unknown of restoring a boat. This would also explain why they failed to raise their backsides from those comfy office chairs and properly research the subject. Instead it seems they chose to thoroughly cover said extremity with jargon they picked up whilst treading the path of least resistance.
On a slightly different note, the question of whether these ‘experts’ should have consulted with me in the first place was also raised. After all, it was argued, they were appointed by and working for the HLF at the time.
I reckon the answer to that is pretty obvious. Apart from it being unprofessional (in my humble opinion) to preach about something you know nothing about, I live with the boat every day, have done for the past four years and would have been glad to discuss it at length. But worse still, what if it had gone the other way? What if the ‘experts’ were all over our project and bursting with enthusiasm only to find out later that we’d got it wrong at our end.
Whose disaster would it have been if they’d thrown money at us and then realised that the sums were wrong or the wreck was little more than a pile of scrap metal? No prizes for guessing at which end of the table that would have landed!
There’s just no getting round it, the affair was badly handled and we haven’t received a fair trial. There’s little point in making a fresh application as there’s no way for us to feel confident that it will be treated with any more competence than the last one.
Vicky’s request for a new hearing will be winging its way to HLF Central by the end of the week so we’ll have to wait and see.

24th June 2005 - 16:00

As you can see, I wrote the above (update dated 5th May) some time ago and did consider consigning it to the bin but you might as well have it. Our request that we sit around a table with the HLF and discuss where the process came apart was declined so it’s time for plan-B. I was frankly amazed that they seem to have no facility to revisit problem areas but there you have it.
I’ve been a little quiet of late, as apart from expecting our first baby in August and having to decorate a room and make the house baby-friendly, I’ve been researching another novel.

I spent a week aboard the Greenpeace ship Esperanza (pictured above). I’m told it means ‘hope’ or similar. She’s a 72m ex-fire tug of Russian construction that’s been converted to carry Greenpeace’s word around the world. I used to do diving jobs for ‘the Greenies’ and loved every minute of it. People often regard them as water-borne, hippy, eco-warriors yet I found myself embarrassed to be amongst so many multi-lingual doctors of this and that; because most of what Greenpeace do involves lending their vessels to respectable marine scientists as research platforms. We were working with the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) on a project to research the Mingulay reef system in the Hebrides and I had a fantastic time operating the sonar on their ROV and trying my hand with a sampling grab on the end of 200m of cable. Something that proved right up my street, probably because of all the practice with the side-scan winch.

I then popped home for a fortnight, during which we had to have our unborn offspring scanned, and whilst parking outside the Newcastle Royal Victoria Infirmary, I spotted a sign on the opposite side of the road that said something like
‘Restoration of Leazes Park, supported by the HLF’.
Leaving my heavily pregnant wife standing in the street I dashed into the park to find out what they’d done in there, as it was always a wilderness of ragged trees with a gloopy, green pond in the middle. I was delighted to discover that they’d destroyed most of its original fabric by tearing down the mature foliage and replaced it all with saplings. It’s now fully restored to the beautiful, Victorian park that it once was and I certainly didn’t expect ever to see that in my lifetime. Well done to the HLF. Here’s a link…

I tried to find a good link to another fantastic and much deserved restoration job in Newcastle. Here are a few pics of her as she is today.

What is seldom revealed is that she was actually crunched in half in a collision, (I found a pic of that too,

She was then cut in two for transportation to exhibition park in Newcastle where she was an important attraction until eventually falling into disrepair. The vandals got in and nicked most of her brasswork, her paint was falling off and the glass was broken but worry not, she’s now fully restored and gleaming like a new pin so that anyone who wants to see the legendary boat can pop into the Discovery Museum in Newcastle and take a look. She has an inspection panel in the side so you can see her revolutionary steam turbine but otherwise she’s good enough to float.
Oh, and by the way, the unborn offspring was all there and I even begged a go with the scanning machine. I never could resist any form of sonar but that’s another story.

Then I spent a week aboard a pair-trawler 80 miles east of Aberdeen fishing for haddock. One of the major issues that Greenpeace battle with is the accidental killing of dolphins by pair-trawlers fishing for sea bass in the English Channel and to add insult to injury, it’s mainly the French boats that are responsible. Take a look at this.

Pair trawling, by the way, means that two boats pull one enormous net. It’s like a mesh funnel and as bass are pelagic fish, meaning that they swim in the middle water, it’s hardly surprising that the odd dolphin strays into the net. That’s why I found myself doing research on a pair trawler; not that they caught any dolphins, mind you, but then they were bottom fishing. It was two days of seasick-ridden purgatory followed by a few more days of great fun with a brilliant bunch of guys. But I came home to a real tragedy. At about the time we were casting off our lines in Eyemouth harbour, a young though highly experienced diver went missing off the north east coast.

I came home to find my desk piled high with requests to take our precision sonar kit out there and try to find him but by the time my mobile phone came back into reception on the following Friday morning he’d been missing for a week despite valiant efforts by his friends and the emergency services to locate him. Good old Capt. Connacher and I spent two days out there with the sidescan and identified a promising target but when we dropped two of the most experienced divers in the UK on it we were bitterly disappointed to discover that we’d located a solitary rock in the middle of a featureless seabed. I never knew Nick Jackson but he was diving mixed-gas rebreather just as I used to, and only 25 years old. Our thoughts are with his family and friends; and with him, wherever he may be.

So what about Bluebird I hear you ask. Well, as it looks like plan-A is dead, we’ve been forced into our fallback position but don’t be disheartened.
I’m guest speaker at a big gathering of British Aerospace engineers next month because their heritage division is taking a serious interest in helping us with the restoration work. The only major problem is that of transferring ownership of the boat to Vicky but all sorts of options are available in that department so it will come out in the wash. Not wanting to say too much more, being the superstitious sailor that I am, I’ll let you all know how it goes with Bae.

8th August 2005 - 15:00

Here I am, back again and I said I’d let you all know how it went with Bae. It was absolutely brilliant, not that it progressed the project so much as an inch though, but more of that in a moment.
I arrived at Warton to be met by a couple of retired guys who’d been given the task of showing me around; that was the deal, you see. They show me around the famous old aerodrome and I’ll make a presentation whilst trying to persuade those poor souls who until recently were making Concorde bits that Bluebird bits ought to provide similar job satisfaction.
Keith and his mate, (sorry, I’m not good with names), pointed out that walking groups of Joe-Public around a sensitive airfield restricts the places they can go and the things they can see but three blokes off on their own, well that’s different…
It was a real joy to go ferreting all over the site with a pair of wonderfully, politically-incorrect Englishmen. We poked at stripped down Harriers, disembowelled Tornadoes and visited the assembly hall in which the Typhoon Eurofighter is constructed. There I was allowed to climb the stairs and gaze into the cockpit – after I’d been de-fodded that is. FOD, or foreign object damage seems to be an obsession at Warton so my pockets were emptied before I was allowed near, as it seems the cockpit has no floor and the pilot sits suspended in the fuselage in an incredibly complicated, not to mention expensive, looking ejection seat.
“Dropped a four millimetre bolt in there yesterday,” an engineer told me, “Took most of today to get it out…”
I later saw one of these incredible aircraft take off – well it didn’t so much take off as leap off the ground and blast itself out of sight in less time than it took to write this sentence. If ever you get the chance, go and see one!
Having seen so many exciting things I couldn’t wait to make my presentation especially as I’d earlier made mention of a story I’d read about a pilot called Jimmy Dell who’d ejected from a Lightening over the Irish Sea after the fin had snapped off his aircraft.
“Oh, he’s coming tonight,” they told me to my great excitement… but then came the blow.
The hall where I was to make my presentation had suffered a burst pipe and was flooded – all the engineering might of British Aerospace and they have a burst pipe! I had to smile – so I’m back there on September 21st.
Once again, I’ll let you know how it goes.


Continuing the run of bad luck, we had yet another meeting with the HLF…yawn… this time in their Manchester office – I invited them to my place so Bluebird would be on hand for inspection but they declined.
After a late night followed by an early morning, the gently rumbling train journey over the Pennines soon began to send me off to sleep.
“We’ve sacked them,” said the smiling bureaucrat in my dream. She looked like Angelina Jolie and kept touching my hand.
“Told us they’d been to visit you,” she said, sadly. “Told us they’d done their job properly, and expected to be paid too.
“Call themselves experts? It’s disgusting!”
Angelina smiled apologetically and scribbled her home number on the back of her card.
“Have the new team been in touch yet?” she asked hopefully.
“Oh, yes,” said I. “They’re coming over next week and staying for a couple of days, with some engineers and a metallurgical consultant, I believe.”
“Excellent, excellent… Ridiculous though, isn’t it,” she confided. “Especially as we all know your project has the weight of popular support and we don’t want to make ourselves seem foolish, again.
“Apart from which, we know how hard you’ve all worked and that you’ll do a great job so let’s get the show on the road, eh?”
I was pocketing Angelina’s card and nodding enthusiastically when rudely awakened by the train inspector.
“Tickets please…”
Yeah, OK, so it was a short-lived pleasure but it left me in an optimistic frame of mind for the meeting itself – though not for long.
Two minutes into it and I was reminded of my favourite W.C.Fields quote:

‘There comes a time in the affairs of man when he must take the bull by the tail and face the situation.’

And that’s exactly what was served up, a fragrant, verbal outpouring; coaxed into barely convincing threads by professional bureaucrats, which sadly regressed to its steaming, semi-liquid state under the barest of scrutiny.
It all began with some beautifully contrived empathy, sincere platitudes from those on high who believe with a passion equal to our own that Bluebird’s only true and rightful place lies in the village of Coniston with her skipper.
Then came a lame and longwinded defence, though equally heartfelt, of those museumologists sufficiently gifted to dispense advice without ever approaching the object of their expertise or engaging in such humble tasks as basic research.
Such ‘experts’ – we were assured – need not sully their hands with primal tasks as their business is that of lofty principles and not the lowly mechanical workings of our application. And still they crow for a ‘conservation-led’ approach with all the vocal diversity of a cockerel whist remaining unable to tell us what this actually means.
With the Campbell family trust represented several times over on this occasion we also thought that someone might admit to the idea of Donald being of little interest to those younger than forty being slightly wide of the mark, but this wasn’t to be either.
Doing so would obviously acknowledge the professional failings of an ‘expert’ and beg the question that other mistakes may also have been overlooked so our hosts merely forged ahead with a threadbare defence of this too.
Eventually, however, some helpful information did trickle forth – on the subject of volunteer involvement.
Why did our application not go into detail about volunteers? They asked. Were we proposing to employ our own experts with the attendant unaffordable, spiralling costs when the time came to fire up our engine or would a team of volunteers be ‘grown’ to undertake this work?
That we’ve always encouraged volunteers and that the whole recovery operation was volunteer-led was pointed out along with my promise that this would not only continue but also be reflected in any future application. Because, of course, our meeting was the start of six more wasted months and a whole new application rather then the appeal we’d requested.
“Now all we need,” I said with the volunteer question laid to rest, “is something to fire up.”
Oops…! “Conservation-led approach – loss of heritage benefit – value for money…” and every other innate defence mechanism of the HLF species immediately leapt into action as they did a fair impersonation of a motorist stranded on a level crossing with a train coming.
Having realised they’d taken a dangerous path they swiftly completed a verbal three-point turn and fled quickly down the less treacherous, ‘value for money’ route because all on our side of the table were adamant that even if K7 is never fired up she has to at least look exactly like her former self when completed.
But, we were told, there’s little point in building K7 properly because she’d be full of useless, redundant and expensive systems.
Steering, brakes, engines and such would be installed and never used, the result… an unnecessary waste of public money.
At this juncture I made mention of a case offered as an example when once I’d asked whether the HLF were likely to scrimp and save – I seemed to be the only one who could recall it at that moment, however.
On that occasion I was told of a farmhouse wall constructed using rubble, a highly specialised technique employed by its one and only UK practitioner and a huge amount of cash. The wall was subsequently rendered.
“You could’ve built it with breeze blocks,” I said at the time, “if you were only going to render it!”
But the justification was that it then wouldn’t have been authentic, and neither will our boat be without her systems; yet water brakes and planing shoes must represent a different type of public-money-wastefulness of which there seem to be several manifestations.
Another variety is that caused by our three-year development of an application, at Cumbria Council’s extravagant expense based on assurances from the outset that our efforts would be looked upon favourably …
“Fine,” said I, trying something else “You build only what you perceive as value for money and we’ll finish the job…”
Oops! – more grinding of reverse gear, another wrong turn and the terrifying spectre of the HLF half building K7 into a neutered, museum-friendly invalid only for us to pump it full of testosterone and jetfuel.
Somewhere in the midst of this particular thread someone mentioned celebrating the advanced engineering that went into our boat, a very museumologist-friendly suggestion that was seized on gleefully. That was until I asked what excuse we then had for not completing the rebuild to an exacting standard during the course of this celebration… a fair question that served only to stoke a few fires and create a smokescreen.
Then another useful clue emerged, as an option culled from one of our earlier appraisals was dusted off.
Apparently hoping that sanctuary might lie in this direction, our hosts suggested that that a more appropriate approach may be to reconstruct K7 in such a way that those areas of new material are clearly delineated from what is original.
Here I sought precise guidance and proposed that we paint the rear of K7 in Bluebird blue whilst polishing the aluminium front like an American Airlines jet.
“Would this be acceptable?” I asked
More ideas bounced around the room as I attempted to write down this answer every time it was given but my eyes began to play tricks after I’d written ‘possibly’ twenty-seven times.
In an effort to elaborate on ‘possibly’ I then asked where more useful advice could be obtained – was told to acquire the services of a museumologist – and immediately suggested that I consult with such an individual whose museum is full of working exhibits… Beamish outdoor museum, for example… would that be acceptable? ( )
“Possibly…” – check mirrors – select reverse…
What gradually emerged is that the HLF are scared stiff of an operational K7, much as a flying Vulcan frightened the pants off them.
“You’re dismissing the desires of a lot of people?” I pointed out.
“This is not about people’s desires…” I was informed with a measure of indignation.
Well excuse me! But I imagined that choosing six numbers every week in the hope of winning a squillion quid had something to do with desire, after which the Lottery people then jealously guard the balance of our money to fund worthy causes – but you must make an application if you want some of it back and therein lies the first clue.
Of course it’s about people’s desires; a desire to count all that loot, to bring a project to fruition – the HLF didn’t exactly come to us with the idea, did they!
“So what if…” I suggested slyly, “K7 had never crashed? What if she’d lain undisturbed at the back of someone’s garage for thirty-eight years and was still in pristine condition?
Would the HLF not acquire her and put her in Vicky’s museum?”
But this time they spotted what was coming.
“How about we rebuild K7 and you do the museum thing...?” would have been my next offering had this not been anticipated by my opponent who, sticking with the driving simile, was rapidly developing reactions to challenge those of Michael Schumacher.
“No, I don’t think…” came the answer before I could land the blow.
“But you bought Thrust SSC and stuck it in the Coventry motor museum,” I countered. That was different, they assured me, because SSC was left a bit chipped and dented to show how original it all was.
“So we’ll take K7 on the lake for her triumphant homecoming then give her to you all wet and smelling of burnt jetfuel…”
To my absolute astonishment I was told that Coniston would not be an appropriate place to do this.
“Can you think of a more appropriate place?” I asked incredulously, but more crunching of gears and a frantic scramble towards the relative safety of museumology was already underway.
At this point I bowed out for a moment to check my phone as the unborn offspring remains unborn though locked and loaded – or should that be ‘engaged’?
No calls from the wife but the usual smattering of e-mails had arrived including a few relating to the project, which seems to be developing a dangerous head of steam.
I’ve heard all the…

Tell ’em Donald was a black, lesbian, asylum seeker from Afghanistan and the cheque will be in tomorrow’s post,

…messages and the less than complimentary suggestion that the project team stand close together in order to share a backbone, for which I occasionally think there may be some justification. Or that we’re doing the memory of Donald Campbell – fierce patriot and extremely gallant man that he was – a great disservice by not telling the HLF where to insert their application forms as he surely would have done by now.
This time, however, someone had made the amusing though slightly unhelpful suggestion that I rebuild K7 myself and plaster ‘No way HLF!’ on the tail much as the Virgin jets had ‘No way BA / AA’ on the tails after Sir Richard put British Airways firmly in their box.
I smiled as I switched off the phone to rejoin the fray but was soon dismayed by the next sad and entirely useless proposal that what we really must bring to the table is an application, not just to rebuild our boat, but to incorporate by some means, much of her history into the interpretation.
As most of us know, the 1966 / 67 spec was not only light-years from her original design but also another a massive leap from her previous, record breaking setup and so to meet this challenge we’d need somehow to represent at least two designs of cockpit, engine, fuel-system and sponson fairings. Various tail fins, literally dozens of spray baffles and paint colours, an assortment of instrumentation and, oh yes, don’t forget to include the crash damage and make the water-brake an option.
Being practical we can only really bring her back to 1967 spec without creating an even bigger abortion than the museumologists would have us build already.
But had the ‘experts’ done their homework, they’d know all this…


Worry not though, as with the happy image of Sir Richard’s jets in my mind, I treated myself to a first-class trip home on one of his sleek, red trains and as I sat there watching the scenery silently flashing past I decided that probably the time has come to once more take the bull by the other end.
We’re at the very least going to rebuild K7 so that she looks like her old self and no one has a valid reason for not putting the proper engineering into her. And so, with a pearl of wisdom borrowed from our old TV producer on the BBC documentary, all we really need to know is whether our would-be benefactors are going to ‘S**t or get off the pot!’
On a slightly more optimistic note, what did emerge from our meeting is that we can build pretty much what we want, allegedly, providing that…

• The engineering can be invested with an educational angle.
• We can show what is old and what is new.
• We tell sufficiently convincing lies about never starting the engine…

So watch out, we’re not done yet.


And finally, I’m sure that you all get sick of reading my ramblings so I asked our old friend Paul ‘The Hannarack’ Hannaford to write us a piece. Yes, I know, it’s a few days late but here it is and many thanks to Paul for taking the time to write it. If anyone else would like to contribute to the diary, please let us know.


Bluebird Diary – Ullswater 50 Paul Hannaford
Saturday July 23rd 2005 will mark the 50th Anniversary of Donald Campbell’s first world water speed record of 202.32mph, set on Ullswater in the beautiful Lake District. That record was the culmination of more than 6 years of effort, since Donald - as always loyally supported by Leo Villa – took up the challenge of initially retaining and then ultimately winning back his father’s WWSR for Great Britain.

After coming within 2mph of his father’s 1939 record in his Bluebird K4 on Coniston Water in 1949, subsequent modifications included converting the K4 into a prop-rider and having a second cockpit built for riding mechanic Leo Villa. In this form Donald won the Oltranza Cup on Lake Garda in Italy in 1951, before another attempt at Stanley Sayers 178.497mph record on Coniston Water met with disaster when the hull bottom was ripped out at 170mph! Thankfully Donald and Leo escaped unscathed.

Following the deaths of John Cobb and Mario Verga during attempts in 1952, Ken and Lewis Norris had been commissioned by Donald to design and build a new record-breaking boat to regain the record for Great Britain. Together with Donald and Leo, the four of them examined in great detail the cause of the accident that befell Cobb’s Crusader, before commencing design work on the new boat.

With both Cobb and Verga having catastrophic accidents around the 200mph mark, there was a feeling that there was in some way a “Water Barrier” around this speed. That “barrier” could have been mythical or a genuine danger. Certainly two deaths pointed to the latter and it thus provided the press with good copy.

The ‘C’ Boat – as it was originally known – started life as a prop-rider with an internal combustion engine and a goal of around 200mph. The layout was remarkably similar to the final jet-powered Bluebird K7 into which she evolved. Verga had somersaulted at 190mph in his prop drive Laura 3a and Cobb had nosedived at around 240mph in his jet powered Crusader. Believing the limit for a prop driven boats to be around 200mph (even today the two-way record is “only” 205mph!), Bluebird became jet-powered.

Designed at Norris Brothers under the stewardship of Ken and Lewis Norris, she was constructed at Samlesbury Engineering Ltd. near Blackburn around a steel tubular spaceframe manufactured by Accles & Pollock Ltd. Powered by a Metropolitan Vickers “Beryl” jet engine delivering around 3,800lbs thrust, Bluebird K7 was unveiled to the media in November 1954.

The venue for Donald’s attempt was to be at Ullswater, the most northern lake in the Lake District. This came about through an invitation by the Ullswater Steamship Navigation Company owned by Wavell Wakefield of the Castrol dynasty, who were also backing the venture.

Bluebird K7 was launched at Glenridding on the shores of Ullswater on 11th February 1955 by Donald’s New Zealand wife Dorothy with the words, “I name this boat Bluebird – may God bless her, her pilot and all who work on her.” The new craft underwent initial trials on the Westmoreland Lake. She was very low at the bows and would not get up on the plane. Modifications included enlarged sponsons but spray continued to be deflected into the jet intakes flaming out the engine. Various spray deflectors were experimented with including completely infilling the area between the sponsons and main hull. This allowed her to get up on the plane but would not allow her to exceed 150mph as it created too much lift. Eventually after numerous modifications and trim adjustments she was ready for a record attempt on Saturday 23rd July 1955.

Even by this date she had already endured many changes. The original flared fish tail had been removed, the sponsons enlarged and the spars originally on the same centre line were staggered, the front one higher, the rear one lower.

It seems strange to listen to those that say that you cannot rebuild Bluebird from her current position as “she won’t be original” when in fact her first record was set with a boat that was not 100% original to that that was unveiled at Samlesbury Engineering Ltd. in November 1955.

Subsequently from July 1955 until her final attempt in January 1967 she underwent countless modifications. The shape of her front nose changed, the cockpit canopy changed, the sponsons were raised and at certain times sported humps. Originally she had no tail fin (although early designs in 1953 showed a tail-fin!), she had a small tail fin fitted in 1958 and of course a tail fin from a Gnat fighter fitted for her final attempt in 1966/67.

Throughout the 1955-67 period there were other subtle aerodynamic changes so it is safe to assume that many body panels were replaced during that time, not to mention the tens of coats of paint she would have received in her lifetime and ultimately of course the replacement of the old faithful Beryl engine with the Bristol Siddeley Orpheus in 1966.

July 23rd 1955 dawned a little grey and misty with a very small chop on the water, certainly Bluebird never made an attempt again in her career on such water.

Ullswater is a kind of horizontal ‘L’ shape so Bluebird taxied from the jetty at Glenridding around a small rock outcrop on the heel of the ‘L’ before streaking through the measured kilo. Her speed for that first run was 215.08mph. Maurie Parfitt oversaw the refuelling at the far end but during the first run the aerial connection to the radio had snapped off so there was no contact with Leo Villa or any idea of speed for that first run.

On the return Donald took it a little easier with a speed of 189.57mph and a two-way average of 202.32mph, a new world water speed record. In a stroke Stan Sayers' record had been destroyed and Donald had passed through the “Water Barrier” unscathed.

It had taken Donald and the team 6 long years to become an overnight success.

Back at Glenridding Hotel Donald was greeting by the waiting press, a large crowd and more importantly his wife Dorothy, his mother Lady Dorothy and his sister Jean. There followed a celebratory dinner in the Wheel Bar Club within the Hotel.

Today the former Wheel Bar Club in the Glenridding Hotel is a library dedicated to the memory of Donald Campbell. It contains books, newspaper cuttings and articles relating to the record at Ullswater and Donald’s career. It was opened by Gina Campbell in 1996.

A year later Gina unveiled a small stone cairn beside the slipway where Bluebird was launched, commemorating that first of seven world water speed records that took Donald - as the plaque at Glennridding states - “Into the water barrier and beyond.”

© Paul Hannaford 2005

12th August 2005 - 11:30

What was it I said about the project developing a dangerous head of steam? Well be sure to set your alarm clocks for 9.00am Saturday morning and tune into Radio 5-Live because we’re all going down into the arena for a spot of tongue in cheek jousting.
Offering more excitement than Big Brother, (as does growing grass and drying paint), you’ll find, Gina, me and someone from the HLF on the radio. (Unless I’m in the maternity ward saying ‘push, breathe, push and nicking sly toots on the Entonox bottle…)
I wasn’t keen to begin with because after sitting through last week’s meeting I was convinced we’d only be subjected to more of the same.
“They’ll have their damage limitation department issue another load of excuses,” I said without enthusiasm when 5-Live first suggested I sacrifice my Saturday morning in bed.
“In that case they’ll do themselves no favours, because this is national radio,” I was told by the broadcaster-type person who’d called me out of the blue.
They might get away with it locally but they’ll have to front someone this time, thought I.
“Hmmm,” I wondered, still with visions of my comfy bed and endless future mornings trashed by a bawling infant, baby bottles, crappy-nappies, etc.
“They’ll only brief a team from the excuse development branch to liaise with the jargon generation office to appoint a spin-doctor for Saturday’s discussion,” I suggested pessimistically.
“We want them to tell us why their experts didn’t do their homework and whether or not they’re still on board,” I was told flatly.
This was about the time my ears pricked up.
“They can’t answer the ‘expert’ question,” I said, “because there’s not a valid excuse in the world. They dropped a bollock, as we say up here in Geordieland – end of story.
“And besides, I’m not really bothered whether they’re on board or not because our volunteer team is growing restless and will shortly make a start anyway.”
But therefrom germinated a glimmer of hope…
Consider for a second, what might happen if they can’t field a spin-doctor of such stellar ability that George W. Bush calls up with a job offer before the program goes off the air.
Imagine for one glorious moment that they appoint instead someone big enough, important enough and with sufficiently weighty gonads to stand up and be counted.
Someone with an inbuilt resistance to the systematic abolition of common sense that erodes the decision making process in all walks of life.
Someone who’ll scythe through the jargon and excuses and tell us that the nonsense has finally ended, that of course the HLF restores iconic objects every day and that it’s about time we did the same.
Just consider… or am I having another Angelina Jolie moment?


And finally… a public apology.

Our friend Vicky is not a ‘museumologist’, OK!
I may have inadvertently misled folk where the lovely Vicky and the above, distantly related sub-species are concerned, but I can assure you that this was never my intention.
Vicky wants to see our big blue boat out there on the lake the same as the rest of us. First of all because it would be a fantastic tribute to Donald and second, so she gets a million tourists through the doors and can therefore tell those museumologists in charge of funding small museums where to insert their application forms!
…Another thing, the Bae involvement is entirely Vicky’s baby – nothing to do with me at all except that I get to make the presentation.
In fact I went there alone because I actually missed the meeting where everyone else got a look around. I’d just come ashore from pair-trawling or Greenpeace or some other jaunt and couldn’t make it because I was knackered.
Right, that seems to be the record straight for the moment.

15th August 2005 - 12:00

Well, how shameful was Saturday morning’s performance?
Did you ever agree to fight the big lad in the bike sheds after school then find yourself the only one standing there? Maybe not – it’s probably a northern thing, but I bet you’ve walked down a country lane and watched startled rabbits diving for cover with panic in their eyes.
I had both thoughts on Saturday morning.
Wouldn’t you think that a sacrificial minion from the HLF office of public misdirection would have been jostled under the spotlight to at least have a go? (More thoughts of startled rabbits).
I know the request for just such a minion reached high into the organisation but nothing, zip, zero!
Us Geordies are an uncommonly determined bunch though, so the problem is not going to go away.
On a more positive note, I’d planned to have a relaxing weekend; what with all the chasing about I’ve done of late. That was until about five hundred e-mails arrived on Saturday morning. We took an extra thousand hits on the website too.
I spent all of Saturday and most of Sunday wading through them, thanking people for their support, saying, ‘yes, please do write to the HLF, great idea.’ – answering their questions, including an amusing exchange with a retired magistrate who was so horrified that he felt compelled to ask whether I’d reported with due accuracy on the recent meeting.
Absolutely, I assured him. Everything I wrote was said at that meeting, I’ll swear on anything that’s holy or you can stick me on a lie detector. I did try to make it a little more entertaining than the actual drudgery that took place, and there was rather more of it than I included in the diary, but that’s how it went. The old boy was still horrified.
We made Radio Three, Four and Five-Live as well as BBC News24. The Press Association called to get updated information and someone from a double-barrelled firm of lawyers called with a wicked suggestion but more of that when I know more.
Something else that may be of interest, I took the time to explain to another well-wisher about the problem with these experts and having read through it again thought it worth including here.

…I was told early in proceedings that the HLF would appoint their own experts to check out what we planned to do with their money and so I kept the proposals for engineering the conservation and restoration as brief as possible under the naïve assumption that if they were in any way unclear I’d get a phone call.
Part of our brief was to conserve as much of the boat as we could and in meeting their criteria I asked Airframe Assemblies to prepare some examples (see pictures below) of how they can join old panels to new in order to preserve as much of the original as humanly possible. Those samples were waiting here for the visit that never came.

I was unshakeable in that our proposed treatment of the boat was like that of a seal hunted by the old Eskimos. Nothing would go to waste.
Then I read in an ‘expert’ advisor’s report that restoring the boat would result in ‘considerable loss of the original fabric’ – well where did that load of nonsense come from?
Where would this lost fabric go after we’d lost it… in the skip? I think not.
It was a small thing that ultimately exerted a disproportionately large influence on our application, and yet it’s totally erroneous due to lack of basic research.
Now look at this the other way, just suppose – and this is definitely not an Angelina Jolie moment – that we started lovingly dismantling Bluebird, but to our growing horror with every rivet came a shower of worrying, white oxide. One steel bolt after another snapped in the threads and rusty lacework opened in the space-frame as we removed the stressed skin until K7 started to sag in the middle.
Help! We’d cry, and a disaster management strategy would have to be hastily formulated – and paid for – by the HLF while the embarrassing calamity could not be kept under wraps for long.
You see, those experts had a duty to their employer – if to no one else – to do their homework on this if only to protect the corporate backside from taking a kicking in the event that we didn’t know what we were doing.
Their employer also had a duty to make sure that the work was properly carried out before believing that there would be ‘a considerable loss of the original fabric’ and having to cope with the ensuing farce.
They tried to tell me that experts don’t need to involve themselves with nuts and bolts – it’s the principles of ‘conservation, preservation and restoration’, (another offering from the jargon generation office that I forgot to include in the last updates), that concern them. Yet how can they tell us that those principles are not inextricably linked to such things as, how much material we have, its condition, how it’s been stored – and don’t forget the desires of so many people…

I have to make a few calls today, send some e-mails and write a letter or two so there’ll soon be more to follow.

16th August 2005 - 16:00

The dust is settling at last, it seems, though I did make the local TV news last night and the sentiment was unquestionably in our favour. I think the general consensus is that this has gone on so long that it’s becoming a nonsense.
Also, for some reason the media have an unshakeable belief that we’ve been turned down twice. I’ve tried to set the record straight but they’ll not have it so we’ll just have to enjoy the outcry should we be rejected a third time.
Here’s a small piece that Chris Williams sent over, as we’re having you lot do some of the diary pieces these days. It’s really good and thanks to Chris for putting it together. Brian Millin has also written a short piece and posed a list of his characteristically incisive questions so we’ll do that later in the week. Any other takers?


Ullswater 50 years on. A quiet tribute

On Saturday the 23rd July this year I met up with a friend of mine Chris Knapman at Ullswater. Chris first contacted me about a photo I had from 1955 showing Bluebird K7 being towed by two support boats used by the Bluebird team for the World Water Speed record attempt at that time. The two boats are Albatross's fitted with a Ford 100E 1172cc petrol engine and about thirteen feet long. Chris was lucky enough to own one and it is believed to be the one on the right in the photo. Gina Campbell has signed the deck of the boat when she herself took it on Ullswater for the 40th anniversary when she opened the Campbell library at the Glenridding Hotel. Chris was grateful for the help I gave him in getting a good quality copy of the photo and as much information about it from the owner as I was able, and he offered me a ride in the Albatross on the 50th anniversary. Naturally I jumped at the chance, and true to his word we arranged to meet 50 years to the day (and probably the hour) Donald Campbell and Bluebird K7 broke the World Water Speed record at 202.32mph and went through the water barrier. A new record, and the first time jet propulsion had been used successfully at over 200mph. This event was the start of an adventure that would end in tragedy and mystery, and become the Bluebird K7 story.

After paddling away from the Jetty (the engine is a direct drive to the propeller) and getting lined up on the lake, Chris started the engine and we were off. We went down the lake and through the old measured kilometre course and then to the old refuelling station and back again. It was moving to think we were on the lake 50 years to the day in one of the original support boats, following in the footsteps (so to speak) of the great man himself. Ullswater is smaller and a dogleg shape compared to Coniston and it must have taken great courage to open up a 3750 lbs thrust jet engine and shoot down the lake at 200mph+. There is a 10 mph speed limit on the lake now, but Chris did open it up for a short time and got her planing. Further down the lake we were stopped and questioned by the patrol boat about our speeding antics, but when we pointed out the significance of the date he seemed to forget about our minor indiscretion. I'm sure Donald Campbell would have found that hilarious and thoroughly approved of our turn of speed 50 years to the day in commemoration of his achievements. Paul Evans (member of the 1966/67 Bluebird team) agreed that the skipper would have found it highly amusing and also would have been grateful for the tribute as was Paul. Later, we toasted the skipper and drank to his memory and all in all had a memorable day. Many thanks to Chris Knapman for the privilege, and for taking my 12 year old son out in the boat too. It's something he will always remember, as will I.

The Campbell library at the Glenridding was a little short on content and no one there knew of the significance of the day. There was no official event to mark the historic anniversary and everyone seemed to be treating it as just another day. A couple were getting married at the Inn on the Lake hotel (formally the Ullswater Hotel) blissfully unaware of the date they had chosen. It's very disappointing to think that Ullswater had forgotten.

Chris Knapman is always pleased to hear from anyone with memories/photos of the support boats either at Ullswater or the 1950’s Coniston runs.
[email protected]


17th August 2005 - 13:30

The slumbering giant has stirred!

I fell asleep last night when I got in from work – just one of those days when I arrived home knackered and so was very disorientated and sleepy at half-seven when I woke up and set off in search of coffee to dissolve the cobwebs.
But I stopped off on the way to poke at the computer and see what else had materialised while I slept.
What I discovered on our guestbook worked just as well as coffee, because someone called ‘Heritage Lottery Fund’ had posted there while I slept, it says:

The HLF would simply like to state that, contrary to the website claims, it did put forward two very senior spokespeople last week to discuss through the media the plans for the Bluebird and the reasons why the last bid was unsuccessful. Unfortunately, the BBC radio producer did not use either interview.

Now that’s intriguing – I’d be asking what this means, especially as the producer in question saw fit to send a mobile radio station complete with satellite uplink and pretty, blonde reporter all the way from Manchester in order that I could have my say…

Enclosed here is our positioning statement which would have been used as the basis for those interviews.

‘Positioning statement’? Now there’s a bit of jargon I hadn’t heard before…

The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) was unable to support an application from the Ruskin Museum in Cumbria for the acquisition, restoration and display of the Bluebird K7 to full working order in March 2005.

We have advised the applicant – the Ruskin Museum - that a conservation-led approach towards the restoration of Bluebird K7, leading to an interesting display in controlled conditions at the Ruskin Museum and celebrating the achievements she represents, is more likely to attract HLF funding support in the future. We recently had a very constructive meeting with the Museum to explore ways of taking this forward.

Here we go again folks – conservation led approach (what the hell does that mean? I keep asking.) – interesting display in controlled conditions – celebrating the achievements she represents... The jargon generation department must’ve worked overtime on this one! And as for a ‘very constructive meeting’, I was there – were you?
I refer anyone who hasn’t yet read the minutes of said meeting to the diary entry of 8th August 2005.

“As you can imagine, we only very rarely support the restoration to working order of high speed vehicles because of the very high risks posed to them when back in action,” comments Tony Jones, Heritage Lottery Fund Manager for the North West.

Tony, thanks for throwing me that one, you’re a mate!
You see, ‘very rarely’ will do very nicely thank you. Considering that your beautifully restored Flying Scotsman can burn Bluebird’s weight in coal in an afternoon or you could safely tuck our blue boat into the bomb-bay of your shortly to fly Vulcan, we’re not asking for much.
So can we have our rebuild pencilled in as next year’s ‘very rare’ restoration project – please?

“We fully recognise the importance and drama of the Bluebird story and are encouraging the applicant to focus on a museum-led conservation project which would allow that story to be told. This approach would also ensure that any investment of Lottery money in Bluebird is protected for the future under proper conditions.”

Uh oh! Here we go with the jargon again – ‘museum-led conservation project’ It just keeps spewing forth yet nowhere, it seems, can you actually find the precise meaning of any of it written down or presented in a sufficiently unambiguous form that it’s possible to work from it.
Perhaps ‘museum-led conservation project’ was what happened to the Waverly paddle steamer?

HLF has invested over £35.4million into Cumbria and will continue to support heritage-led projects in the region.

Marvellous! 35 million, a good week’s payout on the Lottery and a masterful deflection by the office of public misdirection. What does the above have to do with Bluebird? Except to hint that our project is not ‘heritage-led’.

Grants include a previous award to the Ruskin Museum of £629,000 to preserve the collection of Ruskin watercolours and allow better interpretation and management of the collection. Blackwell House, Conishead Priory and The Wordsworth Trust have all benefited from HLF grants in the past 10 years.

Splendid! So if Vicky’s museum is such a good bet, let her have what we need to get this job kicked off…
And if not, tell us, please, because we know Bluebird will just about fit in the museum as it is and we’ve everything we need to complete the restoration work one way or another. The project wouldn’t be a hundred percent of what we’d envisaged but it might have to do.
So, while we have your ear ‘Heritage Lottery Fund’, (you forgot to leave your name on the guestbook), here’s our jargon-free positioning statement.


The HLF sat back and watched while we wasted over 50K – fifty thousand pounds of Cumbrian rate-payer’s money on the development of an application based entirely on early assurances that the principles of our application would meet with HLF support.
Our wishes and intentions were made fully known to the HLF before we spent so much as a penny and have been throughout via several face-to-face meetings and our website diary, which the HLF clearly monitors.
Four years on and a huge amount of hard work later we find the goalposts moved out of sight and our efforts seemingly in vain; the full implications of which we are yet to explore.


So, ‘Heritage Lottery Fund’, do we continue to spend Cumbria’s money – because we can’t cut our consultants loose at this critical juncture – or can we resolve this amicably and without wasting another six months? We don’t want this crazy situation any more than you do; we’d rather be telling the world what a fantastic organisation the HLF really is. But the public perception – though I can’t imagine where they get it from – is that the HLF squanders millions on worthless projects and as soon as we turn up with an indisputable chunk of British heritage we’re being messed about!

Here’s a deal – how about the HLF rebuilds the hull, conserving everything in sight as we’ve always proposed to do. Build Vicky’s extension so we can properly house Bluebird, then our volunteer team will install the engine and systems. That way you didn’t restore K7 to full working order – we did.
We can discuss the extent to which Bluebird is then operated – or not – later on.
We’ll even have the various shades of Bluebird-blue analysed so we can paint the original material one shade and the new stuff another. That way the HLF will also have its wish that old and new can be told apart.
And best of all, I will pay for the systems and the paint out of my own pocket so we can ditch ‘value for money’ from our lexicon of indecipherable jargon. How does that sound?
The world eagerly awaits your response…

19th August 2005 - 16:00

Revised positioning statement.

The Bluebird Project would simply like to state that our impetuous-Geordie-led approach to reporting bureaucratic incompetence has lead to an interesting display, under controlled conditions, of local government wrath that failed completely to celebrate the achievements of our web diary.
We recently had a very constructive bollocking by said authority resulting in a backward-pedalling-led, conservation-of-the-nether-regions, project.
Our suggestion that Cumbrian ratepayers suffered to the entire tune of fifty thousand pounds was erroneous and the true figure is actually a trifling £8,200; the £41,800 balance having been extracted from the Rural Regeneration pot, which was a perfectly legitimate spend had we not been messed about.
In conclusion, and as result of our pedantic-local-government-officer-not-wishing-to-have-his-behind-in-a-sling-led, accountancy corrective measures project I wish to apologise wholeheartedly, accept full responsibility for inaccurate reporting and point out how far wrong it’s possible to go by failing to conduct even the most basic research.

The correct wording should have been ‘tax-payers money’, leading us to realise that it’s not merely the Cumbrians who’ve been hit – it’s all of us!
Thanks for the call, guys, bollocking taken gracefully and sincere apologies for any misunderstanding.


And now for something completely different.

As it seems to be national ‘air your dirty washing in public’ week, Brian and I have agreed to splash a little of our discussions on the diary pages and give you all a taste of what we put each other through on an almost daily basis.
Cheers, Brian.

Just a short recap and to try and make some sense of what is publicly said re HLF and those wishing to restore K7 in whatever form that restoration takes. We have exchanged numerous emails over the years, a process you once described as jousting. This practice, with each side seeking to gain an advantage, almost always ends in a draw. Beyond our private exchanges, I get emails saying that I should shut up as it is none of my business. I beg to differ. Once K7 was out of the water and the wheels set in motion to attract public funds, we are all free to comment and I feel able to comment as little or as much as I wish on the progress, lack of progress or indeed any point I desire.
Without wishing to wind the clock all the way back to the early post recovery period, as I am sure you and me are both fed up with the arguments we had at that time, we come up to date with the ongoing battle with the HLF and funding.
All through your discussions and applications, I have sought to seek clarification on what has been publicly said and what has actually occurred. As far as I know (and it can be difficult finding out who is talking to who), the Jura Report was one of the early records denied to me by all parties. I pursued the Chief Executive for months but in the end the Freedom of Information Act came to my rescue and I finally received the report minus some financial calculations. Why was this report denied a public review? Was it because whilst supporting K7 being housed in Coniston, it failed to come up with any economic reason for this conclusion? The Ruskin, even with K7, would remain dependent on its grants and would still be a low-volume visitor attraction compared to others in Cumbria. This would be crucial in gaining funds from any regeneration grants.
Then we move to the HLF application made by The Ruskin and the fall-out from the application being rejected. It was put out for public consumption that the expert reports were in the main defective and mostly nonsense. When the selectivity that you had applied was exposed, you said “… the quotes that I included from the reports were seen by some to be the pick of the crop and my response to that is that of course they were. There are many more positive quotes than negative ones but I reckoned that showing the worst of it was appropriate enough.
What conclusions can we draw when a supporter of restoration first claims that the application failed because of adverse expert comment but then admits that the reports contained more positives than negatives? I am not going to speculate other than to say that most people, as evidenced by guest-book contributions believed what they were told by Bill rather than the truth that later emerged . So the misinformation that was circulated had the desired effect, if this was to draw in criticism of the HLF – but this can be counter-productive.

[I’m not sure that I follow the above. Admittedly the reports did contain positive and supportive elements, well one of them did at least, but as I have pointed out there were negatives that were not only ill-informed and assumptive but which managed to carry sufficient weight to overbalance the application, ‘considerable loss of original fabric’ being a good example.
And as for a ‘truth that later emerged’, I’m completely at a loss?
Regarding criticism of the HLF, I fervently hope, (and believe) that as an organisation they have mankind’s great ability to spot the glitches, work through them and make progress – without taking a huff.]

All through the period since K7 was raised, factual information has been minimal and the reporting selective, so that crucial issues remain “grey”. Much has been said and written about the HLF application, but not by the applicant which is, we should remember, The Ruskin Museum. To make progress, just give them the boat, give them the marketing rights and allow them to issue any press statements on behalf of the grant application progress and restoration issues. The public squabble with the HLF is not good and should end.

[Hear, hear! Or is it ‘here, here’? I never was sure about that.]

Start again with the points of co-ownership, fund raising and marketing rights to K7 that are clear for all to see.
I would suggest that the grant application might have been more successful if specific “grey “areas had been made clear:
# - K7 to become the property of an independent Charitable Trust or, even better, an existing registered charity such as the Ruskin Museum
# - Marketing rights accruing from K7 be gifted from The Campbell Family Heritage Trust to the Ruskin in perpetuity (it is matter of public record that the Ruskin relies on ongoing grant support to remain open) and has very limited marketing budgets
# - The position on storage charges to be cleared up
What are the chances of the above Bill?

Brian Millin

[All very interesting but the above ‘grey’ areas have absolutely no bearing on the current situation. The application stumbled on technical points, which have been exhaustively explained and nothing whatsoever to do with trusts, charities, gifts or storage charges.
The ‘grey’ bits appear grey for very simple reasons, one being that no one bar the conspiracy theorists have even thought of half of it!
Another reason is that everything we post on here invariably comes back to me dissected, investigated and frequently invested with fascinating slants that as a full time fiction writer I wouldn’t dare use as part of a plot.
The ‘storage charges’ being just such a case in point, and now that the idea has been put in my head I might slap a million quid’s worth of storage on there – or maybe I won’t.
Now then, anyone who has ever contacted me will know that if you send an e-mail I will reply. Not always immediately but I will reply. However, some people send me ten e-mails for every one I receive from elsewhere and I just don’t have the time to keep saying the same things in different ways.
I have already explained privately that I don’t have answers to the above questions simply because they are not issues that currently affect what we’re doing and for that reason have not been on the agenda at any of our meetings for a very long time.
Some of those issues were skirted over four years ago but if I mention what I recall of it and get it wrong, or things are subsequently changed, as they may be, there’ll be another pointless, forensic dissection of every syllable and to what end?
I spent all of last Saturday and half of Sunday dealing with the immensely supportive and positive fallout from the radio programmes while my painfully pregnant wife became what she calls a ‘Bluebird widow’. It’ll be a kiddie next and I’m sorry, but widow is one thing, orphan I won’t do.


And finally.

I received this via e-mail today, and to my immense amusement discovered that someone who clearly shares my sense of humour had also copied it to:

[email protected]

So should anyone wish to contact them directly perhaps that’s the place to send it. More soon and have a great weekend everyone.

26th August 2005 - 14:00

Phew! That was exciting.
It began on Thursday morning at precisely four twenty-six when I was kicked awake and asked to read the digital clock because Rachel wasn’t wearing her glasses.
This happened again at about ten past five and thereafter at regular intervals until I actually woke up voluntarily at about eight to discover that the unsprung offspring was on the move and had been for most of the night.
By lunchtime we were in the hospital but after a bit of James Herriott type investigation we were sent home and told that the little-un was hours away from making an appearance.
One hour and twenty minutes later we were back, and this time Mr ‘erriott threw us straight into the delivery suite with a midwife and a box of tools.
Now then, I must’ve heard a thousand times in the last few weeks that if men had to endure labour they’d only ever have one child, but I sense a fundamental flaw in that theory.
You see, I reckon that if men had to endure labour, they’d do it in a narcotic haze and come down about three days later feeling like they’d been on a bender and with total amnesia. Then they’d probably start asking:
“Baby… what baby?” – because blokes would have absolutely no desire whatsoever to be gas and air heroes. Bollocks to that; give us the drugs!
As a diver I’ve experienced more inert-gas-narcosis than I care to remember and trust me when I say that it is far from adequate protection against the pain of having a sensitive orifice brutally expanded to the size of a ship’s porthole!
Unfortunately on this occasion they wouldn’t let me try the Pethidine so I can’t give a direct appraisal but it looks like fun.

Anyway, cutting a long story short, and after three hours of hard work – one of which was spent with the poor creature jammed firmly in the U-bend – Lucy Elder-Smith was born at 17 minutes after 7 weighing 7lb 7oz, much to Novie’s delight because it has lots of sevens in it.
Novie – you’re a true anorak.
Chris Williams also mailed his encouragement that I should cut the cord – ‘It’ll help you to bond’ he told me – but I wasn’t keen.
I still wasn’t keen when they handed me a pair of idiot-proof scissors and said ‘go on then, Dad’.
Unfortunately, they’d isolated a length of pipe about 10mm long between the clamp and the forceps, which was consequently pressurised to about 50 atmospheres so when I cut it, well… Has anyone seen the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan?
Fortunately, for me at least, I was the only one in the room that didn’t look like they’d been shot and as regards Chris’s bonding theory, he was right, I stuck to everything I touched after that. But it was fun, and not to be missed

Anyway, back to our big, blue boat now that we have calm after the storm.
Despite pointing out, justly I believe, where we’d been mistreated, we have been giving thought to those genuine issues that remain with our project and this has generated some interesting discussion.
It has always been a possibility that we’d not start Bluebird’s engine in the foreseeable future, but that was never seen as an excuse to do less than a proper job on her structure and with or without engine power the plan is still to re-float Bluebird on the lake before she goes into Vicky’s museum.
All that moaning on about the lack of volunteers, value for money or whether or not the systems go back properly that cropped up out of nowhere can now be safely put to bed too because we can roll all those elements into one as we finish the job.
One problem that has always been particularly thorny is this idea of having old and new clearly distinguishable but all solutions to date have resulted in Bluebird – famous for being blue – finishing up, well… not very blue at all.
So, I was wondering, does anyone out there know a paint technologist?

Can we use a paint system whereby the boat is all the same colour in daylight but with old and new fluorescing under UV or whatever in such a way that the contrast is dramatic?
That way the exhibition designers can get all excited about fancy light bulbs and this old versus new conundrum can be switched on and off to suit everyone.

Anyone know the answer to save me a few days of research?

Right, got to go, nappy to change.

2nd September 2005 - 16:00

Just a small update to let you all know that we haven’t gone away.
I had the chance to read Dave Tremayne’s article in Octane magazine today and it’s a spot-on piece of work. One of the most accurate accounts of what happened leading up to Bluebird’s recovery that I’ve read and there have been some truly dreadful attempts.
It’s true enough that I always harboured a secret desire to find Donald. Locating the wreck was challenging but it’d been done before and for that reason wasn’t all that exciting – but finding Donald – now that was different.
One thing I never considered however, never even allowed into my head at the time, was the possibility of raising the wreck. That came as a total shock and the news was actually given to me by Mike Rossiter in the lounge at Robbie’s place in Coniston.
You know how you can always remember where you were when incredible things happen?
He came through the door wearing a dazed expression and I knew he’d just been on the phone for a while but I’d imagined it was just another of his TV producer type calls. He seemed stunned and I was too when he told me that the decision had been taken to raise the wreck.
The basis at the time as I recall was that with or without my efforts someone would come looking for the boat and if that were to happen later rather than sooner there would inevitably be fewer people left alive to make the important decisions.
I’ve made no secret of my belief that the boat should not have been left in that cold, dark lake and I dived it a few times then watched people in the Bluebird Café showing black and white pictures to their kids.
I thought it such a shame that I was the only one who could go and have a real look and wouldn’t it be great if everyone could do likewise, but I was still gobsmacked when it all came true.


Back to the present and we’re making some progress with the old versus new paint thing. I’ve been in contact with an American supplier of theatrical paints who make a UV fluorescent lacquer and other enquiries are being made in the UK so we’ll turn up some pics shortly of what this stuff can do and post them up here for you all to have a look.
Of course this approach to the problem is probably anathema to most museumologists so they’ll no doubt huff and puff about it but sometimes it takes new thoughts and ideas to move things along.
I also spoke this week with Peter Baukham of Argos Inspection. His company has pledged since day-one to support us with any non destructive testing we might need and he has already X-rayed part of K7’s forward structure to make sure it’s good enough to go back.

Loss of original fabric… not from the forward spaceframe, I can assure you.

So when I get some digital images from that process they’ll be posted too.
And finally, as already mentioned, I’m off to make a presentation for Bae later in the month but in the meantime they’ve had an idea that may revolutionise the way in which experts assess what’s to be done – they’re going to come and have a look.
Yes, they’re going to send real people to actually look at the job and make decisions based on what they see. Incredible isn’t it.
I’ll let you all know how it goes.