The widow of the late steam engineer and TV presenter Fred Dibnah today made an emotional appeal for a decorative two foot gold-painted spanner to be returned after she left it behind at a function in the West Midlands.
Sheila Dibnah believes she left the spanner on a grass verge outside Worfield Golf Club, near Wolverhampton, while she was packing up her car after speaking at a function.
She only realised what had happened days later – but no-one at the club has seen the spanner since.
Today she made a direct appeal to Express & Star readers to help her find the golden spanner, which she says has huge sentimental value.
It was used as a table decoration at the couple’s wedding in Bolton in 1998 and Mrs Dibnah says it is irreplaceable.
The spanner originally belonged to her Bolton-born husband, who was famed for his numerous TV series on the country’s industrial heritage and died in 2004.
And she now takes it to venues across the country when she tours with her talk, called Life With Steeplejack Fred.
Mrs Dibnah, aged 55, was speaking at the Bridgnorth Ladies’ Luncheon group on February 28 and left the golf club at about 3.30pm.
But while she was loading up her car, she was distracted by talking to someone and believes she may have left it on the ground before driving off.
Now she is appealing for anyone with information to contact her and help her track it down, and is offering a £50 reward for its safe return.
She said: “I am desperate. I just hope someone can help me.
“I’ve always had a thing about spanners since I was a little girl so we decorated all the tables with them, and this two foot spanner was on our table.
“Fred had had it for years and he painted it gold specially.
“We had a shared interest in industry and engineering, especially as I grew up in the industrial north of England.
“My dad used to take me to scrapyards and I used to play with spanners instead of dolls. I used to call them ‘sturtumps’.
“This spanner is very significant to me and I thought it was a good way to explain our relationship so I always take it to my talks.
“I’ve taken it with me to functions ever since all over the country and I can’t believe it’s gone.”
Mrs Dibnah, who had previously worked as a magician’s assistant, met her future husband in 1996, after her son Nathan persuaded her to take him to see his house, which was something of a tourist attraction in her native Bolton.
They got married at Bolton Register Office, where Mr Dibnah arrived on a traction engine and insisted on wearing his favourite flat cap.
They later boarded a steam engine to set off for their honeymoon – at Wigan Pier. It was his third marriage and they spent six years together before his death from cancer in 2004, at the age of 66.
Last year she clocked up 2,500 miles giving talks around the country about her husband’s life, and she says it is important for her to keep his memory alive.
She recently met Eastenders and Coronation Street actress Michelle Collins at a function and told her the story of the spanner.
The Black Country and Wolverhampton areas were close to her late husband’s heart, she says, with one of his first documentaries being filmed at the Black Country Living Museum in Dudley.
He returned to the region several times to film items about its industrial heritage, including his Fred Dibnah’s Age of Steam series in which he toured the country on a traction engine shortly before his death.
Mrs Dibnah said the spanner is a reminder of their time together and she feels “lost” without it.
She believes someone may have seen it and picked it up without realising its sentimental value to her.
She added: “It’s no use to anybody else. Someone must have seen it on the ground and thought it looked interesting, without knowing what it was.
“Hopefully if they now realise how important it is they might hand it back.
“I am desperate for help and I hope Express & Star readers can help.”
* Have you come across Fred’s golden spanner? Call 01902 319410 or email firstname.lastname@example.org