RUSKIN MUSEUM, CUMBRIA vs BILL SMITH
A bitter dispute as to ownership and rights to operate, has broken out and is still unresolved at time of writing (25-01-2023). We are sure all fans of Bluebird land and water speed record vehicles, will be pleased to see the K7, above, running again on water. As many readers will know, Bill Smith has spent 15 years of his life restoring the jet powered Bluebird, the passion of Donald Campbell, until he pushed the design too far in 1967. Despite agreement as to operational rights, the Ruskin Museum in Cumbria is now seeking to default on that agreement, without offering Mr Smith compensation for his fifteen years of project management and time spent actually working on the fated hydroplane.
This might seem like a one off dispute, until you look back in time at the various disputes between Sir Malcolm Campbell and Rolls-Royce, Donald Campbell and Ken Norris, and Don Wales and the designer/builder of the Bluebird Electric racing cars. Taken in that context, the present dispute is just another in a chain, that seems to have passed down the family as an embedded DNA profile. Of course that is just speculation, whereas the history of disputes is indisputable. When it comes to paying, just like the addiction to speed, it seems to run in the family, not to honour agreements, allegedly. In the case above, the designer was owed £62,000 pounds in 1997. This sum was agreed. There is a tape recording (and transcript) of Don Wales admitting the debt, but deciding not to pay. We wonder if Bill Smith had the foresight to record conversations. We wonder if there is anything in writing. If not, what a trusting soul the amateur diver was. You may remember Robert the Bruce and William Wallace being betrayed? Sixty-two thousand pounds was the value of the designer's house in Polegate - in 1997/8. How many people can afford to take that kind of hit in their lives? These are cold hard indisputable facts. It is also a fact, that Don Wales knew a high up Councillor at Wealden District Council. And that illegally, they were providing data protected papers to Mr Wales in connection with the above litigation. In addition, Sussex police were aiding and abetting this Council, perpetuating a long-term planning fraud by the local authority. Yes, almost unbelievable, but it is true 0 wheels within wheels. Just like the fast track Covid procurements, with £millions in an offshore account, allegedly. Corruption is rife in the UK at the very highest levels. Not unique of course, with the EU also infected.
The K7 salvaged in 2001 and on its final run of legend 4 January 1967 - pictures 34 years apart.
ITV.COM 23 FEBRUARY 2023 - LEGAL PAPERS SERVED TP GET DONALD CAMPBELL'S BLUEBIRD BACK TO CUMBRIA
OF BLUEBIRD K7
Following the raising of the the largest section of the boat, representing approximately two-thirds of the main hull, Donald Campbell's body was recovered in May of 2001. There then followed a heck of a hullabaloo between the remaining family members, much reported in the press, to include the threat of litigation, where Filching Manor Motor Museum owner Paul Foulkes-Halbard had paid coin of the realm for salvage rights - but this little detail seemed to have been overlooked in the rush to claim the wreck, where at the time it looked like lottery money may be forthcoming for a project of some sorts. As you can imagine, with Lottery money in the offing, the scramble for rights must have been incredible. Gina Campbell no offence, but not exactly a classic vehicle restorer, bequeathed the wreck to the Ruskin Museum, on the understanding that Bill Smith's team would restore the K7, on the basis of the right to operate her.
That was how the story unfolded, and now we hear legal papers have been served on restoration manager, Bill Smith. We think most readers will agree that without Bill Smith's offer to restore the K7, the Lottery bid to build a display unit, would not have succeeded. Hence, the Ruskin Museum and Campbell Trust, owe Bill a massive debt of gratitude. How then did they propose paying him back?
Bill Smith - Bluebird restoration project manager and salvage diver, wearing the embroidered sweatshirt with union jack emblem. Bill is a practical hands on type of chap with a serious range of skills that he brings to the table, on any project that he is involved in. Another attribute worthy of mention is his stamina; both mental and physical. You need this blend of qualities to see projects like the K7 restoration through.
JANUARY 10 2005 - NEWS & STAR
HOPES are high that lottery funding could be granted to allow Donald Campbell’s legendary boat Bluebird to be restored and put on display in the Lake District.
SONAR SURVEY - Using the latest technology the team upgraded their equipment to road test a bit of kit that improved on the old sonar, in being able to read the lake bed in one sweep from a central course, where previously it took several trips up and down in a grid pattern, to be able to re-create an image of the lake bed from a mosaic of scans all knitted together digitally. This sonar performed flawlessly, but that performance was let down when a £40 computer hard-drive decided to fail leaving them without a system at all.
This is where the legal action is reaching boiling point
COMMENT - The K7 is no longer design protected, meaning that anyone can build an improved boat or a replica for themselves or their event, etc. It is no different to building a scale model in its appreciation of the art. It is also no different to building a classic car replica.
But why? When Donald Campbell proved what Ken Norris feared most; that the Bluebird had design limitations. Clearly, it would be unrealistic to build a replica with built in limitation, just as the plans to run the original K7 again - are folly, save only for nostalgic occasions at a safe slow speed.
Restoring the original K7 somehow takes away the horror of the inevitable somersault that took the life of a very brave man, some said suicidal and others that the flip was a scam - it was not of course - it happened.
Restoration though is in some measure like saying that the fatal run never happened and all that the wreckage represented is now lost, save for photographs (and maybe a log) of the restoration. This is much the same situation as when Babs was dug up from the beach at Pendine, when maybe it should have been left as a memorial - and a replica taken its place in the Museum. This view should not detract from the superb efforts of Bill Smith and his crew, but is rather the observation of many. Now that the K7 is risen like a phoenix, obviously we are extremely pleased that the project is in such capable hands.
The anniversary was for the CN7 and K7, with Tonia Bern-Campbell as a guest speaker - what a special treat for Donald Campbell enthusiasts.
Donald Campbell looked to embrace future technology and put it to the test.
The K777, piloted by Jim Noone. It seemed a little nose heavy during trials, suggesting that some re-trimming might be in order. This was a problem that Leo Villa and Donald Campbell came across, sometimes resorting to weights. There is a knack to getting the sponsons to rise above their bow wave. We note that most radio control models of the K7 do not have difficulty getting onto the plane.
Campbell's last words on his final run were, via radio intercom:
SIR MALCOLM CAMPBELL'S BLUE BIRDS
DONALD CAMPBELL'S BLUEBIRDS
Jetstar (not a bluebird)
Donald Campbell's K7 world water speed record boat, Lake Coniston 1967
LINKS & REFERENCE