Bluebird K7

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I’m not sure if anyone else is following the sad story of Donald Campbell’s Bluebird K7?

To cut a long story short……

January 1967, Donald Campbell crashes Bluebird on Lake Coniston at around 300mph and is killed instantly.

Military divers fail to locate the wreck and remains of DC which now lie at the bottom of the lake.

Fast forward to 2001 when a diver called Bill Smith locates the wreck and with the permission of DC’s family raises it.

DC’s remains are located soon after and given a proper burial in the local church at Coniston.

The family donate the remains of Bluebird to the Ruskin Museum, also in Coniston, on the condition that it is displayed in restored condition. They don’t want a wreck displayed.

A team of volunteers lead by Bill Smith painstakingly restores Bluebird over the course of 20 years, they even run it and serious consideration is given to trying to break DC’s record in it.

A plan is proposed whereby Bluebird will live at the Museum for 9 months of the year but will be released to Bill Smith for demonstration runs and roadshows etc for the other 3.

At some point relations between the Ruskin Museum and Bill Smith breaks down with both sides claiming ownership of Bluebird and with differing opinions on what is best for her.

Earlier this week the Ruskin Museum, with the support of Gina Campbell (DC’s daughter) issues court proceedings against Bill Smith to have Bluebird returned to them.

A sad state of affairs for an iconic machine.

Anyone else following this story? What’s the opinion of Arrse? Who’s in the right here? What do you think is best for Bluebird? Should she have been left alone on the bed of Coniston?

3AEFF9DE-5E08-4381-814D-EFD5093A95D7.jpeg
 

Ravers

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My personal take on it…..

Legally the Ruskin Museum own it, the Bluebird Project (Bill Smith) have done a fine job of raising and restoring it, but this has been done on a voluntary basis, at no point was control or ownership implied or given.

The family’s (Gina Campbell’s) wishes should be honoured here above all else. It’s her Dad’s boat and it was her family that gifted it to the Museum.

However it is a magnificent machine with great historical importance and it is a shame for it to live in a museum permanently. It should be run from time to time and I certainly agree that the more people who see it running, the better. Especially kids. What an inspirational thing for a kid with an interest in science / engineering.

The 9-3 month deal seemed to be a good compromise but from what I understand the Bluebird Project are the ones who rejected this as the proposed months when it would be released to them, where not ideal weather wise for runs.

Lots of interesting reading on Facebook.
 
I think, were I Donald Campbell - I would prefer my record breaking attempt to be memorialised by having the boat on display if possible, as opposed to lying in bits on the bottom of the lake -forever unseen, and thence forgotton
 

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Gina Campbell released this statement today….

Hello everyone, I just want to say a few words following the furore on social media yesterday after my friends at The Ruskin Museum in Coniston issued a statement saying they had sent a Letter of Claim to Bill Smith and the Bluebird Project Ltd.

You’ll understand of course that I have been party to the discussion that led up to this and wholeheartedly back the Museum in this, they have been left with little choice but to apply for their property. Be in no doubt, in 2006 when I gifted Bluebird K7 to the Museum, it was entrusted to Bill Smith to rebuild her back to running order, at no cost to The Museum, Bill volunteered to lead the rebuild and obtain parts and sponsorship to do that. Then she was to go on permanent display in the Ruskin Museum, the new Bluebird Wing, which they raised over £750K to build. At that point, the Campbell Family wasn’t in favour of running the boat at all.

In 2008, it was mooted that K7 should run again as proof she was of operable condition and although I don’t believe we were asked outright, we could see the justification for a “swan song” on the lake before being permanently displayed at The Museum. I should add that Bill always claimed the boat would be ready before The Museum’s extension ever would be, the Bluebird Wing was finished and opened in 2010.

Apart from some discussion in 2013 & 204 when my cousin Donald Wales and I were trying to get K7 reunited with CN7, my Dad’s World land Speed Record Car, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of my Dad’s “double” which didn’t happen because Bill Smith wouldn’t let it, I didn’t have too much to do with things for a while. The next time I really saw Bill was when we both appeared on “The One Show” in March 2018. And then in Bute that same August and I was blown away with what had been achieved. Bill is a clever man, and he leads a very adept and innovative team and K7 looked simply stunning out there on the Loch and then up on her planing points…magnificent!

I was completely overcome with emotion but due to some clever editing by the BBC, only my “Crusty Old Museum” quote got heard, but Andy Kershaw did put me right and I agreed that to be fair the new wing at The Ruskin Museum could never be described as “crusty” much less “Old”, but you’ll understand it brought back so many overwhelming memories it was quite a time.

Again I wasn’t involved immediately after Bute, but I heard murmurings that all was not well between The Museum and Bill & his Team in early 2019, and I went to speak to some of the Trustees on what would have been my Dad’s 98th birthday. I was horrified by what I was hearing but also couldn’t understand what had gone wrong, it transpired that Bill was trying to enforce a draft agreement from 2013, that had never been accepted or signed off by the Trustees of the Museum, in fact there had only been some initial discussions and then it just got shelved, but here was Bill bold as brass trying to enforce it. It was partly this developing situation that led to the proposed homecoming event scheduled for later that year being stopped.
As a family, my cousins and I were disappointed that The Museum had had to issue a Letter of Claim in March 2019, and we worked together to try to broker a deal. It seemed not unreasonable that Bill and his Team should get some use out of Bluebird given that they had put so much into her rebuild and to be absolutely fair to them, although they didn’t strictly speaking need to, the Trustees compromised their position hugely and offered a draft document a couple of months after our meeting which offered 3 months with Bill and the team, and the remaining time on static display at The Museum. This should have been a “Win, Win”, and I was party to ALL the discussion on this; the offer was rejected in less than 24 hours and rather than discuss the points he didn’t like, Bill didn’t want to engage. The draft agreement even gave The Bluebird Project team more control as it was proposed to set up a steering committee with equal members of The Campbell Family Heritage Trust, The Museum and the Bluebird Project, and any dates for Bill and his team to have K7 would be agreed between everyone. Not quite how they’ve tried to portray that on social media, however.
That’s when Bill started to bring up questions about the floor in the new Bluebird wing, and other completely irrelevant and even untrue things like radioactivity in the engine to muddy the waters. Bill claims there is joint ownership and that position has been “legally” sorted. That’s not the case as it was never in front of a judge and as far as I know that is what would need to happen for a final judgement.

Since then, I have tried again to get Bill to agree to the original terms under which I gifted the boat to The Museum and entrusted her to him for rebuilding. Note the word “trust” is involved there and that is what Bill has broken, my trust.
What did I get for my trouble? From Bill and some of his Team I received nothing but vitriolic emails and insults both on public forums and in a meeting with Bill himself, even describing my father as “yesterday’s man” and citing himself as “today’s man”.

For those of you who think my father would be upset by the current situation, you’re right, but I believe it isn’t the Museum with whom he would be upset, if my dad made a promise, he would do his damndest to see it through and keep that promise, he was a man of honour. I made the promise to The Ruskin Museum that they would get Bluebird K7, and Bill made me a promise that it would happen.

As a member of The Campbell Family Heritage Trust, I speak for my whole family when I say we are 100% committed to supporting the Ruskin Museum in their efforts to gain possession of Bluebird K7. We have been in discussion for some time about issuing a claim and so their claim has been lodged and Bill, for it is really Bill who we’re talking about, has two options. He can either return the boat complete, no strings attached with the parts he has added as part of the restoration, or he can take the parts off he claims as “his” and give The Museum the parts that were brought up from the bed of Coniston Water. If Bill decides to remove the “new” parts then that really is not the fault of The Museum, there’s only one person to blame and that is Bill Smith.

Bill has said that he will build a replica with the parts left if he decides to just give The Museum the parts that came out of Coniston Water. That WILL NOT be Bluebird K7, never can be. Indeed when we (Bill, The Museum, and myself – The “original” Bluebird Project) were talking to The Heritage Lottery Fund about the project between 2002 and 2006, a replica, which is what HLF had offered to fund, is expressly what Bill did not want, because it wasn’t Bluebird K7 and never could be.

I realise that many of you would love to see Bluebird K7 out on the water again, me included but that was NOT the original intention and The Museum MUST be able to make that decision as to whether and where she runs, as would the owner of any boat, car, plane, what have you. The Museum have assured me that it is their aim to run K7 on Coniston Water and I will do all I can to support and make this a reality.
My late step-mother, Tonia didn’t want the boat brought up really, but when she knew it was happening, didn’t want the boat displayed as a wreck, and when rebuilt, her real heart’s desire was that she should be put in the Ruskin Museum in Coniston, as close as possible to my dad in the graveyard. Wouldn’t it be fitting, now she has passed away, for that wish to be fulfilled?[quote/]
 

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I think, were I Donald Campbell - I would prefer my record breaking attempt to be memorialised by having the boat on display if possible, as opposed to lying in bits on the bottom of the lake -forever unseen.
Actually all of this is against his wishes.

He always said skipper and boat stay together. If it goes down we both go down.

I’m in agreement with your statement though. Better for all to be able to see it.
 

AlienFTM

MIA
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I am not a maritime lawyer. Could Smith claim salvage rights?
 

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LE
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I am not a maritime lawyer. Could Smith claim salvage rights?
Maritime law doesn’t count because it’s not the sea.

Inland lakes don’t fall under maritime law.

There was a court case a few years back where the original insurers of Bluebird tried to claim that they owned the wreck, however their claim wasn’t successful.
 
Should have recovered Donald's remains and left it there at the bottom.
A lot of people think that.
Bill Smith always acted with the best of intentions, not so everyone involved with this saga.
Also the future of the Ruskin Museum is far from assured.
 
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Anyone else following this story? What’s the opinion of Arrse? Who’s in the right here? What do you think is best for Bluebird? Should she have been left alone on the bed of Coniston?

View attachment 584005

Always an interesting one. Who paid for the restoration and the materials used bearing in mind it was a write off?

The tale of this particular car happened in the 70's. The bodywork bloke who did the work was based in Bournemouth and was a mate of a mate. The car in ordinary E-Type livery, along with the alleged owner, turned up at the workshop one morning. The "owner" threatened the workshop bloke with a big handful of cash, handed over the keys and said words to the effect of, "make me a competition winning custom car". Then the owner left saying he was off on a business trip and would be back in a few months. The car was fettled, painted, and chromed, it was entered in competitions and won many trophies and awards. No sight of the "owner".

iu


The car was carefully parked and maintained. One day the nice policemen from Bournemouth nick turned up and checked the VIN. "This is a nicked car, where did you get it"? Everything was explained satisfactorily, but the police still schlepped the car off to the nick for the insurance to come and collect.

The bodywork bloke who was several thousand out of pocket took his van along to the nick and was interrupted whilst removing the wheels from the car. "Oi, wot choo fink your doin"? "Just taking my wheels and tyres officer, here is my receipt for them. Then I will be removing my seats, my interior, my hood, and probably chipping off all my paint". The insurance let him have the car as was.

So, who owns all the bibs and bobs around this magnificent piece of water going British history? Or, is it a case of we want our property back so, when all the fuss has died down, we can slide it off to a rich American/Chinese/Saudi collector for a nice wedge.
 

Bubbles_Barker

LE
Book Reviewer
My personal take on it…..

Legally the Ruskin Museum own it, the Bluebird Project (Bill Smith) have done a fine job of raising and restoring it, but this has been done on a voluntary basis, at no point was control or ownership implied or given.

The family’s (Gina Campbell’s) wishes should be honoured here above all else. It’s her Dad’s boat and it was her family that gifted it to the Museum.

However it is a magnificent machine with great historical importance and it is a shame for it to live in a museum permanently. It should be run from time to time and I certainly agree that the more people who see it running, the better. Especially kids. What an inspirational thing for a kid with an interest in science / engineering.

The 9-3 month deal seemed to be a good compromise but from what I understand the Bluebird Project are the ones who rejected this as the proposed months when it would be released to them, where not ideal weather wise for runs.

Lots of interesting reading on Facebook.
My bold.

Facebook FFS.

Who will think of Mr Whoppit?
 

Ravers

LE
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By all accounts there is also some beef between the Bluebird Project and the Fleet Air Arm Museum over a Fairey Barracuda they were restoring.

Anyone know the gen on this one?
 

Ravers

LE
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Always an interesting one. Who paid for the restoration and the materials used bearing in mind it was a write off?
My understanding is that most of the restoration work was carried out with donations.

Smith is now saying he will remove all the bits he’s restored and hand the museum what was pulled off the lake bed in 2001. A pretty pointless and vindictive thing to do in my opinion.

If I’d donated to the project I certainly wouldn’t be happy with that outcome.
 
My understanding is that most of the restoration work was carried out with donations.

Smith is now saying he will remove all the bits he’s restored and hand the museum what was pulled off the lake bed in 2001. A pretty pointless and vindictive thing to do in my opinion.

If I’d donated to the project I certainly wouldn’t be happy with that outcome.

He might be prevented from doing that as those donations were made to restore the craft.
 
Quite a few issues her, not just ownership, but there appears to be a contractural agreement in place.
 

ColdWarWorrier

Old-Salt
A friend of mine is a member of Bill Smith’s team,so I’ve been following this story for a few years.

Unfortunately, my mate is just a lowly member of the team and not a decision-maker, so I don’t have any gossip or tales of intrigue to pass on. I just hope a satisfactory solution can be found that all parties can agree on.
 

Yokel

LE
How realistic was the film Across The Lake?
 

Ravers

LE
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How realistic was the film Across The Lake?
Pretty bang on from what I gather.

The replica Bluebird used for that film is in the Lakeland Motor Museum. I saw it a few weeks ago.
 

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