Welcome one and all to my beach hut

Grab a deck chair, Tea or coffee and help yourself to a buiscuit but you'd better mind the seaguls or they'll grab them first. Just look at that view and doesn't the sea look inviting.

Monday, 5 March 2012

The "Daredevil" Gatsby's

I spotted the post below on the Visit Skegness forum site and was intrigued to know more about Daredevil Peggy and his son Leslie as to their story and how it related to Skegness. I’ve seen a photo of the one legged High diver that performed on Skegness during the 1930s, was that who it referred to?

I am sorry to hear of Winston Kime's passing I met him on my long running gathering of the story of Daredevil Peggy and his son Daredevil Leslie in December 1996 when Winston was 84 and his help was invaluable I will share with you the excerpts from my diary

"We have passed the Skegness News when we came down to the library and locate the tiny house where the office is. The gal behind the counter could not be more helpful. She volunteers to put something into the local paper and provides us with the names of a handful of local historians . . . One more phone call to Winston Kime, first local historian on our list. Winston's phone whistles like an off key kettle and he apologises that he ain't his best on the phone. Invites me around straight and I, Jake and I walk around the bloke and knock on his door. The eighty four year old invites us in. The off key kettle whistle is still with us. The buzzing continues through the taped interview from his out of tune hearing aid.

Winston is a bloody gem. He's been talking to ninety year old Howard Wilkinson that very day. Wilkiinson was official pier photographer and captured exactly what we are looking for. Winston locates a set of pictures and hands the originals to me. I am gobsmacked astounded. "I am coming back on Saturday I will bring them back straight away."

We returned the photographs to Winston a few days later and he sent me a lovely letter of thanks including a colourful story of Daredevil Leslie losing his bike on one of his dives which had been told to him by Henry Wilkinson and involved I think Harry who I assume is Harry Gapper the Skegness boxer.

Winston ends his letter by saying

"I'm sorry to add that Henry Wilkinson died a week ago, aged 95 (the above must have occurred in the 1930s) He was very ill when I saw him a few days earlier and I could see he was near the end of the line. Over the years, I have had many a chuckle at some of his tales. He spent several summers taking 'walking snaps' of visitors to Skegness Pier."

I hope that Winston's dream of a museum takes shape with the Daredevil Gadsby's alone there is some story to tell and Winston Kime's help finally led me to where I am now having pretty much the complete story from Peggy to Daredevil Les which my friends and I have been gathering since 1993 of which Skegness forms a part with all this material I am in the closing stages of a script for steam radio, a play that answers the question what happened to the Gadsby's, were did they come from, where did they go?

Finally today I found the time to visit Skegness Library and rummage through their wonderful collection of items related to local history and many thanks to Ben who helped me unearth the following story.

Frank and Leslie Gadsby were well known to the regular visitors to Skegness pier in the early half of the 20th Century. Apart from being a father and son partnership they were also both high divers who performed for visitors by diving off of a specially constructed platform on Skegness Pier into the sea below.

“Daredevil” Peggy Gadsby was the senior member of the partnership. Frank Gadsby was born in Nottingham; he lost a leg at the age of four and learned to swim at the age of 12 under the instruction of Professor Touhy. It is reported that Professor touhy had also given swimming lessons to King George V and General Gordon as well as devising a system of Cutlass Drill for the Royal Navy. In 1911 Frank Gadsby had swam from Hastings to Eastbourne in 5 hrs and 45 minutes and had earlier given an exhibition of swimming before King George and Queen Mary. Mr Gadsby had taken part in many swimming competitions on the continent and at seaside resorts around Britain before setting out in his career as high diver on Skegness Pier.

One of “Daredevil peggy Gadsbys most recalled performances was on Skegness cricket ground when before a large crowd he set up what was to be called ‘ The Death Dive. Standing on a specially constructed tower over 60 foot from the ground his plan was to jump and land in a small tank no more than 16ft in diameter which was to hold a mere 5 ft of water in depth. Before jumping petrol was poured into the tank and set alight and then Frank wrapped in flame proof material, set himself alight before jumping to the tank below.

Frank was to repeat that stunt many more times around the UK and surprisingly lived to the grand age of 80.

Franks son “Daredevil” Lesley was also a high diver who worked on Skegness pier; often in the early days supporting is father in his act. One of his tricks was to perform a backward somersault whilst sitting on a chair off of the high board built on Skegness Pier. It is said that Leslie had made some 30 lifesaving rescues from the sea during his life. One such rescue was reported in the Skegness New in August 16th 1939. A couple of young men from the Derby area on a day trip to Skegness had decided to take a swim. They swam out towards the pier head but when the turned round to swim back towards the shore found the tide to strong for them and soon found themselves in real trouble. Their cries of help were heard from the pier and word soon reached “Daredevil” Leslie who without any hesitation dived from the pier into the sea and guided the men to the vertical ladder that was attached to the foot of the pier. A large crowd witnessing the rescue raised a loud cheer and the two men once they had stepped onto the safety of the pier were profuse in their thanks to the gallant rescuer.

Unfortunately Leslie Gadsby had to have part of an arm amputated after an accident during a performance with his father on Weston-Super-Mare pier but was still able to carry on performing diving feats around Britain for many years afterwards.

I do hope that the play which was spoken of in the above post is completed and successful and hope that one day it may be performed in Skegness.

The Post also refers to a museum that was the dream of the historian Winston Kime who wrote many books about the resort and who sadly is no longer with us. But like many residents of Skegness I hold on to the dream that one day a museum dedicated to the name of Winston Kime can be opened in our town.


  1. Great story, these sort of characters are getting few and far these days, thanks enjoyed that post.

  2. Have you seen this? I was looking for something else and this site came up, cheers Mike. http://skegnesspeople.wordpress.com/page/4/

    1. No hadn't seen that site before. Thanks for leading me to it

  3. Great to see my G Grandfather and Grandfather up to their life saving antics and rescues. Paul S

    1. I remember seeing Dare Devil Leslie diving off Shanklin Pier on the Isle of Wight circa 1956 and it was one of the highlights of our holidays there.