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John Meads 2014
'Parachute Joe' Ingram

A 1893 sketch of
'Parachute Joe' Ingram

'Parachute Joe' Ingram was a colourful character who lived in Burton Latimer at the turn of the 19th-20th century. He was born at Oakham in about 1847 and moved around to find employment until settling here in the last years of the 1890s, in Kettering Road. By 1911 he had moved to Finedon where a he described himself on the census form as "Bricklayer and Inventor. Aerial Hydro and Caloric Inventor" and on another part of the form as "Employed by Bricklaying mainly repairing and Jobbing work and Steeplejack and Lightning Conductor Fixer on Chimney Stacks". He had acquired the nickname 'Parachute Joe' well before 1889 when the Northampton Mercury reported that he fell off a wall when working on an extension to the Victoria Mills at Wellingborough and sustained some serious injuries. In 1893 he had achieved national notoriety when he scaled the spire of Rushden Parish Church without climbing aids. It was reported in the Sheffield Evening Telegraph thus:

A MAD ADVENTURE - "PARACHUTE JOE'S" EXPLOITS - A daring feat has just been performed at Rushden, Northamptonshire. A man named Ingram, known as "Parachute Joe", having obtained possession of the keys of the parish church , was soon afterwards seen on the battlements, and speedily commenced to climb to the top of the lofty spire by means of the stone crockets. A crowd of spectators gathered in the street below. Having reached the weathercock, which he swung round several times, he pulled off his necktie and threw it to the ground. He then turned round, and, placing his back to the masonry, waved both his arms to his horrified audience below. He succeeded in returning safely to the ground, to the relief of all who witnessed the dangerous exploit.

Joe also claimed to be an inventor as this extract from the Grantham Journal in April 1905 explains:

The celebrated steeplejack, Mr Joseph Ingram of Burton Latimer, near Kettering, who, it will remembered, climbed the steeple of our Parish Church by way of the crockets and affixed a handkerchief to the weather-vane some few years ago, paid a call at The Journal office on Thursday morning to assure us that he was still alive! He has been "killed" by various newspapers quite a dozen times during the last ten years, the most recent occasion being about six weeks ago, in the columns of the Dail Mail. Judging from his appearance, he will be able to withstand the killing experience at least a dozen times, for he is hale and hearty, and as enthusiastic as ever in regard to his scheme for bringing out a reallly practical flying machine. So confident is he of the success of an aeroplane which he has just patented, and in which he asserts he has had a "big hand," that he promises to be flying over Grantham in less than four months' time! "Parachute Joe," as he is known in the profession, is certainly very much alive, and we hope that his confidence in his latest creation may be fully justified.

Later that year, in the Luton News and Bedfordshire Chronicle:

"PARACHUTE JOE" AT LUTON - Yet another march on London has commenced. But the invasion on this occasion is not the work of a large party like the Raunds strikers, it is being organised and carried out by one man, Joseph Ingram of Burton Latimer, who is better known as "Parachute Joe," champion steeple-jack of the world. Joe is an remarkable character. For 40 of the 60 years of his life, he has devoted his leisure hours to the study of aerial navigation, and is now marching on London to arouse public interest in his aerial machine. He claims that his ship is an improvement on all existing types, and when he has convinced Londoners of the truth of that assertion, and drawn from them the £1,200 required for the construction of the machine, he will present it to the War Office. On Thursday, Joe arrived in Luton, wet and weary, and called in at the "News" Office to explain his scheme. He intended to lecture on the Market Place, he said, but the weather was against him, so he trekked on. It is stated that the steeple-jack's airship has been favourably noticed by Dr. Barton. (Dr. Francis A. Barton was president of the Aeronautical Society of Great Britain. His goal was to build an airship less dependant on air bags for lift and more dependant on aeroplane frames.)

Joe was also well known for his walking feats. In 1899, the Northampton Mercury reported:

OUNDLE - 1000 MILES WALK - J. Ingram, alias "Parachute Joe," who has undertaken to walk 1,000 miles on Northamptonshire roads, arrived here on Monday evening at six o'clock and left at 6.15 en route for Burton Latimer.

And in 1905, the Bedfordshire Times and Independent reported:

2000 MILES WALK - On Thursday at 10am Mr. Joseph Ingram, otherwise known as "Parachute Joe" of Burton Latimer, reported himself at our offices. He stated that he is seeking to beat Weston's world record of 2000 miles walking on turnpike roads. He has already covered 1,737 and has time in hand, and will probably finish at the Nelson Column in London on Monday. He is 57 years of age, and bandaged up like a racehorse. Before starting training for the event, he weighed 11 stone 12, and now only scales 9 1/2.

Whether Joe completed the walk is not reported and his inventions literally never got off the ground. He died in Northampton Poor Law Infirmary in January 1922.

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