A Woman in a Man's World | Living North

A Woman in a Man's World


Emma Roddy
Emma is a rare individual: a female chimneysweep. A member of the Guild of Master Sweepers, she traverses roofs across Yorkshire and Lancashire. We chatted to her about her previous life in accountancy, Dick Van Dyke and being a woman in a man's world

How did you get into chimney-sweeping?
My husband is actually a solid fuel engineer with HETAS, and I fell in love with the industry through hearing the stories and challenges he faced on a day to day basis. I had been working within the finance industry for over 20 years, predominantly in accountancy and insolvency, and it had become quite mundane. Eventually I had the opportunity to change my career, and it has been one of the best decisions I have ever made. I have never looked back.

How does it feel to be the rare female chimneysweep?
Superb: there are a few of us ladies around. It creates an excellent topic of conversation amongst my clients – and it’s also good to show it’s not just a man’s world.

What’s the best thing about your job?
Providing an important service that can save lives from carbon monoxide poisoning and chimney fires. It’s also great meeting new and existing clients every day, and educating them in the safe use of solid fuel.

And the hardest?
Informing new clients that unfortunately that their appliance is unsafe to use. But ultimately it’s for their safety.

What’s the biggest chimney you’ve swept?
It was a large beautiful country house in Cheshire. Very big, and very dirty.

Have you ever found anything weird blocking up a chimney?
The weirdest objects so far have been a hammer, a coffee cup and a pillow. I’m still waiting for a bag of sovereigns though...

In the much-loved Christmas song, Santa gets stuck up a chimney, as do his reindeer. Is that an industrial hazard for you? 
Oh crikey: no, thank goodness. All the chimneys swept by Sparkling Flues are Santa approved. We issue each chimney throughout December with a card to prove it.

Dick Van Dyke’s Bert from Mary Poppins is pop culture’s most famous chimneysweep. How accurate is his portrayal of the job? 
It’s certainly not all singing and dancing. But you do need to have his personality sometimes. As ‘Chim Chim Cher-ee’ goes: ”A sweep is as lucky as lucky can be”. That’s how I feel.

What’s your favourite Yorkshire view?
Anywhere from the rooftops!

And your favourite place to eat?
At home with my family.

If you could swap places with one person, living or dead, for a day, who would it be? 
For me I think it would be the Dalai Lama, for his inner peace and outlook on life.

What annoys you the most?
Finding clients left in dangerous situations by previous companies within the industry.

Who’s your sporting hero?
I don’t have an individual sporting hero, but as a group I think both Team GB and Paralympics GB would be mine for what they have achieved.

What’s your greatest achievement to date?
Having two beautiful children, a wonderful supportive husband, starting Sparkling Flues and looking forward to expanding!


Published in: January 2017

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