WALNEY ISLAND SWIM 1950

So far as it is known, Arthur May, a pipe fitter from Dartford in Kent was the first person to swim around Walney Island, a feat that he achieved on the 1st July 1950.

The 39 year old marathon swimmer planned to swim anticlockwise around the island and he entered the water at 6.15 a.m. His swim was remarkable in so much as he was unescorted because he maintained that he could swim in places where boats could not go. What refreshments he had with him were towed behind him on a home made float but the contraption came to pieces half way round the island. May made good going until he reached Scarth 'Channel' Gap at the north of the island where he met as many as five currents that almost took him to Millom. Near the wreck of the “Anastasia” May was forced to swim in a wide semi-circle where he had to master six currents a rough wind and heavy rolling. May maintained that this area was extremely dangerous for swimmers.  When he reached Sandy Gap, after being in the water seven and a quarter hours, he was joined by the local swimming sensation 16 year old Doris Fell who for the last sixteen or so miles swam alongside him.  Off Thorny Nook and as far down as Hilpsford Buoy the swimmers had a rough time but from Hilpsford they had the swell behind them and the advantage of the flowing tide.

Lighthouse Keeper Fred Swarbrick and his daughter Ella rowed out to meet the swimmers and refreshed them with hot coffee and chocolate.

The couple swam steadily under the Jubilee Bridge and landed near the Ferry Hotel.  May had covered 28 miles.  “I was confident that I could do it,” said May “the English Channel is chicken feed.”  A collection was held which raised a useful sum plus a Works Check that must have been put in the hat by mistake!

May had a great desire to swim the English Channel the following year in a competition by a national newspaper but he was bitterly disappointed when his application was turned down. May’s self confidence was such that he couldn’t accept this rebuff and he decided to swim it alone but he was picked up by a ship near to the coast of France in the interests of his own safety.  Still determined May made another attempt and his body was found somewhere on the Continent many weeks later.  A sad end to a very strong swimmer who experts believed that with support he could have achieved his goal.

In August 2001, fifty one years after May’s record breaking swim around Walney, Chris Green of Cartmel and Derek Griffiths completed a round the island swim in 8 hours 30 minutes, starting from the Roundhouse they covered some 25 miles to achieve their goal.  A motor craft and a number of canoeists backed them up.

 

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