“The Open Swim was held on the first Sunday of the New Year in Lea Dam, Lumbutts, near Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire. The swim was organised by John Slater [another International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame inductee and the founding Secretary of the British Long Distance Swimming Association]…[where the] monies raised went towards the building of the swimming pool in Todmorden.
I won the swim for three consecutive years. If there was no ice, it was a swimming race. But if the pool was iced over, the winner was the person who stayed in the longest.
The dam was a 1000 feet (305 meters) above sea level.
In 1963, the conditions were severe and the water temperature was 29°F. The 7-inch thick ice had to be broken with sledge hammers and chainsaws. I remember the large crowd standing on it. I also recollect after spending 27 minutes in the dam; [after] I had to be helped to dress by friends. I probably had hypothermia. They no longer hold the swim because of health and safety.
It was a tough event.
In those days, I always swam in the local rivers in winter. It was nothing scientific. A few of us just thought it would toughen us up for the longer swims in summer.”
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