The Legacy Of Frederick Cavill

The Legacy Of Frederick Cavill

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

How to learn to swim, a 24-page booklet by Professor Frederick Cavill published by in 1884, includes practical swimming advice and press reports of Cavill’s swims around the world. Cavill, a remarkable man who lived between 1839 and 1927, was known by his nickname the ‘professor of swimming‘, a most appropriate sobriquet.

Not only did he come tantalizingly close to completing two English Channel crossings, one in 1876 and another in 1877, he also completed marathon swims down the Thames and in Australia.

But it was his 9 sons and daughters who also helped shape his legacy, for which the entire Cavill Family were collectively honored by the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame.

His children were all excellent swimmers and included:

* Eldest son Ernest (1868-1935), the 1000 yards champion of New South Wales at 15 and was placed in championship races in London.
* Charles (1870-1897), the first man to swim the Golden Gate in San Francisco in 1896, but was drowned next year at Stockton Baths, California.
* Percy (1875-1940), the first Australian to win a race abroad when in 1897 he won both the 440 yards and the long distance (5 miles) events in the English Amateur Swimming Association Championships. He also won four State and four Australian championships in 1895-98, but left for the United States in 1900 and coached swimmers for fifteen years, before disappearing, and living as a beachcomber in the Bahamas.
* Arthur (1877-1914), known as ‘Tums‘, won the New South Wales 500 and 1000 yards amateur championships. At 21 he was 220 yards professional champion of Australia; W. F. Corbett credited him with originating the crawl stroke. In 1901 he went to the United States: he successfully swam the Golden Gate but was frozen to death in 1914 trying to swim Seattle Harbour.
* Sydney (1881-1945) was 220 yards amateur champion of Australia at 16 and was the originator of the butterfly stroke. He followed his brothers to America where he coached notable swimmers, mainly at San Francisco’s Olympic Club.
* Cavill’s three daughters, Madeline, Alice, and Fredda were also outstanding swimmers who gave demonstrations of aquatics and life-saving as children.
* Youngest son Richmond Theophilus (1884-1938) was born on 16 January 1884 in Sydney. He was the first to use the crawl stroke in a competition when in 1899 he won the 100 yards State championship. In 1900-04 he won 18 Australian and 22 New South Wales championships. In England in 1902 he was the first officially to swim 100 yards in under a minute, clocking 58.6 seconds. After living in New Zealand and the United States, Dick returned to Australia in 1913 and for a time played ‘Father Neptune’ in Wirth’s circus. He died of a heart attack at the pool he leased at Balmoral, Sydney, on 2 May 1938.

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