Tom Blower, The Humble Hero Who Conquered The North Channel

Tom Blower, The Humble Hero Who Conquered The North Channel

Tom Blower, The Humble Hero Who Conquered The North Channel

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

Tom Blower was legendary before his untimely death at the age of 41.

It was said that two people could hang from each of his outstretched arms. He could break six-inch nails with ease and sat on the bottom of Nottingham’s River Trent for three minutes at a time watching boats pass overhead.

He trained in the river when it was snowing. During World War II, he dived into the Atlantic Ocean in January in an attempt save a fellow sailor in the Royal Navy. He helped disabled children to swim.

In the summer of 1947, he attempted his first crossing of the North Channel, but he had to be pulled in the rough conditions. Then on July 27th 1947, he kissed his wife Clarice Blower on the shore and told her, “I’m not getting out for anybody this time.”

He weathered 9°C water, herring nibbling at his feet, and a heavy rain, then hail and a spectacular thunderstorm. He slowed to a pace of less than one mile in four hours. 15 hours 26 minutes after his start, he climbed out on the rocks in Portpatrick, Scotland.

Martin Strain is the leader of the Donaghadee Chunky Dunkers, an open water swimming pod in Donaghadee, Northern Ireland, wrote an authoritative book about Blower, an Honor Swimmer in the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame in its Class of 1964: Tom Blower: The Humble Hero Who Conquered the North Channel.

Strain, a lifelong resident of Donaghadee, a small coastal town in Co. Down, Northern Ireland, provides support and camaraderie to aspiring North Channel swimmers (80 who has taken off from Donaghadee, 8 from Scotland). In addition to writing about Blower, he has thoroughly researched the 4 North Channel attempts of Mercedes Gleitze in 1928 and four additional subsequent attempts from Scotland in 1929.

Strain noted that the Irish Long Distance Swimming Association rules pertaining to North Channel Swims enable a well-defined and long-established course across the North Channel in order to ensure fairness for all channel swimmers. “At the top of the North Channel rules page of the Irish Long Distance Swimming Association, it states, ‘North Channel attempts are only recognised, when they start and finish within Admiralty Chart 2198, Southern Part. No other route will be recognised. The route is 18.6 nautical miles (21.4 miles) (34.5 km).'”

On the other hand, Strain pointed out that “the location where tradition and history have determined that every single successful swimmer has commenced their swim, Donaghadee is not actually mentioned in the aspect of the rules, which relate to the swims, ‘start or finish.’ Under the written rules of the Irish Long Distance Swimming Association, there appears to be no ‘absolute’ starting or finishing location. Yet not one single swimmer has ever chosen to swim from any location, other than the greater Donaghadee area.

I conclude they choose to keep the start of their swims, near Donaghadee because it’s because their predecessors did so, bause their peers continue to do so, because they want to be measured on the same route that Oceans Seven swimmers use, because of their integrity, and because they don’t want to have not two entirely different routes

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Steven Munatones