Swim legend bags MBE in honours list

Making a splash: Legendary swim figure Eileen Fenton
Making a splash: Legendary swim figure Eileen Fenton

CHANNEL swimmer Eileen Fenton has been awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List for a lifetime of voluntary service to long distance and competitive swimming coaching in Yorkshire and Great Britain.

Miss Fenton, who was born in Dewsbury, received world-wide acclaim in 1950 when she was the first woman home in the first International Cross Channel Swimming race.

Eileen Fenton.

Eileen Fenton.

On being told of her award, 90-year-old Eileen said she had been touched and overwhelmed by all the messages of congratulations she had received.

“It is so wonderful but humbling to be recognised in this way for something I have loved doing all my life,” she said.

“It is an honour I want to share with the people of Dewsbury who have always supported me.”

Over many decades, Eileen dedicated her life to her swimmers and her swimming club in Dewsbury, of which she was chairman, secretary and treasurer.

Among the hundreds of congratulatory messages flooding in from friends and former pupils, were many from pupils she had coached in both long distance swimming and sprint swimming.

Her most famous pupil was Wendy Brook, of Ossett, who, at the age of 20, broke the world record – for both men and women – for swimming the English Channel in 1976.

Wendy described Eileen as a swimming coach and mentor beyond measure without whom she could never have even achieved her ambition to swim the channel.

Eileen, who now lives in Sandal, continued to return to Dewsbury Baths every day, seven days a week, to coach Dewsbury youngsters.

In her nomination letter, Eileen’s niece, Mrs Eileen Hollinshead, said: “She has remained grateful all her life, and continues to support the town (Dewsbury) in any way she can.

“She remains very proud of her roots.”