The Revd. Sidney Swann – A Muscular Christian

An old edition of Who's Who reveals that The Revd. Sidney Swann, M.A., born in 1862, rowed in the Oxford and Cambridge boat race in 1883, 1884 and 1885, won the Cambridge sculls and pairs and the Grand Challenge in 1886 and 1887 and, in record time, the Steward's in 1885 and 1887. He also, in Japan, "won most things started for on land and sea; rowing, hurdling, cycling, running, pole-jumping, weight and hammer." We learn that he was the first to cycle round Syria, that he rode from Land's End to John O'Groats and from Carlisle to London in a day, that he rowed a home-made boat from Crosby Vicarage down the rapids of the Eden to the sea and that he cut the record from England to France in 1911 by rowing the Channel in 3 hours and 50 minutes "faster than anyone had ever gone between England and France by muscular power". He built several flying machines, and drove motor ambulances in Belgium winning three medals. In 1917, when 55 years old, he cycled, walked, ran, paddled, rode and swam six consecutive half-miles in 26 minutes 20 seconds in competition with a certain Lieutenant Muller of the Danish Army.

He eventually became very eccentric and was persuaded in 1937 to retire. Committed to a mental asylum he escaped, remarried after his first wife died, and finally died himself after falling off his bicycle (in 1942). John Julius Norwich has a lot more on the highly competitive Swann in his 1975 Christmas Cracker - in old age he appears to have become a slightly  daunting figure in Lindfield...

In 1911 the Revd. Swann crossed from Dover
to Cap Griz Nez in 3 hours and 50 minutes

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