The Taff Swim

From 1924 to 1930 the Long Distance Swimming Championship of Wales, known as the Taff Swim, was held on the River Taff. The course started from Cardiff Bridge, near the Castle, and finished downstream in the vicinity of Clarence Bridge, where the A4119 now crosses the River Taff, a distance of approximately 1¾ miles . The event was then known also as the "Evening Express Swims" and attracted crowds of spectators in excess of 100,000.[1] It was inaugurated to encourage long distance swimming in Wales.[2]

In 1929 the event was opened to all comers, not just those from Wales. The first person to cross the finishing line was the Open Champion, and the Native Championship was awarded to the first-finishing competitor who was born in Wales.

In 1931 the event was moved to Roath Park Lake owing to the rebuilding of the Cardiff Bridge.[3] It then took place annually at Roath Park, with the exception of the war years 1940 to 1946, and was organised by Western Mail & Echo Ltd, who provided the trophies.[4]

The Western Mail & Echo produced a programme for the 1932 Taff Swim, its second year at Roath Park.

A diagram of the 1½ mile course appeared in the Western Mail in July 1933, indicating that the race started at the promenade, east of the Scott Memorial. After two counter-clockwise circuits, keeping well south of the islands, it finished at the promenade west of the Scott Memorial.[5] A similar course was shown in the Official Programme for 1950, finishing at a perpendicular line from the promenade to the Scott Memorial.[6]

In 1950 the following trophies were presented:[6]

Taff Swim course 1950
Date Held Open Ladies
Winner
Open Mens
Winner
Native Ladies
Winner
Native Mens
Winner
Comments / Entertainments
27th September 1924 no race no race Miss Kathleen Thomas
Penarth
A. Griffiths
Cardiff
Mens race: 28 competitors
Over 100,000 spectators reported
2nd September 1925 no race no race Miss Phyliss Scott
Cardiff
Paolo Radmilovic
Western-super-Mare
120,000 - 150,000 spectators reported
21st August 1926 no race no race Miss Phyliss Scott
Cardiff
Roath Park Club
Leslie Palmer
Cardiff Polytechnic
Approximately 150,000 spectators
View of races from Cardiff Arms Park for fee of 6d
Mens race: 42 competitors
13th August 1927 no race no race Miss Phyliss Scott
Cardiff
Leslie Palmer
Cardiff Polytechnic
100,000 spectators
Ladies race: 6 competitors, Mens race: nearly 40 competitors
16th June 1928 no race no race Miss Freda Pawley
Penarth
J. Hanlon
Penarth
Over 100,000 spectators
Ladies race: 8 competitors, Mens race: 49 competitors
6th July 1929 Miss G. Jackman
Hammersmith
Ken James
Weston-super-Mare
Miss Freda Pawley
Penarth
Ken James
Weston-super-Mare
(born Pontypridd)
In excess of 100,000 spectators
Ladies race: 13 competitors, Mens race: 33 competitors
23rd August 1930 Miss Freda Pawley
Penarth
A.H. Griffiths
Cardiff
Miss Freda Pawley
Penarth
A.H. Griffiths
Cardiff
Ladies race: 15 competitors, Mens race: 54 competitors
Cardiff Post Office Band played from a motor launch

From 1931 the event was held at Roath Park Lake:

Date Held Open Ladies
Winner
Open Mens
Winner
Native Ladies
Winner
Native Mens
Winner
Comments / Entertainments
25th July 1931 Miss G. Vine-Jackman
Hammersmith
A. G. Watts
East Ham.
Miss Peggy Williams
Merthyr
K. G. James
Weston
(born Pontypridd)
Ladies race: 9 competitors, Mens race: 52 competitors
Admission free
High diving display by Miss Belle White, diving champion of Europe
4th June 1932 Miss Catherine Broadley
Hammersmith
Harold Kenneth James
Weston-super-Mare
Miss Peggy Williams
Merthyr
Harold Kenneth James
Weston-super-Mare
(born Pontypridd)
Ladies race: 10 competitors, Mens race: 19 competitors
Entries were down because of clash with Olypmic Games trials in London
Band of the 6th Welch played during the afternoon
Exhibition of flying over the lake by Miss Pauline Gower and Miss Dorothy Spicer of the Crimson Circus.
29th July 1933 Miss M. Kenyon
Nelson, Lancashire
C. Deane
London
Miss Shelagh.Browning
Newport
A. G. Davies
Cardiff
Ladies race: 20 competitors, Mens race: 74 competitors
Over 50,000 spectators expected
Aerobatic display by Flying Officer W. N. L. Cope, Cardiff Aeroplane Club
Diving exhibition by Mr & Mrs W. G. T. Burn (1932 Olympic divers) and Mr A. B. Perrow
Band of the 53rd (Welsh) Divisional Royal Engineers played during the afternoon.
21st July 1934 Miss Mary L. Kenyon
Nelson, Lancashire
Cecil T. Deane
London Penguins
Miss Shelagh.Browning
Newport
A. G. Davies
Cardiff University
Ladies race: 11 competitors, Mens race: 78 competitors
Admission free
Surf board riding display by Miss Sybil Terry, Barry Yacht & Motor Boat Club, and Miss Hilda Thomas, Cardiff
Aerobatic display by Flying Officer W. N. L. Cope and the Cardiff Aeroplane Club
Diving exhibition by Mr A. B. Perrow assisted by members of the Cardiff Diving Club
The Cardiff Post-office Band provided background music.
20th July 1935 Miss S. L. Browning
Newport
Cecil T. Deane
London Penguins
Miss S. L. Browning
Newport
W. Hall
Cardiff Polytechnic
Ladies race: 16 competitors, Mens race: 47 competitors
Surf board riding display by Miss Sybil Terry and Miss Hilda Thomas
Aerobatic display by Flying Officer W. N. L. Cope and the Cardiff Aeroplane Club
Diving display by the Cardiff Diving Club
The Cardiff Post-ofice Band played a programme of light music.
25th July 1936 Miss Shelagh.Browning
Newport
Cecil T. Deane
London Penguins
Miss Shelagh.Browning
Newport
W.J.Parkman
Cardiff Otters
Ladies race: 14 competitors, Mens race: 54 competitors
Surf board riding display by Miss Sybil Terry, Barry Yacht & Motor Boat Club, and Miss Hilda Thomas and Mr Harold Thomas, Cardiff
Cardiff Post-office Military Band
24th July 1937 Miss M.Y.Allen
Torquay
H. G. Parsons
Leander
Shelagh Browning
Newport
S. G. Huxtable
Swansea
Ladies race: 16 competitors, Mens race: 46 competitors
Admission charges 2d or 1s for the stand, proceeds to Cardiff Royal Infirmary Centenary Appeal Fund
Reported that there were 9,418 spectators
Surf board riding display by Miss Hilda Thomas and Mr Harold Thomas, Alec Card & R. C. Fitzgerald
Flying-officer G. M. S. Kemp gave an acrobatic display flying a D. H. Moth
A fly past by mahines from the Cardiff Aeroplane Club: Capt Godfrey, Messrs S. K. Davies, G. Nicol, Sam Lewis, L. I. Arnot & Dr. H. Nicoll
Display of diving was given by Messrs E. Martin, T. Harvard & A. Beecham of the Gelligaled swimming club.
23rd July 1938 Miss B. Lowry
South Manchester
C. T. Deane
London Penguins
Miss P. Gould
Roath Park, Cardiff
D. L. Powell
Newport
Ladies race: 13 competitors, Mens race: 51 competitors
Over 9,500 spectators passed through the turnstiles. Admission 2d, proceeds to Cardiff Royal Infirmary.
Display of surf board riding by Miss Lilian Card, Mr Alec Card and Mr A.Bowditch
Display by coracle men from Carmarthen
Display of aerobatics by Flying-officer G. M. S. Kemp of the Cardiff Aeroplane Club.
Flying visit from the Cardiff Aeroplane Club with various types of aircraft
Diving exhibition by members of the Barry Swim Club.
The Post-office military band, conducted by James Livsey, provided light music.
29th July 1939 Shelagh Browning
Newport
D. L. Powell
Newport
Shelagh Browning
Newport
D. L. Powell
Newport
Ladies race: 14 competitors, Mens race: 62 competitors
Admission 2d, proceeds to Cardiff Royal Infirmary
Diving display by members of the Mid-Glamorgan District Swimming Club
Gymnastic exhibition by St. Cadoc's Gymnastic Club, Cardiff
Aerobatic display was given by G. S. M. Kemp and the Cardiff Aeroplane Club
Post-office band, conducted by Mr E. T. Whitehead, provided music.
Not held         Western Mail, August 2nd 1947 page 4
2nd August 1947 Miss Elizabeth Hill
Croydon
T. P. Holt
Weston-super-Mare
Miss Rosina Daymond
Newport
Arthur Mail
Cardiff
Estimated 20,000 spectators
Aerobatic display by G.M.S.Kemp of the Cardiff Aeroplane Club
Diving displays by Mrs S.G.Huxtable, Swansea, and Tommy Chamberlain, Cardiff, the Welsh firm-board diving champion
24th July 1948 Miss D. Wilkinson
Birmingham
A.W. Mail
Cardiff
Miss R. Daymond
Newport
A.W. Mail
Cardiff
Estimated 20,000 spectators
Aerobatic display by G.M.S.Kemp of the Cardiff Aeroplane Club and Flight-lieut Martin of RAF St Athan
Diving display by T.J. Chamberlain, Cardiff, the Welsh firm-board diving champion
Cardiff Post Office Band, director Mr E. T. Whitehead, provided music
30th July 1949 Margaret Linton
Newport
John Brockway
Newport
Margaret Linton
Newport
John Brockway
Newport
Ladies race: 17 competitors, Mens race: 90 competitors
Aerobatic display by the Cardiff Aeroplane Club
Exhibition of dinghy drill by members of the Royal Air Force, St. Athan
Life saving drill by the Barry Life Guard Club
29th July 1950 Rosina Daymond
Newport
Tom Holt
Weston-super-Mare
Rosina Daymond
Newport
Eugene Williams
Newport
15,000 spectators
114 entrants in the mens race, the largest number ever
Novel aquatic display by Bob Bradburn, Canadian lumberjack
Fly-past by aircraft of the Cardiff Aeroplane Club & No.3 Reserve Flying School, and aerobatic demonstration by Chief Instructor G.M.S. Kemp
28th July 1951 Vida Dallimore
Newport
Tom Holt
Weston-super-Mare
Vida Dallimore
Newport
John Brockway
Newport
5,000 spectators
Ladies race: 38 competitors, Mens race: 112 competitors
Flying display by V.R. No.3 Royal Flying School Cardiff
Aerobatic display by G.M.S.Kemp
26th July 1952 Vida Dallimore
Newport
Tom Holt
Weston-super-Mare
Vida Dallimore
Newport
Eugene Williams
Newport
Ladies race: 47 competitors, Mens race: 109 competitors
Flying display by B.Hann and I.Lewis, Cardiff Ultra Light Aeroplane Club
Aerobatic display by G.M.S.Kemp, Cardiff Aeroplane Club
25th July 1953 Vida Dallimore
Maindee
Colin Taylor
Sparkhill
Vida Dallimore Alan Stevens
Maindee
Several hundred spectators (fewer than usual) owing to prolonged heavy rain
Ladies race: 15 competitors, Mens race: 101 competitors
Aerobatic display by G.M.S.Kemp cancelled owing to low cloud
31st July 1954 Vida Dallimore
Maindee
A Miles
Sparkhill
Birmingham
Vida Dallimore
Maindee
Eugene Williams
Newport
Ladies race: 34 competitors, Mens race: 88 competitors
Aerial acrobatics display by George.Kemp of the Cardiff Aeroplane Club, flying a Tiger Moth
30th July 1955 Margaret ("Pip") Linton
Newport
A Miles
Sparkhill
Birmingham
Margaret ("Pip") Linton
Newport
Alban Stevens
Maindee
Ladies race: 49 entrants, Mens race: 118 entrants
Aerobatics performed by Mr Tony Lazenby of the Cardiff Aeroplane Club
28th July 1956 Lesley Dewar
Cardiff
Mike Edwards
Maindee
Lesley Dewar
Cardiff
Mike Edwards
Maindee
Ladies race: 44 competitors, Mens race: 124 entrants
Aerobatic display by G.M.S.Kemp, Cardiff Aero Club
27th July 1957 Geraldine Francis
Newport
Tony Holmyard
Bristol
Geraldine Francis
Newport
Glyn Morgan
Newport
Ladies race: 48 entrants, Mens race: over 150 entrants
Aerobatic display cancelled owing to rain and low cloud
Demonstration of Eskimo rolling kayaks by the Llandaff Canoe Club
30th August 1958 Jocelyn. Hooper
Newport
Brian Flook
Newport
Jocelyn. Hooper
Newport
Brian Flook
Newport
Ladies race: 34 entrants, Mens race: 129 entrants
Aerobatic display
25th July 1959 Geraldine Francis
Newport
Brian Flook
Newport
Geraldine Francis
Newport
Brian Flook
Newport
 
13th August 1960 Geraldine Francis
Newport
Brian Flook
Newport
Geraldine Francis
Newport
Brian Flook
Newport
Ladies race: 41 competitors, Mens race: 89 competitors
Aerobatic display by Colin Davies, instructor at Glamorgan Flying Club.
22nd July 1961 Jocelyn Hooper
Newport
Brian Flook
Newport
Jocelyn Hooper
Newport
Brian Flook
Newport
Ladies race: 44 competitors, Mens race: over 100 competitors
7th July 1962 Jocelyn Hooper
Newport
Brian Flook
Newport
Jocelyn Hooper
Newport
Brian Flook
Newport
Ladies race: 52 competitors, Mens race 101 competitors

The following table gives the sources of information for the details shown above.

Year Sources
1924 Western Mail Saturday September 27th 1924 page 11
Western Mail Monday September 29th 1924 page 7
Western Mail Monday September 29th 1924 unnumbered page
1925 Western Mail Saturday August 29th 1925 page 10
Western Mail Wednesday September 2nd 1925 unnumbered page
Western Mail Thursday September 3rd 1925 page 4
Western Daily Press, Bristol September 3rd 1925 page 8
British Pathé   on YouTube
1926 Western Mail Monday August 16th 1926 page 5
Western Mail Saturday August 21st 1926 page 8
Western Mail Monday August 23rd 1926 page 5 & unnumbered page
1927

Western Mail Saturday August 13th 1927 pages 4 & 5
Western Mail Monday August 15th 1927 pages 8 & 10

1928 Western Mail Monday June 18th 1928 two unnumbered pages
Western Mail Saturday June 16th 1928 unnumbered page
Cornishman, June 20th 1928 page 3
1929 Western Mail Saturday July 6th 1929 pages 5 & 6
Western Mail Monday July 8th 1929 pages 3 & 4
1930 Western Mail Monday August 25th 1930 page 5
Western Mail Saturday August 23rd page 8
1931 Western Mail Saturday July 25th 1931 page 5
Western Mail Monday July 27th 1931 pages 10 & 11
1932 Western Mail Saturday 4th June 1932 page 5
Western Mail Monday 6th June 1932 pages 7 & 12
Gloucestershire Echo Tuesday May 10th 1932 page 4 (advert)
Gloucester Citizen - Tuesday 10 May 1932 page 2 (advert)
British Pathé   on YouTube
1933 Western Mail Saturday July 29th 1933 page 4 & 12
Western Mail Monday July 31th 1933 page 5 & 10
Daily Mirror Friday July 20th 1937 page 28
Western Mail 13th April 1942, front page
1934 Western Mail Saturday July 21st 1934 page 5
Western Mail Monday July 23rd 1934 page 5 & 7
Daily Mail July 23rd 1934 page 15
Western Mail 13th April 1942, front page
1935 Western Mail Saturday July 20th 1935 page 6
Western Mail Monday July 22nd 1935 page 5
Western Mail 13th April 1942, front page
1936 Western Mail Saturday July 25th 1936 page 5
Western Mail Monday July 27th 1936 page 5 & 12
Western Mail 13th April 1942, front page
1937 Western Mail Thursday July 22nd 1937 page 3
Western Mail Saturday July 24th 1937 page 4 & 5
Western Mail Monday July 26th 1937 page 3 & 12
1938 Western Mail Saturday July 23rd 1938 pages 5 & 11
Western Mail Monday July 25th 1938 pages 6, 7 & 12
Daily Mail, Monday July 25th 1938 page 12
The Times, Monday, July 25th 1938 page 5
Western Morning News and Daily Gazette July 25th 1938 page 3
Western Mail 13th April 1942, front page
1939 Western Mail Saturday July 29th 1939 pages 4 & 10
Western Mail Monday July 31st 1939 pages 3 & 10
not held  
1947 Western Mail Saturday August 2nd 1947 page 4
Western Mail Monday August 4th 1947 page 4
1948 Western Mail Monday July 24th 1948 page 4
1949 Western Mail Saturday July 30th 1949 page 5
Western Mail Monday August 1st 1949 page 5
1950 Taff Swim, Official Programme July 29th 1950
Western Mail Friday July 28th 1950 page 5
Western Mail Saturday July 29th 1950 page 5
Western Mail Monday July 31st 1950 page 5
YouTube: Movietone News
1951 British Pathé    on YouTube
Western Mail Saturday July 28th 1951 page 5
Western Mail Monday July 30th 1951 page 6
1952 Western Mail Saturday July 26th 1952 page 5
Western Mail July 28th 1952 page 6
YouTube: Movietone News
1953 Western Mail Saturday July 25th 1953 page 7
Western Mail Monday July 27th 1953 page 6 & 8
1954 Western Mail Saturday July 31st 1954 page 9
Western Mail Monday August 2nd 1954 page 8
1955 Western Mail Saturday July 30th 1955 page 7
Western Mail Monday August 1st 1955 page 8
1956 Western Mail Saturday July 28th 1956 page 9
Western Mail Monday July 30th 1956 page 7
1957 Western Mail Saturday July 27th 1957 page 10
Western Mail Monday July 29th 1957 page 8
1958 Western Mail Saturday August 30th 1958 page 7 & 10
Western Mail Monday September 1st 1958 page 9
The Times Monday September 1st 1958 page 13
1959 Industrial strike action - no Western Mail July 1959
Western Mail Thursday August 6th 1959, special news review, page four
Western Mail, Saturday August 13th 1960 page 14
1960 Western Mail, Saturday August 13th 1960 page 14
Western Mail, Monday August 15th 1960 page 11
Historypin (incl photo)
1961 Western Main Monday 24th July 1961 page 8
1962 Western Mail Saturday July 7th 1962 page 12
Western Mail Monday July 9th 1962 page 9

The 1962 event appears to have been the last. At its meeting on June 10th 1963, the Parks, Baths and Cemeteries Committee granted to the Welsh Amateur Swimming Association permission to hold the 1963 Taff Swim in the lake on Saturday 27th July. No report of the race having taken place on or around this date has been found, and neither has a notice of cancellation.

The Western Mail is available on microfilm at Cathays Branch and Heritage Library.

Sources of Information

  1. Western Mail Monday September 29th 1924 page 7
  2. Western Mail Monday August 25th 1930 page 5
  3. Western Mail Saturday July 25th 1931 page 5
  4. Western Mail Saturday July 29th 1939 page 10 (photograph)
  5. Western Mail Saturday July 29th 1933 page 12
  6. Taff Swim Official Programme July 29th 1950