Friday, 22 February 2008

Sunny Lowry MBE

email from Mike Read :
Dear All,

Channel Swimming Association Limited

President: Sunny Lowry MBE 2000-2007

It is with great sadness that we have to report the death of our President 2000-2007, Sunny Lowry, at the age of 97, she was the oldest living Channel swimmer. She enjoyed life and was looking forward to her 100th birthday. She took on the mantle of President of the Channel Swimming Association on the death of Comdr, Gerald Forsberg, who had been the Association President for 37 years. A wonderful, gentle, kind lady who loved Channel swimming and channel swimmers. She devoted her life to Channel swimming and helping others and only stood down as our President in November 2007. As much as she enjoyed her annual visits to the Dover Regatta and to the CSA Annual Dinner and Presentation evening she admitted that she was finding it hard work travelling by bus down to Dover from Warrington. On her last visit the bus driver kindly stopped outside her hotel.

Manchester born and proud of it, Sunny needs little introduction in swimming circles having been involved in one aspect or another for over 75 years. A visit to the Dover Museum offers a fine display of her Channel memorabilia and will serve as a lasting tribute.

Her knowledge of all aspects of swimming, training, teaching the disabled, lifesaving, pilot lifesaving and long distance was immense and few people today can claim to have been coached by Jabez Wollfe and kissed by Australia’s swimming star, Ian Thorpe. She always said that one of her proudest moments was having the opportunity to present Ian Thorpe with one of his gold swimming medals at the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games. In the summer of 1932 she undertook her channel training in Dover Harbour always accompanied by the Betts Brothers in a rowing boat. Her first Channel attempt that year was ended after 14 hours when she was a mile from Calais. In 1933 she moved to Boulogne so that she could train in the harbour there. On her second Channel attempt she was caught in a thunderstorm off Folkestone at 03:30 after 9 hours of swimming and the conditions became so rough that her crew decided to pull her out. At her third attempt she was successful landing at St Margaret’s Bay, but not even this was plain sailing. For the final 200 yards across the rocks and to dry land, she had to be escorted by the Betts Brothers in a rowing boat and because of this, her pilot argued that he could only complete her chart to the point were the rowing boat took over. She told us that as a result of this, the very organisation to which she became President, made the days after her swim very nerve wracking. Her swim, from France to England in 15 hours 41 minutes on 29th. August, 1933, was finally ratified and she became the 7th Lady in the world (and the 15th Swimmer overall) ever to conquer the English Channel.
Her success is all the more incredible when you appreciate that these were the days of “leather motoring type” goggles, when communication was by pigeon and local weather forecasts had not been invented.

Sunny married Bill Anderson, both were members of the Swimming Teachers Association. She taught swimming and life saving in Warrington. Bill was particularly interested in helping the disabled and partially paralysed to swim, which he did with great success. With Sunny, he started the Pilot Life Saving Scheme following a tragedy on Lake Windermere.

At the age of 16 she became a committee member of her local swimming club, she was a founder member of three swimming clubs as well as a founder member of the British Long Distance Swimming Association.

In 2005 she was invited to St James’s Palace for the Maritime Reception and had the privilege of being presented to H.M. The Queen and other members of the Royal Family.

The Channel Swimming Association was delighted when we heard that our President had been awarded the MBE in the 2006 New Year’s Honours list for her services to swimming in the North East.

Outside of her Channel swimming activities Sunny was a constant and indefatigable supporter of Manchester’s Victoria Baths, turning out in all weathers and at every opportunity to support it’s fund raising efforts. She was delighted to have been one of the people presented to Prince Charles when he visited the Baths. She can proudly claim to have been a driving force in the success of Manchester’s Victoria Baths restoration success in winning £3.5 million in the first of the BBC Restoration programmes.

She was also extremely proud of her connections with Manchester High School for girls.

Her legendary swimming achievements (not least for being one of the 'Bikini' Swim Costume pioneers!), her consistent contribution to our Sport and her gracious acclaim of her contemporaries and peers endeavours, was her hallmark. She will be long remembered by long distance swimmers around the world and greatly missed.

Channel swimmers around the world join the CSA Board in sending her family our deepest sympathy.

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