In 1951, Brenda Fisher broke the World Record for swimming across the English Channel, becoming the fastest woman to do so in 12 hours and 42 minutes.
Born in Scartho in 1927, she learned to swim during her family’s summer holidays in nearby Mablethorpe, and joined Grimsby’s Mermaids club where she trained with her coach, Mr McNally. When preparing for her cross-Channel race – her first venture into distance swimming – Brenda trained for six hours at a time at Alexandra Dock and the pools in Cleethorpes and Eleanor Street, Grimsby. On the day of the race, Brenda competed against 20 other swimmers from around the world whilst proudly wearing the Mermaids logo across her swimming costume. When she returned to Grimsby with her trophy, over 60,000 people came out to line the streets and welcome her home.
Brenda went on to set two more incredible records during her swimming career – a 32-mile race in Canada’s Lake Ontario and the 29-mile River Nile race in Egypt. After retiring from competitive distance swims, Brenda became a swimming teacher at her much-loved club, teaching thousands of local children to swim.
Today, you will find a Blue Plaque for Brenda outside the Grimsby Fishing Heritage Centre. She has had a tug boat named after her and in 2016, she was awarded Freedom of the Borough. Just this year, Brenda received a British Empire Medal (BEM) in the Queen’s New Year Honours, and on Sunday 10th June, she featured in a special episode of the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow which celebrated Pioneering Women of the past 100 years.
Brenda still lives in Scartho, in the same house in which she was born, and this past weekend celebrated her 91st birthday. You can read more about Brenda’s incredible life story in ‘Blonde in Deep Water: Brenda Fisher, the story of a Channel Swimmer’ by local author Lucy Wood. The book is available at Grimsby Fishing Heritage Centre and by emailing email@example.com.