Newly-wed Ange wins the Mario McLarnon trophy

Remarkable Mario personified our Club ethos of ‘kindness’

Newly-wed Ange was in excellent form winning the Mario McClarnon Cup on Saturday, witnessed by Mario’s daughter Anna, son Marcel and grandchildren Roisin and Ryan, writes Alan Mitchell (Club President).
Mario's family very kindly sponsor this race and provide the prizes in memory of the remarkable Mario.

Mario McClarnon family race

Mario McClarnon family race

Anna. Ryan. Marcel. Roisin Ange

Buoys not welcome

Instead chilly waters buoyed with neoprene

The race was swam against the busy backdrop of a mainly wet-suited ‘Swim Serpentine' event taking place throughout the day.

This necessitated the white marker buoys being removed, and the race course being cluttered with canoes and other craft. Combined with unusually bright sunshine this led to more swimmers than usual going astray over the 440 yard course.

Mario's daughter swam the English Channel solo

Mario’s daughter Anna, a keen swimmer, Serpentine competitor and solo Channel swimmer (3.9.2002 24 hrs 8 mins) spoke movingly about her father and we are grateful to her that she presented the prizes on behalf of the family.

Anna Maria McClarnon a member of the 24 hour swimming club

Anna Maria McClarnon a member of the 24 hour swimming club

Super Mario

A man outstanding in many fields

In the circus of curiosities that is the Serpentine Swimming Club, there were a group of individuals who even by the standards of the club stood out as a ‘crazy gang’ of larger than life characters.

Mario was very much part of this group until his untimely early death in 2007, at a young age of 74. He had been paralysed from the neck down two years earlier after being knocked over by a moped whilst crossing a London Street.

Prior to this incident Mario had been an ultra fit athlete who would often be seen running between his workplace at the Clapham Station signal box and the Serpentine, bare foot and bare chested.

He favoured very early and very late swims and often his presence could only be detected by his wet footprints when the Lido officially opened in the morning. During his breaks from signal work, he would often be seen exercising next to the tracks and even doing, ‘chin ups’ from the external window frame of the signal box.

A Selfless Man who worked tirelessly for charities

A Selfless Man who worked tirelessly for charities

Mario played with his heart not his feet

Mario was a keen and highly proficient piper performing mainly to raise money for charity. Anecdotally he started to learn to play the pipes in his home town of Lurgan in Northern Ireland. He joined a local ‘marching band’ and was made very welcome with his musical gifts, until it was discovered that religiously he ‘marched with the wrong foot’.

The religious divide then being more to the fore than it is now, he was politely asked to leave.

Mario regularly busked in London in aid of charity and on one famous occasion was arrested by an over enthusiastic police officer. The Magistrate having read about Mario’s charity work dismissed the case and had strong words with the officer.

He ran the 1981 London Marathon in a kilt and with bagpipes, naturally bare footed and chested. He would stop every so often to play a rousing tune, a friend carrying two buckets would collect donations destined for charity.

Mario the Champion

Mario would pipe members onto the boards for the Christmas Day race wearing his ‘budgie smugglers’ as was the then fashion. This included the 100th anniversary of the club when due to thick ice the race was cancelled and competitors had to make do with a refreshing plunge created by cutting a hole in the ice.

The only occasion he did not pipe competitors out was in 1983 when after checking his handicap he thought he was in with a chance and wanted to save his puff for the race. He went on to win the Peter Pan Cup that year.

Musical Mario

Musical Mario

Mario leads out swimmers for Christmas Day race including a youthful Brian Thomas