The George Brutton cup and the Veterans' race, Saturday 28 August

Once again the Serpentine was host to two races on a Saturday morning - 110 yards for the Veteran's cup (over 60s) and 440 yards (for all comers)

The club's second oldest racer Hayden Turner won the 110 yard dash for the Veterans' cup, with Nichola Sanderson victorious in the second race -  a gentle 440 yards (400m) for the George Brutton cup.  The Veterans' race is normally the curtain-raiser for the Alan Titmuss race in May.  Due to Covid 19 restrictions in place at the time the race was postponed and rescheduled for last Saturday.

As it happens, both trophies pre-date Hayden by one year, being first presented in 1935.  Brew Brothers Ltd, a Kensington car dealership, presented this Veterans' cup in 1935 and has been raced-for ever since.  1935 saw charming Frenchman Louis Farbe present the cup that has been used for the George Brutton race since 1991.  Louis' cup was competed for over four midweek races during the year 1935 and retained by the winner.   Fifty odd years later the cup came back into the club and was utilised for George's event.

Some interesting history here.  Louis Farbe joined the club in the 1920s and was a multi-discipline endurance event world record holder in 1949.  In the late 1960s Louis made an appearance on the BBC's prime-time TV chat show, "Dee-time".

George Brutton joined the club in 1982, when he was a chartered surveyor living fairly close to the Serpentine in West Kensington.  He won the Christmas Day race in 1986.  A solid breast-stroker who always gave of his best in every race and never once complained about his handicap.  He was both a regular midweek swimmer and an ever-present Saturday racer.  George commenced sponsorship of a late-summer 440 yard race in 1991.

The then club Secretary Alan Titmuss used a cup that had come back into our possession which had been presented by Louis Farbre in 1935 for a series of four midweek races competed for between June and October.

Alan's (not very) private joke saw it engraved "Uncle George", a reference to George's role in playing the parent to the three children of his then partner (ultimately wife) Annette.  George and Annette's son Tom was the reason they could not attend the race and present the prizes on Saturday -  it was Tom's wedding.  In the circumstances, a reasonable excuse.

Brian Thomas stood in for George with tales of how his heads-up breaststroke was always competitive irrespective of whatever handicap he received.  George's penchant for shorts and open-toed sandals even in the depths of winter was also relayed during the prize-giving speech. 

When George contacted us to apologise for his absence he wrote the following:

“Annette, the whole family and I have such special memories of you and all our SSC friends.  When we were married in 1989 the Club presented us with a beautifully engraved, very handsome Dartington glass decanter.  I recall that Alan Titmuss took charge of the proceedings and true to form, he insisted on hamming it up.  So the box he initially handed me was full of broken glass which he made me drop onto the ground- with the desired gasps from the suitably appalled club members!”

Nichola Sanderson won the George Brutton cup

Nichola Sanderson won the George Brutton cup

Pondering which prize to choose, whilst Brian keeps talking

Hayden Turner, 1st over-60s home to win the Veterans' cup

Hayden Turner, 1st over-60s home to win the Veterans' cup

A member since 1999, Hayden once represented the Great Britain veterans triathlon team

It was a bright and sunny late summer morning for the 2021 races

It was a bright and sunny late summer morning for the 2021 races

Dani getting them started

Paul Daniels hoping for divine inspiration. Didn't work.

Fran Lou came second

Fran Lou came second

Awkward socially distanced big hug at the prizegiving

George Brutton won the 1986 Peter Pan cup

George Brutton won the 1986 Peter Pan cup

The old tub would be filled with hot water for members to warm their feet after the race. As the Christmas Day victor George was allowed to hog the lot.

An extra three cheers for George from some of the club's (then) youngish members

An extra three cheers for George from some of the club's (then) youngish members

Pat Thomas, Brian Thomas (no relation), George, Mike Olizar and Norman Jones

A report on the 1986 Peter Pan cup and George's victory made the national press

A report on the 1986 Peter Pan cup and George's victory made the national press

Some of the longer term members will recognise many of the references in this article - George Boyd the wheelchair handicapper, Mario McClarnon the kilted, busking piper, the crazy duck that "owned" the changing room, and many more.

George's sponsorship of the race dates back to 1991, when Peter Larrad won the cup

George's sponsorship of the race dates back to 1991, when Peter Larrad won the cup

Frank Simms, Peter Larrad, Bill Phipps, George Brutton, plus a guest appearance by Mr Blobby

1998 winner, Roy Wrey

1998 winner, Roy Wrey

Next to George is step son Greg and son Tom

2003, and someone remembered it was George's birthday

2003, and someone remembered it was George's birthday

Rain never dampens our appetite for cake, nor for the challenge of lighting the candles

2003 winner, Mike Olizar

Brew Brothers Ltd donated the current cup in 1935

For many years the Brew family attended the race to present the cup

Brew Brothers Ltd was a car dealership in Kensington whose owners were associated with the club.  John Barton, one of the family, would regularly attend from at least the 1960s through to the 1990s.

During the late 1970s and early 1980s the club would hold the AGM at the Brew Brothers' premises, surrounded by rather grand vehicles and limousines, many of them almost as old as some of the veteran members. 

1990 Veterans' cup winner, our then club captain Norman Saxby.

1990 Veterans' cup winner, our then club captain Norman Saxby.

Until three years ago the Veteran's race was for over 50s. Today it is over 60s as nowadays many of the club's half-centurions are far too spritely

The Veterans' race has always been a well anticipated Serpentine event.

The Veterans' race has always been a well anticipated Serpentine event.

The start of the 1924 race, when men were men and veterans looked like veterans

Louis Fabre (1888 - 1976) was a club member for over half a century. In 1935 he presented the cup we now use for George's race.

Louis Fabre (1888 - 1976) was a club member for over half a century.  In 1935 he presented the cup we now use for George's race.

Alan Titmuss recalled Louis as "a likeable Frenchman, full of Gaelic charm and a Maurice Chevalier accent, who was born in the south of France. His love of horses brought him to England at the time of the First World War, with the idea of signing up".  It is not clear what happened, but he never ever made it back to France. "Even at the ripe old age of 88 years, when he died, you would have thought he had just got off the boat at Dover, his accent was so strong. But it paid off with the ladies, especially at his wife's hairdressing salon in Paddington. Always fond of the open-air life, at seventy-six he could still be seen, early in the morning, exercising racehorses on Epsom Downs."

1931 All Clothes Race, and Louis is off to a flying start

1931 All Clothes Race, and Louis is off to a flying start

He went on to win

He went on to win

1954, Louis with Lido Superintendent Ted Stoter

April 1968, oldest and youngest members

Louis won the Christmas Day 1934 Peter Pan cup

Louis won the Christmas Day 1934 Peter Pan cup

Louis produced a report on the 1934 race in his own fair hand

Louis produced a report on the 1934 race in his own fair hand

In September 1949, at the age of 61, Louis created an endurance world record

When pulling together the club history, Alan Titmuss reported the following achievement by Louis:

In 1919 the British Olympic swimming coach, a Mr Brickett, claimed a world record endurance event over eight miles -  1 mile walking, 4 miles cycling, 1 mile running over hurdles, 1 mile rowing and 1 mile swimming all in 55mins. 34.5secs. 

Some thirty years later our own Louis Fabre tried to better the record and covered an extra two miles. Apart from his acknowledged prowess as a swimmer, Louis was an outstanding all-round athlete of some ability, so no one was surprised when he undertook at the age of sixty-one a 10 mile endurance test, set on beating Brickett's record. The organisation of such an attempt was a considerable problem and had to be postponed on more than one occasion. Difficulty finding a suitable track, the police refusing to allow hurdles on the public highway, and getting little support nearly caused Louis to give up the idea.  Finally a suitable track in Paddington was found, having four circuits to the mile. The attempt was made on the 8th September 1949, in the presence of a leading ' specialist in each sport, two official timekeepers and the press who followed the entire event. The performance consisted of one mile running in 7 mins. 29 seconds, one mile walking in 11 mins. 13 seconds, one mile over 32 hurdles in 7mins 30 seconds, and five miles cycling in 15 mins 20 sees. Changing to his road machine and cycled the four miles from Paddington Recreation ground to Hammersmith, where at Lyons Boat House a sculling boat was waiting; a quick change and off he went for a one-mile scull from the 'Bemax Works' to Crabtree in 6 mins 25 seconds. He then dived into the Thames and swam the mile to Putney Pier in 15 mins 53 seconds, finishing his 10 mile non-stop performance. He accomplished his feat in the astonishing time of 63 minutes 50 seconds. A remarkable achievement, and rightly claimed by Louis as a world record.

In the late 1960s Louis undertook a repeat of the endurance event.  There is not much detail on the precise distances and times, but Louis did pop up on the BBC's Saturday evening prime time TV show "Dee-time".  Interviewed by then mega-star Simon Dee, club members were proud to see and hear Louis talking about his achievements.

Simon Dee was a regular summer swimmer at the Serpentine Lido during public hours.  Not an early morning swimmer, Simon was not a club member but it was through the Serpentine that Louis came to the attention of what was at the time the most-watched show on the small screen.

Sadly, it is doubted whether any recording of the TV interview survives.

The swim leg of the event was a remarkable 15 minutes 53 seconds. This was straight after the sculling leg and most definitely "tide assisted".