Debs Byatt powered through to win her first silverware with the club. Paddy was on hand with his usual tasty prizes.
This race celebrates a past president and handicapper and the ever present Yvonne. They both contributed much to the club and continued our strong relationship with the South London SC at Tooting Bec.
Cyril and Yvonne Wood, long term members of South London Swimming Club, joined the Serpentine SC in 1980 when Tooting Bec was under refurbishment. They became fully ensconced with the club. Yvonne would swim before races and then help in judging. Cyril, a strong swimmer, carried on racing into his late 80s.
Cyril was club President, 1995 - 98 and Hon. Handicapper 2001 - 2004. In his role as Handicapper, Cyril introduced a "modern", scientific approach to the handicapper's art. With his trusty assistant Yvonne, he could be seen, stopwatch in hand, giving a running commentary of the proceedings into a cassette tape recorder hung around his neck, which he would download and then hand out detailed result sheets the following week, down to the last second, all punched out on his old 'Department of Education' typewriter. This was quite some contrast to the previous "back of an envelope" approach, with handicaps produced on the morning of a race, depending on who had turned up - the number of racers was somewhat lower then.
First club silverware for Debs
In his latter years Cyril took to road running and completed many marathons
South Londoners Cyril and Yvonne were introduced to each other early in WW2 by one of Yvonne's brothers. Yvonne was a great athlete. She was County standard in the high jump, though her mother saw this as "unladylike" and was more keen for her to concentrate on the track. Progression beyond county level was thus curtailed.
Soon after they met Cyril was sent out to the Far East and was one of General Slim's "Forgotten Army ". Mike Olizar notes: "I remember him telling me that when the atom bombs were dropped on Japan his Colonel called the men together saying " Don't worry boys you'll see action yet ". 'Silly old fool' was the response."
I also recall the story told by Cyril with respect to the promise by his Colonel that he would ensure they saw action even though the Japanese were on the cusp of surrender. Cyril will always be remembered to all in the club as an absolute gentleman, yet his telling of the story involved language I never heard him utter before or since. He really was speaking from the heart. They had got through safely to the end, and were not at all happy that their gung-ho Colonel was going to rob them of a happy return back to Blighty. (Brian)
During the war Cyril and Yvonne kept in touch by letters which of course took a long time to reach destination. Soon after Japan's surrender Cyril was demobbed and they married in 1947. Yvonne was working for the Pullman train car company and as a wedding present the company gave them a pullman car railway ticket to Swanage where they spent their honeymoon. During the sixty plus years of their marraige they hardly spent a night separated. When asked about the secret of the success and longevity of their marriage, Cyril said this was down to two simple words - "Yes dear".
In 2012 Yvonne joined Cyril as a club vice President in recognition of her many years of service, dedication and good cheer.
Cyril was club President when the current changing room was opened in 1996
Cyril won the 2000 Christmas Day race, exactly 50 years after winning the 1950 South London SC Christmas race
By the early 2000s there was no gender distinction in our races, all swimmers competing as equals under the eyes of the handicapper. The exception was the Christmas Day race for the Peter Pan cup. Women were allowed to join the club as full members in 1985. During the following years, to encourage the still handful of women swimmers a small “Wendy” cup was presented each year by the club to the first woman home. Like the Peter Pan cup, the trophy was retained each year by the winner. Many saw this as unfair as all swimmers in the race were competing under a handicap and the small cup provided by the club was in no manner as grand as the Peter Pan trophy presented by the race sponsors, the Greenbury family. The AGM of 2003 sought to rectify this. The concept was by no means acceptable to all at the meeting. The compromise outcome was for the first swimmer home to be deemed winner of the Christmas Day race, with the Peter Pan cup presented to the first man home and a Wendy cup to the first woman. No issue arose for the 2003 Christmas Day race. However, in 2004 the race was won by the very popular veteran Emmi Hunte. Many, including the race sponsors the Greenbury family, thought it very strange and unsatisfactory that a small alternative cup was presented to the race winner rather than the grand Peter Pan trophy for which the club and the event has a global reputation. The issue was addressed at the 2005 AGM with a proposal that the race winner would be presented with the Peter Pan cup, irrespective of gender. The motion was passed virtually unanimously, with many who opposed the proposal at the 2003 AGM speaking this time strongly in favour.
Cyril's 2000 Christmas victory made the local papers
By early January 2001 the lake had turned to ice
In 2003 Cyril won the Winter competition for the Fettes cup, whilst fellow octogenarian Alan Lacy won the Peter Pan cup
Cyril again made it into the local press in 2008, with Christmas victory at Tooting Bec
Today's race sponsor Paddy Boyce won the 2015 Peter Pan cup
Guests of the St Petersburgh Walruses, February 1994
In 1994 Cyril and Yvonne were part of a band of faithful members, including Bill Deely, Justin Fahy, and Mark Fraser to swim with the St Petersburg Walrus's. They were initiated into the club by 'King Neptune' himself, after completing a 50 meter swim cut out of the ice, 450mm thick on a lake, not far from St. Petersburg. Serpentine swimmer Clare Doyle was intrumental in organising the trip, using her contacts in the Russian city. Though not formally a member of the club at that time, Clare was a Lido regular and continued to swim early mornings out of season at a time when there were no separate facilites for women so had to enjoy the delights of changing in the, albeit large, disabled toilet.
Designer Paddy Boyce (interior, exterior and houses) is youngish (just the wrong side of 45), handsome, witty, generous and a sometime prankster (according to those that know him best).
Great friend Kirsty Neilson recalled the following story about Paddy:
"In 2016, Paddy invited Mary Olivari and me to lunch in a swanky restaurant in Covent Garden, to celebrate Mary's 70th birthday.
"Mary and I arrived at the agreed time. A young woman greeted us. I informed her that there was a table reservation under the name of Paddy Boyce.
"This young woman looked at us, straight faced, and said "I'm sorry, we don't allow people over the age of 65 to dine with us, it's the policy"
"It took a moment or two for this statement to sink in. Mary who was hurt and shocked but didn't want to make a fuss was saying - "Oh, don't worry, we'll find somewhere else", I on the other hand intended to make a huge fuss and was about to threaten the restaurant with legal action for age discrimination and have a rant about how unacceptable this attitude was in the 21st century etc etc etc.
"Just as I began mouthing off, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed Paddy convulsing with laughter, tears rolling down his cheeks. It was then that I realised that Mary and I had been well and truly set-up. The young woman was terribly apologetic, saying "he asked me to do it".
"Once Mary and I had got over the shock, we congratulated Paddy on his hilarious and unforgettable prank."
And finally - Balaclava and non-league football
Every year on 25th October Cyril and a group of friends would meet up for a formal dinner to celebrate the Charge of the Light Brigade at Balaclava in 1854. Tennyson's epic poem would be recited. Those at dinner would take the part of Lord Cardigan or Lord Raglan and others who took a vital position in the action. It seems that this Balaclava Night celebration supper started amongst Cyril's friends at work decades ago. It continued as a means of ensuring an old colleagues get-together for many years.
The other sporting love for Cyril and Yvonne, and their son Graham, was Kingstonian FC. For many decades they attended most home games and often travelled away. Graham continues the tradition.