Serpentine pip South London on points to win the Doug Smith cup

A big turn-out at Tooting Bec for the annual gala against South London Swimming Club

In 1963 South London Swimming Club contacted all the open water swimming clubs in London to ask if they would like to take part in a gala. Only the Serpentine Swimming Club responded and a tradition was born.  A bright but chilly Sunday morning saw the annual SLSC v SSC gala for the Doug Smith cup.  Doug was a popular member of both clubs who died suddenly in 1967.

A chilly but sunny November morning

A chilly but sunny November morning

Team Serpentine led to victory by Captain Deirdre

Team Serpentine was once again ably marshalled by Club Captain Deirdre Ward.  Deirdre painted in words the following picture:

"It was a lovely day - the drop in temperature overnight was alleviated by the sun coming out.

"We had 33 swimmers turn up - a nice mix of people joining us for the first time and those who have witnessed the chaos before and still signed up again.

"It was great to have a fantastic 40s & under category turnout which we've not had for a few years with some memorable speedy clashes and I love to see our Over 60s shine.

"The relays were mildly chaotic as always - it was decided at the last minute to start from a different end to what we usually do and someone joined the wrong relay race causing mild confusion but these are the things that make it a great day out.

"South London were magnificent as always. Egg's commentating has to be heard to be believed and never to be repeated and they were as magnanimous in their defeat as I hope we were in our win.

"A great day trip to the south!"

Many thanks also go to Nick Hungerford and Poppy Lenton for capturing on camera the spirit of the morning.

South London's "Egg", with vice President Robin and Captain Deirdre

Team Serpentine, 2021

A club member for only a short period, 1956 - 1967, Doug Smith had a lasting legacy

Doug Smith joined Serpentine SC in 1956.  Very quickly Doug learnt much about the club and was responsible, along with Alan Titmuss, for putting together our original 1964 book “Breaking the Ice” to celebrate the club's centenary.  Doug was a sporting gentleman. It was said that he only ever complained about his handicap when it was too good!

When he joined, Doug was already a member of the South London Swimming Club where he was a leading figure.  This cross over is reflective of the long-standing strong and friendly ties between the two clubs - the Serpentine raced on a Saturday morning whilst South London held their races Sunday mid-morning so many took the opportunity for a weekend competitive double hit.   In 1963 Doug was responsible for organising a gala at Tooting Bec open to all London's open water swimming clubs. Only the Serpentine Swimming Club turned up and ever since an annual gala between the two clubs is held in his name each autumn.  Doug was very much involved in charity work, not just within swimming but also with a number of youth clubs in south London.  Doug gained many friends in France, where he first set foot during the Normandy landings in 1944.  Aside from the cup for the SLSC v SSC gala, both clubs have a Doug Smith race in his memory on their fixture cards.  The Serpentine's race is sponsored by Eric Carter over 440 yards (400m).  The 2021 race was held on 8 May and had the honour of being our first competitive fixture for 14 months following race suspensions due to Covid19.  Click here for a report of last May's event -

Doug was with our club for just eleven short years and passed away suddenly from a heart attack in 1967. For many decades his widow Rene continued to bake her delicious bread and brandy pudding for the Tooting Bec gala.

The Doug Smith cup, competed for by London's two leading all-the-year-round swimming clubs

1971, South London's Bob Paterson presenting the Doug Smith cup to Serpentine President, Jack Peckham. Like so many, Jack was also a member of SLSC.

1977, and the Serpentine win by one point. (Single point victories on either side seem to have been a recurring theme over the decades)

No photos from Sunday of the real reason why so many enjoy the morning, so here is one from 2011

No photos from Sunday of the real reason why so many enjoy the morning, so here is one from 2011