Ron (the Con) Whittam cup 2022

Sir Anthony sidestrokes to glory in the 440 yard (400m) race for Ron

Sir Anthony Cleaver streaked home sideways to capture the spoils and the Ron the Con "Power Cup". 

Once all racers had finished, we swam the now traditional extra 84 yards at "Ron pace" in recognition of Ron's 84 years.

Kirstie Neilson and Mary Olivari provided some beautiful prizes in memory of their dear friend.

Norman Jones did the presentation honours, stepping in on behalf of President Rob Ouldcott who was striding along the Pennine Way whilst we were drinking tea and eating cake.

Autumn 2002, Ron watched on by Ian Stuttard

Autumn 2002, Ron watched on by Ian Stuttard

Ron continued to win weight lifting and body building competitions throughout his seventies and into his eighties

Ron Whittam joined the Serpentine Swimming Club in 2000, with the aim of swimming the Christmas Day race to quietly raise money for charity.  Ron soon became a favourite of all he met at the lake and was quickly established as “part of the furniture”. 

The “Ron the Con Power cup” was established on the fixture list in 2002, named with reference to the power lifting championships Ron was still entering, and winning, in his 70s.  

Anthony Cleaver, proud winner of the 2022 race

Anthony Cleaver, proud winner of the 2022 race

Flanked by race sponsors Kirstie and Mary, with past President Norman Jones. Kirstie had travelled from her new home in Suffolk to join us for the morning.

Norman spoke of the infectious friendship Ron bestowed on all who knew him at the club

Norman spoke of the infectious friendship Ron bestowed on all who knew him at the club

An almost life size photo of Ron took pride of place, looking down with pride on proceedings

An almost life size photo of Ron took pride of place, looking down with pride on proceedings

Norman went into great detail on Ron's tea making skills and his enthusiasm to ensure no-one went without

Norman went into great detail on Ron's tea making skills and his enthusiasm to ensure no-one went without

Marvellously tasty, even when you got to the end and found Ron had left the tea bag in the mug

And here's the proof. An enthusiastic Ron, ready as ever with mugs of tea for two lucky swimmers

And here's the proof.  An enthusiastic Ron, ready as ever with mugs of tea for two lucky swimmers

"A living link to the past"

Ron was born on the 2nd October 1931 in the London Hospital, Whitechapel.  The Bethnal Green Weight Lifting Club obituary described Ron as “a living link to the past. He spent all of his life within a mile of where he was born. In 1944 he was bombed out of his uncle’s pub at Old Bethnal Green Road (his uncle being killed by the V1 rocket). He then moved to a prefab in Ion Square (now Gardens) off Hackney Road and when new flats were built, he moved to Wellington Row where he spent the rest of his life.”

Ron joined the Serpentine Swimming Club in 2000, with the aim of swimming the Christmas Day race to quietly raise money for charity.  Ron soon became a favourite of all he met at the lake and was quickly established as “part of the furniture”.  Ron’s lifelong passion was weightlifting, first visiting the Bethnal Green Weightlifting Club aged 16.  Even in his 80s he would still be training 4 times a week. Tuesday and Thursday at the Bethnal Green club and swimming Wednesday and Saturday at the Serpentine.  Ron had also done a bit of boxing in his time and for 20 years he had been a member of LEBA (London Ex-Boxers Assoc).  Ron spent many happy hours chatting with anyone who shared the same passions.  Foremost amongst those at the Serpentine was Gordon Brodie, who had boxed in his youth and in the army and had been in the same crowd as Ron at numerous wrestling and boxing matches attended in and around the East End in the late 40s, 50s and 60s -  many decades before they became best of friends at the lake.

The “Ron the Con Power cup” was established on the fixture list in 2002, named with reference to the powerlifting championships Ron was still entering, and winning, in his 70s.  After Ron’s sad passing in March 2016 his close swimming friends Kirstie Neilson and Mary Olivari took on the honour of jointly sponsoring Ron’s race.

Bethnal Green Weight Lifting Club, 1952

Bethnal Green Weight Lifting Club, 1952

21 year old Ron, second from the right

2nd home,Tory Long

2nd home,Tory Long

Rewarded with a big, crushing Kirstie hug

Tory was able to commence liquid birthday celebrations a day early

Tory was able to commence liquid birthday celebrations a day early

Another big hug, for third place Mike Barron

Another big hug, for third place Mike Barron

Norman snuck in for fourth prize

Norman snuck in for fourth prize

Once the race had finished members swam together for a further 84 yards at "Ron speed" . A yard for each of his 84 years.

Once the race had finished members swam together for a further 84 yards at

Club captain Deirdre Ward stopped for the camera. A week earlier she was in Naples to represent the club at our induction into the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame

Some decided to walk

Many thanks to Mike Harris for his "in the swim" photos

And finally, President Rob's Yorkshire interlude

Rob Ouldcott could not join us due to his striding out along the Pennine Way accompanied by his sister.

Here are a few of his snaps, reproduced here to remind us what he looks like.

Distance, inclines and weather were not the only obstacle encountered on Rob's Yorkshire sojourn

Distance, inclines and weather were not the only obstacle encountered on Rob's Yorkshire sojourn