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Tributes paid to man who swam the channel

By Burton Mail  |  Posted: August 26, 2014

By Rob Smyth

  • Bill Pickering

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TRIBUTES have been paid after the death of a world record-breaker who once swam the English Channel.

Bill Pickering, of Woodville Road, Overseal, set a world record for the England to France crossing of 14 hours and six minutes on August 27, 1955 – an hour and 28 minutes faster than any other man before him.

The vice-president of the Channel Swimming Association died at Burton's Queen's Hospital at the age of 93.

"He was a gentle giant," said Michael Read, president of the Channel Swimming Association.

"I couldn't have met a more kind and helpful man in all my life.

"He was a real inspiration to everyone he met. It is difficult to know he's now gone – the world has lost a wonderful character and I wish I had spent more time with him."

Mr Pickering was born in Overseal on July 19, 1921, and at the age of eight he he wanted to be a channel swimmer.

His interest in swimming led him to take up seasonal employment in the swimming baths in Ashby, which was where he met his wife Clarrie.

The two married on September 13, 1941.

Bill would train for up to 10 hours a day in the water and soon began entering competitions.

In 1955, the year he set his record, he made the 11th England to France crossing. His record was eventually wrestled away by Florence Chadwick.

In September 2011, he and Clarrie celebrated their platinum wedding anniversary.

"Our deepest condolences go to his wife Clarrie, who stayed by his side for more than 70 years, and his family," added Mr Read.

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