• By using our site, you agree to our use of cookies
Brenda Fisher BEM.

Posted on: 11th August 2022

It is with great sadness that we have to say goodbye to Brenda Fisher BEM.

As Lauren Davidson (Grimsby Live) wrote: 'Nobody has done more to promote Grimsby than she did'.

She recently became the oldest surviving world-record-breaking woman to swim the English Channel and our oldest Channel Swimming Association member. She was without doubt one of the true open-water pioneer swimmers of the 20th century.

Grimsby's Brenda Fisher, the daughter of a Grimsby trawlerman, swam the English Channel in 1951 and broke the women's world record time. She died in hospital after two strokes on the 2nd of August at the age of 95.

On the 16th of August 1951, taking part in the second Daily Mail Cross Channel race, the 23-year-old set a new record for women in a time of 12 hours 42 minutes; breaking the previous women's record of 13 hours 20 minutes.

Brenda swam the Channel in 1951 (Image: Grimsby Live)

Brenda became world-famous when she achieved the feat, which she undertook in memory of her brother Buster, an RAF pilot who had been shot down and killed in Germany during the Second World War.

Born in Scartho in 1927, she learned to swim during her family’s summer holidays in nearby Mablethorpe and joined Grimsby’s Mermaids club where she trained with her coach, Mr. McNally. When preparing for her cross-Channel race – her first venture into distance swimming – Brenda trained for six hours at a time at Alexandra Dock and the pools in Cleethorpes and Eleanor Street, Grimsby. On the day of the Daily Mail race, Brenda competed against 20 other swimmers from around the world whilst proudly wearing the Mermaids logo across her swimming costume. When she returned to Grimsby with her trophy over 60,000 people came out to line the streets and welcome her home.

The crowds were phenomenal. A formal route had been decided upon and Brenda, standing on the front seat of a taxi with her head through the sunroof was applauded to the skies as she progressed to the Town Hall.

"We want Brenda," chanted the throng as the summer evening turned to darkness.

And Brenda, modest, unassuming Brenda, stepped onto the Town Hall balcony and into the limelight of fame and acclaim.

And the cheers never really died away.

Brenda went on to set two more incredible records during her swimming career – a 32-mile race in Canada’s Lake Ontario and the 29-mile River Nile race in Egypt. After retiring from competitive distance swims, Brenda became a swimming teacher at her much-loved club, teaching thousands of local children to swim.

Today, you will find a Blue Plaque for Brenda outside the Grimsby Fishing Heritage Centre. In 2015, at the Grimsby Telegraph Pride in the Community Awards, Brenda Fisher received the Lifetime achievement award. She has had a tugboat named after her and in 2016, she was awarded Freedom of the Borough. Brenda received a British Empire Medal (BEM) in the Queen’s New Year Honours, and she was featured in a special episode of the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow which celebrated Pioneering Women of the past 100 years.

Brenda lived in Scartho, in the same house in which she was born, all her life. You can read more about Brenda’s incredible life story in ‘Blonde in Deep Water: Brenda Fisher, the story of a Channel Swimmer’ by local author Lucy Wood. The book is available at Grimsby Fishing Heritage Centre and by emailing lucywoodwriter@gmail.com