Clarabelle Barrett and Walter Brickett, and Nurse, Miss Grace Leister

Clarabelle Barrett and Walter Brickett

Black and white photograph showing Clara Barrett with her nurse/medic and trainer Walter Brickett on the beach before a channel swim attempt surrounded by onlookers.

Brickett, Walter Septimus (1865 – 1933) Professional Swimming Trainer A renowned sportsman in his own right, for running and boxing as well as swimming, Brickett became a professional trainer after being an amateur competitor. Born in St. Pancras, London, in 1865, the son of a grocer, Brickett originally worked for a pianoforte maker. He ran a number of swimming clubs in the London area and marketed himself as a Professor of Swimming. He trained Jabez Wolffe for a number of his swims 1906 –-1907 and then became the British Olympic Team swimming coach for the 1908 London Games and 1912 Stockholm Games (where one of his pupils, Belle White, won Bronze in the High Dive). He was also coach for the ABA boxing championships. He trained a number of swimmers including other Channel failures such as Lily Smith (GB) in 1913, Clarabelle Barratt (USA) in 1926 and Connie Gilhead (GB) in 1929.

He was a 65-year-old widower when he began training Ethel Mitchell, a 36 year old from Havant, and he made her his 2nd wife in 1931. He retired in 1932, moving down to Havant from St. Pancras, but died unexpectedly in 1933, aged 67.

Because of Barrett’s lack of funds, Brickett, plus the Pilot and Official observer/time keeper, worked voluntary. Brockman the boat owner only charged 75 Dollars for a row boat and motor boat.

Clarabelle made two unsuccessful attempts in 1926. On the 2nd of August she swam for 21 hours 40 mins, and was two mile from France when lost in a thick fog; this was the longest unsuccessful swim by a woman. On the 23 Aug she swam for 4 hours, she wore a two piece silk costume.

She hoped to raise enough money for a singing coach, she had a deep contralto voice. She finally performed at Carnegie Hall.  

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