Morrison, Miss Eva

Eva Isabel (Belle) Morrison (October 8 1907 – March 17 1985) was a Boston hospital librarian, and a long distance swimmer who made three attempts to cross the English Channel. She was on the Board of Governors of The International Professional Swimmers’ Association.

Her biography, obituary and gravestone says she was born on March 8 1911 in Pictou, Nova Scotia, Canada, where her father was chief of police; her application for naturalisation in 1928 says she was born on October 8 1907 in Pictou and the 1911 census for Pictou has her age 6 (born March 1905). The Boston 1930 census gives her birthdate as 1907/8 and she is a swimming club instructor

Perhaps she lied because of her marriage to Peter James Abdou in 1944 who was born in 1917, ten years her junior.

She had arrived in the USA at Boston on 8/1/1926. Her US immigration form for crossing the Canadian border says it was indeed on Jan 8 1926 and she was age 20 (a birth date of 1905), a commercial artist, coming to reside in Boston for good. She became an American citizen in 1932.

Eva completed her first 5-mile swim in 1918. In 1926 she lost the Boston Light swim after swimming for over 7 hours in frigid water. She was the last competitor to drop out of the race.

Her biography says she first attempted to swim the English Channel in 1927 – there is a lot of coverage in the American press of her announcment that she was heading to base herself in Calais to make an attempt in early September but no evidnce she even reached Europe let alone made an attempt.

She did make an attempt on August 23 1935. Although she failed, she did win the 1935 Dover Trophy with a time of 15 hours and 55 minutes for the 18-mile swim from Folkestone to Margate.

She left the USA on 28/6/1936 to spend the summer in England to make a 2nd attempt and began training at Deal with the Kellingleys on 27/7/36. Bad weather and rough seas prevented her making an attempt and she returned to America on 9/9/1936

Yet again she spent the summer in Dover during 1937 but made no attempt again because of conditions. She returned to America on 3/9/1937

She announced in August 1949 that she intended to try again in the summer of 1950, when she would be 40. Again, there is no evidence she even made the trip

On 9 October 1941 she was in a car accident in Wiscasset, Maine that killed Michael Tonely, her swimming coach and trainer (but had never accompanied her to the UK).

She died on March 17, 1985 in Scituate, Massachusetts.

Swims by Morrison, Miss Eva

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