Henry Taylor (GBR)
Honor Swimmer (1969)
FOR THE RECORD: OLYMPIC GAMES: 1906 gold (1 mile freestyle), silver (400m freestyle), bronze (4x250m freestyle relay); 1908 gold (400m, 1500m freestyle; 4x200m freestyle relay); WORLD RECORDS: half-mile freestyle; ENGLISH CHAMPIONSHIPS: quarter-mile, 500yd, half-mile, mile freestyle.
Happy Henry Taylor was a swashbuckling athlete of the very old school, vintage 1906-08. He was the dominant aquatic marvel of the 1906-08 Olympic Games. Taylor won 3 individual Olympic Games gold medals and a silver in swimming. In 1908, he also played a winning game of water polo and swam on the winning Great Britain 800 freestyle relay.
He was born March 17, 1885 in Oldham Lanes, England, and died February 28, 1951 at Chadderton, Lancashire. His first fame and last job (pool attendant) were at the Chadderton Swimming Baths.
At the 1906 Athens Olympics, Taylor won in the water, but lost in love. The love letters Taylor convinced John Jarvis to write his English school teacher didn’t read like “my Henry” and she said, “We’re through!”
Taylor, surprise of the 1906 games, won his world championship before he had won in England. He soon took care of this on his return when he won the quarter mile, 500 yards, half mile and mile English Championships. His world record half mile time at Runcom, July 21, 1906, was an amazing 11:25.4.
An orphan, Taylor was raised by his brother, worked in the cotton mills, trained during the noon hour lunch break, and at night in any water he could find–canals, becks, and in the Baths on dirty water day. When he won enough sterling silver prizes, he mortgaged his cups to go in to the Nudger Inn in Dolcross. He flopped as a businessman and never redeemed his prizes.
Austin Rawlinson, M.B.E., Past President of the Amateur Swimming Association and the first Englishman to swim the back crawl, was a friend of Taylor’s who remembers him as “always a boy, who loved his swimming more than anything else in life.” Taylor, who swam more years than any other Englishman and usually faster than any other Englishman is a fitting honoree to be selected in the 100th anniversary year of the English Amateur Swimming Association, the longest continuous governing body in any amateur sport.