Blonde in Deep Water: The Biography of channel swimmer Brenda Fisher

Brenda Fisher, the record-breaking Channel swimmer who brought worldwide sporting fame to Lincolnshire, is the subject of a new book.Caption: Brenda Fisher on Cleethorpes beach

Brenda Fisher, the record-breaking Channel swimmer who brought worldwide sporting fame to Lincolnshire, is the subject of a new book.

Grimsby-born Brenda became the fastest woman in the world to swim the English Channel in 1951, and went on to conquer the Nile and Lake Ontario in Canada during her prolific swimming career.

Now, a book recording her achievements, entitled Blonde In Deep Water, has been published.
Brenda is now 88 and has lived all of her life in Scartho, in the same house she was born in.

She said:

I’m pleased that there is still interest in my achievements in the water, and it’s lovely that a book has been written about me.

I particularly like it because it’s not only about the sport; it describes my childhood, my marriage and other important things in my life, and that, I feel, is a tribute to my late parents, siblings and husband.

They were all so supportive, and although it was hard being away from home for long periods of time, like when I was in Canada, I always knew they were right behind me.

I did what I did for my hometown, and I’m happy that people were proud of me.

Aged nine, Brenda developed an almost life-threatening illness and took up swimming to regain her health.

Brenda (middle) with sister Jessie and brother Buster
Brenda (middle) with sister Jessie and brother Buster

Life in the water was already deeply ingrained within the Fisher family; Brenda’s older sister, Jessie, was the first woman to swim the River Humber, and her brother Buster too was a record-breaking swimmer.

When war broke out, Buster became a pilot in the RAF, achieving top marks in his exams. When he was tragically shot down and killed in Germany, Jessie and Brenda vowed to swim the Channel in his memory – and Brenda became a world-famous sporting star.

Blonde In Deep Water has been written by Lucy Wood, the author of The Grimsby Book of Days.

Lucy, 35, who lives in Louth, said:

I’ve had unlimited access to Brenda and her archive, and it’s been an absolute privilege to write. She has achieved some amazing feats during her sporting career which deserve to be recognised, and I hope this book brings her story to new generations of people, particularly Grimbarians who may not know that they have a genuine superstar living in their midst!

When brought home her trophy for the 1951 swim, a staggering 60,000 people lined the streets of Grimsby and Cleethorpes to greet her. Even along the train route from London, people ran along platform stations as her train went by to catch a glimpse of her.

Her achievement really captured people’s attention and there was huge excitement. Brenda is quite a shy person, so I can only imagine how she felt going out onto the balcony at Grimsby Town Hall to face the 20,000-strong crowd in the square below who had turned out just to see her.

Abroad, she achieved equal fame. She met Elvis Presley and appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, she became a pin-up girl for 7 Up lemonade… in fact, this list goes on and on! Even now, so many people remember her name, and for those who don’t recognise it, I hope they will read about her with pride. Brenda was, and still is, a Lincolnshire legend.

Lucy is a journalist and now works in PR, and is currently writing The Little Book Of Lincolnshire for The History Press. She gave credit to local veteran swimmer Pete Winchester for conceiving the idea of writing Brenda’s story, a project which has taken five years to complete.

Lucy explained:

Pete himself is a well-known swimmer, having swum the River Humber more than 70 times.

As a child listening to radio reports of Brenda’s first Channel swim, he was inspired to take on swimming himself. In later life, they became good friends and Pete was mystified that Brenda’s biography hadn’t been written.

He mentioned it in passing and my immediate thought was ‘I must do this’. I’ll never forget the first time I visited Brenda’s home and she showed me her archive of newspaper cuttings, posters, photographs and more – I’d never seen anything like it. It was like a library and a fantastic resource in writing the book, which is what makes Blonde In Deep Water rather unique.

Pete said:

I have looked at many definitions of the word ‘heroine’, but none include the word ‘friend’. I therefore consider myself unbelievably fortunate to be able to say that a born and bred Grimbarian heroine, Brenda Fisher, is my true friend.

She is a phenomenal lady and I was awe-struck at this wonderful lady’s feat. At the age of 10, small boys are often smitten by outstanding sporting personalities – and Brenda Fisher did it for me! I am inwardly exploding with admiration for her and this book ensures her incredible story goes down in history.

Blonde In Deep Water, priced £7.99, is available by phoning Pete Winchester on 01472 823638 / 07999 727906.

For more information about Lucy’s books and upcoming projects, visit www.lucywoodauthor.com.

If you are a community group and would like Brenda to visit or give a talk, please phone Mr Winchester.

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