Jack McClelland

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Jack McClelland is an inductee in the Ireland Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame in its inaugural class of 2018
Public tribute to Jack McClelland, an an Honour Swimmer in the Ireland Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame in its inaugural Class of 2018, and Ciaran McGinn
Photo from the Sam Rockett collection shows the swimmers of the 1956 Butlin's International Cross-Channel Swimming Race

Jack McClelland (passed away in 1979) was a leading Irish marathon swimmer during the mid 1950s to late 1960s. He was a superb athlete: turned down a professional football contract with Arsenal, weightlifter, wrestler (professional under the alias J Raymond the Belfast Bulldog).


McClelland is an Honour Swimmer in the Hall of Fame – Marathon Swimming Ireland of the inaugural Class of 2018. His Class of 2018 includes Honour Swimmer Chris Bryan, Honour Swimmer Lisa Cummins, Honor Swimmer Kieran Fitzgerald, Honor Swimmer Deirdre Ward, Honor Contributor Eilís Burns (Coach), Honour Contributor Martin Cullen (Administrator), Honour Contributor Brian Meharg (Pilot), and Honour Contributor Quinton Nelson (Pilot).

Open Water Swimming Career

  • He participated for six years in the Butlin's Cross Channel Race across the English Channel with the greatest marathon swimmers of the era. In 1956, he was the last to leave the water in terrible conditions in 11 hours and 4 minutes and was declared joint winner with Tom Park who retired in 10 hours and 20 minutes. Jack never complete the swim: 1954 15 hours and 45 minutes; 1955 12 hours and 5 minutes; 1957 boat failed to show in terrible conditions and only two swimmers finished with Greta Andersen finishing in 13 hours 53 minutes over England's Ken Wray in 16 hours; 1958 more boat issues after 10 hours and 10 minutes and 1959 failed to start.
  • His other big swims included a number of pioneering swims believed to be first ever:
    • 1958 - from Carrick to Bangor
    • 1959 - across Lough Neagh in just under 18 hours, following Commander Gerald Forsberg as the second swimmer to complete
    • 1959 - Rathlin Sound from Rue to Ballycastle in 3 hours 10 minutes as the first man
    • 1961 - Strait of Gibraltar as the first Irish swimmer on 20 September 1961 in 7 hours 15 minutes
    • 1964 - Galway Bay from Blackhead Clare to Salthill Galway in 7 hours
    • 1965 - Tralee Bay (Kilshannig to Fenit Island) in 4 hours 20 minutes
    • 1965 - Dingle Bay - 19km
    • 1968 - 11.3 km (7 miles) from Tory Island to Mainland
    • 1969 - Blaskets Island to Dunquin

1956 Billy Butlin English Channel race

Entrants for the 1956 Billy Butlin's International Cross-Channel Swimming Race included (left hand corner and going down the photograph) 1 Jack McClelland (32 from Belfast), 2 Jack Cloutier (24) Canada, 3 Dogan Sahin (25 from Turkey), 4 Ronald Tarr (19 from London), 5 Clarence Conza (33 from New Zealand), 6 Ian Tirrell (33 from South Africa), 7 Erik Martin (53 from Sweden), 8 Jenny James (28 from Wales), 9 Maria Meesters (17 from Holland), 10 Baptista Pereira (35 from Portugal), 11 Margaret Sweeney (26 from New Zealand), 12 Greta Anderson (29 from Denmark), 13 Elizabeth Wild (22 from New Zealand), 14 Florence Burdett (27 from America), 15 Diana Cleverley (22 from New Zealand), 16 Brenda Fisher (28 from Grimsby), 17 Thomas Park (32 from California), 18 Harold Bracewell (47 from Blackpool), 19 Edward (Ned) Barnie (59 from Scotland), 20 Arthur Rizzo (28 from Malta), 21 Mohammed El Soussi (28 from Syria), 22 Fredrick Oldman (40 from Huddersfield). 23 Mihir Zen (27 from India), 24 Alfredos Camarero (25 from Argentina). Toufic Bleik (25 from Lebanon), Kurt Feilen (30 from Germany), John Healey (29 from Ireland), and Edna Borenstein (19 from Israel) are not included in the photo. 14 escort pilots turned back without attempting to land. There was an opinion that the race should not have been started under the prevailing weather conditions which were forecast. 8 swimmers started, but none were successful.

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