Fifty years on, Swan take back trophy to honour Billy

Norwich Swan's WJ Basher Memorial Trophy Gala is one of the oldest and certainly one of the most prestigious team galas held in the County of Norfolk.

The trophy has been contested for annually since 1961when the first 'Basher Gala' was staged to mark the official opening of the first public indoor swimming pool built in Norwich – the City of Norwich Baths (St. Augustine's) by the Lord Mayor of Norwich Alderman AE Nicholls.

The beautiful trophy was purchased by Norwich Swan with donations received from Norwich City Council, local clubs and societies and individuals who wished to commemorate the life and works of William (Billy) Basher.

For 50 years until his death in 1958 he had been Norfolk's 'Mr Swimming', both officiating (he was a judge at the 1948 Olympics), as an administrator and writing a weekly column as 'Porpoise' in the Evening News. He campaigned relentlessly for a 'proper covered baths' for the people of Norwich, never missing an opportunity to plead his case.

Sadly Billy died just days before planning approval was granted without ever seeing the results of his considerable efforts.


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Fifty years later Norwich Swan hosted the WJ Basher Golden Jubilee Gala at the Sportspark's Olympic pool, a facility which would have amazed Billy.

Teams from across Norfolk and Suffolk competed for the Basher Trophy in front of a capacity crowd which included members of the Norwich Swan team which had won the trophy half a century before. And fittingly the 2011 Norwich Swan team regained possession of the trophy for the first time since 1992.

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Norwich Swan 13-and-under girls dominated, winning all races convincingly. Cloudy Majteny-Hill won both the 100m freestyle and butterfly events, Ellie Ronen the 100m backstroke and Laura Marzolini the 100m breaststroke. They were joined by Jaimee Woodhouse in the 4x50m freestyle relay where they lead from the outset touching half a length ahead of their nearest rival.

Similarly, the 13-year-old boys swam well with Nathan Mitchell winning a closely contested battle with Morgan Read (Dereham Otters) in the 100m freestyle. Phil Davis won the 100m backstroke and Owen Richardson left spectators breathless as he stormed home in the 100m butterfly to out-touch the second place by seven seconds. Charlie Grisley joined the trio to win the 200m freestyle relay.

Other first places for Norwich Swan included: Georgia Folkard (girls11& under butterfly and backstroke, Lauren Davidson (girls 11 & under freestyle), Will Grisley (boys 11& under freestyle), Laura Marzolini (15& under breaststroke), Amanda Bedder (women's open backstroke).

The excitement mounted as Swan realised that winning the trophy on this momentous occasion was a distinct possibility. With two further freestyle relay wins under their belt (11 & under girls: Peyton Ewbank, Georgia Folkard, Megan Woodhouse, Lauren Davidson and Open Women: Laura Hayden, Jaimee Woodhouse, Emma Starling, Amanda Bedder) the entire Swan team was crowded on poolside to cheer on the 8x50m cannon relay team in the last event of the evening. With just over two lengths to go the atmosphere was electric as Swan powered past Dereham to take the lead, an advantage they retained to the finish.

The W.J Basher Trophy was presented to Swan captains James Russen and Emma Starling by Mrs. Bridget Belson (Nee Johnson), who was herself captain of Norwich Swan at the first Basher Gala in 1961, where she won the ladies 110yds freestyle event. She was accompanied by team mates Bob Cobb, Ted Chapman and Doug Poynton.

• Final Points: 1 Norwich Swan 214, 2 Dereham 182, 3 City of Norwich 181, Newmarket 171, 5 North Norfolk Vikings 169, 6 Lowestoft & Oulton Broad 134, 7 Beccles 91.

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