Fairfax archive, Mr Harry Hay swimmer, New South Wales, 4 January 1932, nla.pic-vn6265250

Fairfax archive, Mr Harry Hay swimmer, New South Wales, 4 January 1932, nla.pic-vn6265250

Come and celebrate the last day of the Spit season tomorrow. If you haven’t yet won a trophy, boys and girls are invited to compete for the Harry Hay consolation trophy in a 50m freestyle race. This is one of two trophies to be won tomorrow morning.

Several former Spit swimmers have reminisced about Harry’s smile. They have fond memories of this revered Spit club coach encouraging local swimmers to become champions until his sudden death.
Born in 1893, he became an Australian freestyle champion. At the 1920 Antwerp Olympics he won a silver medal in the 4 x 200m freestyle relay (young Keith Kirkland, another Spit champion, competed in the heats but was replaced by the more experienced Frank Beaurepaire for the final).

On Harry’s return, while living in Manly, he found fame as a coach to many Australian champions including the famous Andrew ‘Boy’ Charlton. He was credited with ‘Boys’’ record-breaking success at the 1924, 28 and 32 Olympic games. Harry was disguised as a masseur while working as an Olympic coach, at a time when professionalism in sport was frowned upon. In 1932 his training regimes were published in the well-regarded manual Swimming and Surfing. Harry travelled widely researching the practices of swimming coaches in other nations. In Berlin, he became mesmerised by members of Hitler’s Youth movement during the 1936 Olympic Games and returned to Australia convinced he must persuade Australia’s youth to become fitter.

Unfortunately, he died of a heart attack at the young age of 59 in 1952 just before leaving for the Helsinki Olympics Games with two of his swimmers, Rex Aubrey and Garrick Agnew. Several generations of Spit swimmers remain grateful for his tuition.


Harry Hay, Swimming and Surfing (1931).
Sydney Morning Herald, 31st March 1952.
P. Walsh, ‘Charlton, Andrew Murray (Boy) (1907–1975)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/charlton-andrew-murray-boy-5562/text9447, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 27 March 2015.
Surf in Australia, 1937 cited http://manlylocalstudies.blogspot.com.au/2010_02_01_archive.html