Kent Mourns the Passing of First English Channel Swimmer at 85

Kent Mourns the Passing of First English Channel Swimmer at 85

Kent’s First Channel Swimmer Passes Away at 85

Kent has lost a true legend in the world of swimming. Michael Jennings, the first person from Kent to swim across the English Channel, passed away at the age of 85. He died on Monday, January 15 at Darent Valley Hospital in Dartford.

Jennings, who hailed from Hartley, was a former Royal Marines commando and British swimming champion. He made history in 1960 when he successfully swam across the perilous English Channel at the age of 22. He completed the swim in an impressive 13 hours and 31 minutes.

In 1966, Jennings made headlines again when he became only the 10th person to swim from England to France and back. He was also an Olympic torch bearer in 2012, an honor he was extremely proud of.

Aside from his love for swimming, Jennings was also dedicated to raising money for the ellenor hospice, a cause close to his heart. In 2010, at the age of 73, he wrote a book about his most entertaining and unbelievable life events to raise funds for the hospice. The book raised an impressive £21,121.

Jennings’ love for adventure and challenges continued well into his 80s. He remained an active member of the Channel Swimming Association for 65 years. He also participated in the 2010 Hellespont swim from Asia to Europe, where he came in second to his lifelong hero, 1960 Olympic Gold medalist Murray Rose.

Jennings’ legacy also includes being the first person from Kent to complete the English Channel swim that decade. He was awarded a silver rose bowl by the Gravesend Swimming Club for his achievement. Unfortunately, the trophy was lost in 1972 during his divorce from his first wife. It was only returned in 2019 when it was found in an Irish charity shop and the buyer, Dave Dineen, tracked down its rightful owner.

Jennings’ stepdaughter Cheryl Evans remembers him for his wonderful sense of humor and his love for challenges. She apologizes to anyone who may have been offended by his humor. She also shares that he spent the last 10 years of his life caring for his wife, Ann, who was diagnosed with dementia. Jennings had to learn to do things that men of his generation were not used to, like cooking and taking care of the household.

Despite the challenges, Jennings and Ann had an amazing life together. They were the first white couple to marry in St Lucia and traveled all around the world. Jennings will be remembered not only as Kent’s first cross-Channel swimmer, but also as a dedicated husband, father, and philanthropist. He will be greatly missed by his family, friends, and the entire Kent community.

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