Joey to get recognition

SEPTEMBER 10 is the date Stalybridge will recognise its very own swimming superstar.

For a blue plaque honouring Joey Nuttall’s achievements will be unveiled on that date.

Relatives from as close as Mossley and as far away as Tonbridge in Kent will be in attendance as Tameside Council will perform the civic ceremony.

And members of Stalybridge Swimming Club, who campaigned for years to get Joey’s achievements recognised, will be out in force to show their gratitude to one of their own.

Stalybridge’s library or civic hall, which are both council-owned, will be the scene of the blue plaque ceremony.

It is thought the plaque itself will be at Tesco supermarket, which is on the site of the town’s old baths, where Joey learned what made him the world’s best.

Great-great niece Karen Service, whose late mother Betty uncovered the link to him, will be there, as will her auntie Carol Lusted, Joey’s great niece whose own father was himself called Joseph Nuttall, who is travelling from Tonbridge in Kent.

Karen said: “We’re very much honoured that the blue plaque is being unveiled and I know mum would be absolutely thrilled if she was there.

“If what Joey did happened today, everyone would have heard about him but as it was so long ago, people didn’t know.”

Carol told the Correspondent: “It will be rather nice to attend the ceremony. It takes me half an hour to get from home to London, two-and-a-half hours to Manchester, then on to Stalybridge.

“I may even bring my daughter and her children up.

“I’ve told my grandchildren about Joey and what he did. They’ve seen cuttings and pictures of him, so they definitely believe me when I tell them about him.

“It’s wonderful that he will be honoured for all that he achieved.”

Joey won an astonishing 14 world titles after learning to swim in the Huddersfield Narrow Canal and at the publicly owned ‘Penny Scrub.’

The plaque unveiling will mark the end of a long campaign by Stalybridge Swimming Club to make sure one of the town’s most famous sons is recognised, which even saw them offering to pay for it.

Joey was born on August 31, 1869 and the family came to live in Stalybridge in 1870.

In 1887, Stalybridge Swimming Club held its opening gala with on one of the events a 100-yard swim for the captaincy. It was a foregone conclusion and Joey won with ease.

In 1888, he swam in his first professional race, the 100 yards Topping Challenge Cup at the age of 19

Joey became the acknowledged champion swimmer of the world on his 21st birthday in 1890 when he defeated James Finney in the mile championship at Brighton in a time of 28 min, 7.5 secs.

During his professional career from 1888-1911, he earned a living racing in swimming baths and the open sea throughout the country for wagers and valuable trophies that could be sold on.

In 1894, he embarked upon a new phase in his career by appearing in the aquatic entertainment show at the newly opened Blackpool Tower, Aquatic and Variety Circus, becoming known as the ‘Lightning Merman.’

Joey died on June 1, 1942 at home in Blackpool aged 72 where he was buried in an unmarked grave – but it is hoped a headstone will be added to his resting place at the town’s Layton Cemetery.

However, his home town will get to honour his achievements and a spokesman for Stalybridge Swimming Club said: “There will be a few representatives from the club. As its a weekday we are hoping that we can get a handful of swimmers down too.”

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