Jack McClelland


Jack was the 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 and wrestler (professional under the alias J Raymond the Belfast Bulldog).

His greatest swim was the 1956 Butlin's Cross Channel Race across the English Channel. Jack was joint winner with International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame (IMSHOF) Honor swimmer Tom Park in 11 hours. Due to poor conditions all swimmers were pulled and the two swimmers who swam furthest won. He also competed in the 1957 race when again the conditions were terrible and only two swimmers finished with IMSHOF Honor Swimmer Greta Andersen winning and finishing in 13 hours 53 minutes. Jack never completed the English Channel crossing despite receiving another slot in the 1959 race.

His other marathon swims included a number believed to be first ever: Carrick to Bangor in 1958, Lough Neagh in just under 18 hours (following IMSHOF Honor Swimmer Commander Gerald Forsberg as the second swimmer to complete) in 1959, Rathlin Sound (from Rue to Ballycastle) in 1959 in 3 hours 10 minutes - first man, Strait of Gibraltar 8.9 miles/14.4 km in 1961 (first Irish swimmer), Galway Bay (Blackhead Clare to Salthill Galway) -in 1964 in 7 hours, Tory Island to Mainland 7 miles/11.3 km in 1968, Blaskets Island to Dunquin in 1969 and Tralee Bay.
Jack’s great disappointment was never completing the North Channel. He fell short with a headline-grabbing attempt in 1959. That same year, his friend, IMSHOF Honor Swimmer Jason Zirganos, died after an unsuccessful attempt.

He also contrinbuted over the years as President of the Irish Long Distance Swimming Association from 1979 to 1984 and obtained the sponsorship required in 1979 for a relay swim to the Isle of Mann to celebrate the 1,000th year of unbroken parliamentary rule. Jack passed away in 1979.