TRIBUTES have been paid to a Radcliffe swimming coach who masterminded an extraordinary cross-Channel record attempt.

Wally Lord, who has died aged 86, joined Radcliffe Swimming Club as a child, winning his first regional championship aged 12.

A spell as goalkeeper for Radcliffe FC and being selected as a King's Scout at the World Scout Jamboree were among his other achievements before a spell with the RAF during National Service cemented a love of engines and physical education.

Wally married his wife, Joan, in 1958, and started his own garage, fixing cars and building bikes. He even competed in the Isle of Man TT Race.

All the while, Wally served as an assistant teacher and coach at Radcliffe Swimming Club and in 1966 he came up with a plan to break the world record for crossing the English Channel with a relay team.

On Sunday, June 17, the team, made up of Billy Pearce, Arthur Marshall, Dave Dewsbury, Tony Heaton, Stuart Pickup, and John Stanistreet, endured atrocious weather and accompanying swell, conditions that added an extra eight weary miles to their ordeal, to set a World record relay time of nine hours and 29 minutes.

Speaking to the Bury Times after their exploits, Mr Heaton said: "Wally has pushed us to the limit at times and we have sat down and wondered whether it was all worth it. Now we are sure it was.”

55 years later, the swim remains the 79th fastest time out of 1,097 relay swims ever undertaken across the Channel.

Mr Pearce said: "Wally was streets ahead of anyone around where we were.

"He taught us about acclimatising for different conditions, had us sitting in cold baths, got us doing weight training to improve strength, cross-training with running and other sports at a time when those kind of things were not a part of swimming in general."

Wally turned his attention to coaching full-time and secured a job in Kent at Maidstone Baths before moving to Portugal to coach swimming at one of the country's top clubs.

After Portugal, Wally headed to Aberdeen Swimming Club where he helped the Scottish to Olympic and Commonwealth success and created the Edinburgh International Swim Meet.

In retirement, Wally and Joan would move back to Portugal where he died on May 19 following a battle with Alzheimer’s.

Wally is survived by his wife Joan, children Deborah and Craig and his five grandchildren.

Craig, who went on to a be a swimming journalist and has covered every Olympic Games for The Times and The Sunday Times since 1989, said: "Swimming became dad's anchor, his passion, his fitness and a professional pursuit that stretched from baths management to teaching, life-saving, water-polo, coaching and helping others bring out the best in themselves.

"He spent the bulk of his life infecting people with enthusiasm, insisting on honesty, knocking bureaucracy, amateurism and other forms of pettiness apt to hold folk back, imparting his knowledge of swimming skills to generations and showing them what they could be beyond what they thought they could be."