MEMORY LANE: Robert loved his North Sea dips

A MAN OF THE WAVES: Robert Todd
A MAN OF THE WAVES: Robert Todd

SOME people don their slippers and take it easy when they retire.

Others take up a hobby they never had time for before, but Robert Todd was different.

Each morning, he cycled to the Old Town Pier, in Hartlepool, stripped off and went swimming in the North Sea – including in the depths of winter.

And when we interviewed him in 1962, he said the only time he wouldn’t go swimming was when it was raining.

Not because he minded the rain, but because it meant his clothes would get wet while he was in the water.

By 1962, he’d been doing swimmingly with his passion for the water for 10 years. Mr Todd was 68 by then, and was a resident of Tristram Avenue, in Hartlepool.

Our Northern Daily Mail report on him read: “One of Mr Todd’s coldest dips was just before Christmas when a thermometer tacked to a tree in his back garden registered 10 degrees of frost.

“On his way to what he must almost regard as his personal swimming pool, Old Town Pier, he saw ice between the lock gates but it did not deter him.”

His love of Hartlepool was obvious, even though he was originally a man from the Curragh Barracks, in Northern Ireland. He left Ireland and travelled around England with his mother and father who was a soldier with the Royal Scots Greys, before he came to live in Belk Street.

Like many people of his era, he left his school days at St Francis’s at 14 to take his first job as an assistant in “Coffee” Watson’s bakery and canteen.

Two years after that, he went into the Old Yard at William Gray and Co to serve his time as a fitter. At the end of his apprenticeship, he went to sea on the SS Wavelet before the outbreak of the First World War.

Yet an extreme twist of fate saved his life. He left the ship briefly for a short trip to the USA to celebrate his 21st birthday.

When he got back, his job on the SS Wavelet had gone but jobless Robert was the lucky one.

The man who took his place died when the Wavelet struck a mine in the North Sea.

We would love to know more about Robert. Get in touch by contacting Chris Cordner on (01429) 239377 or email chris.cordner@jpress.co.uk