Boxing Day Plunge

Whilst here in Down Under we swelter in the 30+ heat some brave souls, many no doubt full of Christmas pudding, plunge into the cold, cold, cold waters in the northern hemisphere!

Named as one of Britain’s top ten barmiest winter dips, TENBY’s famous Boxing Day Swim has been an institution in the small West Wales town for decades and last year featured in the ITV Wales series The Harbour, which was filmed in Tenby and shows a year in the life of the seaside community.

The Tenby Boxing Day Swim is organised by the Tenby Sea Swimming Association, which also stages the summertime Caldey Swim from the monastic island to the Tenby mainland.

The two events have enabled TSSA to raise nearly £300,000 for local, national and international charities and good causes over the years.1

As I understand several locations around the UK have a Boxing Day Plunge to raise money for various charities. We take our hats off, in fact our clothes off (!!!) to congratulate these brace souls.

The Tenby Boxing Day Swim has been a part of the town’s Christmas festivities for over five decades.1

But the origins of its parent organisation, the Tenby Sea Swimming Association, date back for more than a century. In 1910, Arthur Dickinson – Quaker, lay preacher, artist and keen swimmer – brought his family from Yorkshire to live in Ruabon House, South Parade. Arthur was a year-round swimmer, and family legend has it that he was the first person to swim to Caldey. The harness he made to support youngsters in the water is now in Tenby Museum.1

And I am delighted to be able to bring you a painting of the event captured by British artist Claudia Williams.

Boxing Day Plunge, 2001 (at Tenby) by Claudia Williams (b.1933) Tenby Museum & Art Gallery © Claudia Williams. Photo credit: Tenby Museum & Art Gallery

The first Boxing Day Swim at Tenby took place in 1971. This was not a charity event as it is currently, but an inspiration of John Evans, publicity officer, to help advertise the virtues of Tenby. That year just a handful of swimmers took the plunge but since that time it has developed into a well-attended and notable event, raising funds for local causes. This event was an ideal subject for Claudia Williams’ painting style. She has stated that 'This (paintings incorporating figures) is the sort of painting that I enjoy the most. It is the human figure that fascinates me and has always done so even as a young child.' The museum also has an oil painting in its collection by Claudia’s husband, well known Welsh artist Gwilym Prichard. Both artists generously donated their works to the museum.2

Claudia's paintings are magical and we will return in 2024 for look more thoroughly at her works. But I have noticed that she does seem to like painting beach scenes as shown below in Gwylio Adar yn Biwmaris / Bird Watching at Beaumaris.

I deliberately chose this painting because this is the scene which will be repeated thousands of times over on Boxing Day on the beaches in Australia and New Zealand. And here in Melbourne we also have a beachside suburb of Beaumaris and so the painting captures exactly what you might see here on Boxing Day.

Gwylio Adar yn Biwmaris / Bird Watching at Beaumaris by Claudia Williams © the artist. Photo credit: Oriel Môn/

Claudia Jane Herington Williams (born 1933) is a British artist known for her paintings, often large colourful portraits. Although born in England, Williams has spent the majority of her career painting in Wales.3

Williams was born in Purley in Surrey and was educated at the Eothen School in Caterham before entering the Chelsea School of Art in 1950. That year she was the winner of the young persons art prize at the National Eisteddford of Wales held at Caerphilly. Williams graduated from Chelsea in 1953 and over the next decade, alongside teaching part-time in schools and for the Worker's Educational Association, became a regular participant both in group exhibitions organised by the Arts Council of Wales and at the annual Eisteddford art shows. Her work was included in the Contemporary Welsh Painting and Sculpture exhibition held at the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff during 1957.3

As we begin to sign off for the day and to go and find somewhere pleasant to cool off, you can learn more about Tenby in Wales through this great little video.

And finally a timely reminder that ArtUK is one of our favourite sites here on the AnARt4Life blog. If you are lazing about today - please check out their offerings by following the bookmark link below.


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