Death of Thames swimmer John Whale

The death of journalist John Whale has been followed by many interesting obituaries.

He had a very full life and saw many changes. For example he was an ITN political correspondent in the days when the reporter had to travel on the tube from Parliament to the central studio to deliver news of a Commons debate. Later, as editor of the Church Times, he saw the paper into a new office and managed the change to new technology.

He had a love of the Thames and he walked the Thames Path with his daughter-in-law. But this was not  a one off and he walked other routes around London.

In the guide I mention his custom, whilst still Church Times editor, of swimming once a year from Shillingford Wharf, near Dorchester in Oxfordshire, to nearby Shillingford Bridge. This is some distance and not a straight line. I don’t recommend anyone trying it today but Shillingford Wharf is a delightful spot to pause on the Thames Path for a picnic. 

His interest in the river was heightened when he lived at Barnes where he wrote a history of the church which had been consecrated in 1215 by Archbishop Stephen Langton on his way back from securing King John’s agreement to Magna Carta upstream at Runnymede. It was the destruction by fire of most of the church and the row about how to rebuild which led to John Whale and his wife Judy to move away and settled in central London. His view that a modern church should be built at the base of the surviving 16th-century tower prevailed.

See pages 52 and 150

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