A contemporary of coach Jimmy Green in Pretoria, Rachael Finlayson was a coach in Durban for many years - the beach baths were eventually renamed after her. She was the 1928 Olympic coach, and with Jimmy Green must be considered the mother and father of swimming in South Africa. She was also the prime mover behind the Cygnus Swimming club - which is still the best synchro club in South Africa.
The Durban Beach Baths were renamed in her honour in 1959.
coach and manager Ma Finlayson with the girls at the 1928 Olympic Games.
Extracts from Horace Finlayson’s Memoirs:
My father was Gordon Black Finlayson. He was an architect trained at the
University of Aberdeen in Scotland. His parents were George Finlayson and
Bella (nee Baron) who lived in Aberdeen at 66 Bonaccord Street near Monkey
Glen Lane. His siblings were George, Jimmy, Horace and Belle. My Uncle
Horace said the family came from an island on the West Coast of Scotland,
Aran or Corran and our ancestor was a priest attached to a laird's house.
He also got attached to the laird's daughter and the laird kicked them both
out of the house.
My mother was Rachel (nee Morley). Her parents were George Hessel
(Jack-Jack) Morley who was born in Terrington, Yorkshire and Granny Morley
who came from Cornwall which is where we get the rumours of Spanish blood in
the family. They married on 26 November 1883 in Aliwal Street.
My mother Rachel's younger siblings (my aunts and uncles) were as follows:
Harry, who married Gladys and had Yvonne, Elaine and Douglas. He died
crossing the railway tracks near Maydon Wharf. He was climbing under a
stationary train when it was shunted and a wheel caught him.
Bert who married Maud. They had no children and he died of TB.
Fred married Elsie and they had Des Morley (who worked with me in the
Telephone Dept. and later was a theatre owner and author) and Daphne; and
Emilina who we called "Girlie" who married Tom Bowman and had Wendy (who
married Peter Carter), Arlene (who married Ivan Muir) and Peter who was an
early surfer and Springbok Lifesaver and later became a sales representative
and moved to Dubai.
Jack-Jack was a cabinetmaker who served his apprenticeship on the building
of Castle Howard outside York for the Earl of Carlisle. He was the person
who did the inlaid floor in the chapel. They came out to Durban on the boat
about 1880 with the Dykes and the Mercers. Mr. Mercer was a botanist
trained in England and he later developed the Mercer Mielie. Before that,
the common mielie was the Hickory King, which had 8 rows of kernels. The
Mercer Mielie had 12 and once it was developed all the farmers in Natal
started growing it.
In Durban, Jack-Jack worked as a cabinetmaker for Blakey & Hope. He married
Margaret Ann Uren on 26-Novemebr-1883 in Aliwal Street.
Gordon Black Finlayson and Rachael Morley worked in the Durban Telephone
Department and married in Durban. They had two children, Winnie Jean Baron
Finlayson and myself, Horace Morley Finlayson.
Winnie married Jack Forrester and had two children: Jean who married Justin
Hope and Gordon who married Stephanie.
I married Mavis Adeline Gorven and had three children: Maureen Elaine who
married John Bruce and had a daughter Nicole; Graham Dudley, who married
Colleen Rona Menne and had two daughters, Kirstin Gayla who married Ken
Satake and Tracy Lee; and Roger Morley, who married Jennifer Doreen Brimelow
and had a daughter Katherine Jennifer (Kate) and a son Peter Roger.
Manager/coach of the 1928 Olympic bronze medalist relay team.
Rachel Finlayson - Olympic Coach
We lost Jack-Jack early in the Twenties and a couple of years later Granny
Morley died. This brought about quite a few changes. We had a different
set of priorities in the house. Swimming coaching was No.1 and Mom was away
every afternoon, leaving the “natives” to run the house. What with the
terrible 'flu epidemic, the occupants of the house changed. Wilfred and
Neville Taylor, now orphans, moved in; Florrie Woods and Edith Page came to
stay, then Mom took in this skinny young girl named Kathy Russel, whose
family lived in Point Road (her mother's business questionable!). Anyway,
Mom and Dad met the Russels and it was arranged that Kathy would move in and
Mom would feed her properly. What a difference it made; she filled out and
became a real Irish beauty. Her swimming career became a South African
Following on to this first crop, more household names, all from the
Finlayson swimming stable: Muriel Ensor-Smith, a Sister at Addington
Hospital, later died in a rail crash at Plumtree in Rhodesia; Paddy Hudson,
Ernest Mitchell, Eric Sprague, Molly Ryde, the two Kemp girls, Laura and
Stella, George May and Lilly Cohen.
I should mention here that Uncle Fred was a Natal Champion Swimmer, holding
every record for Freestyle from 50 yards to 880 yards. Now Mom, as
chaperone to the Natal Team in 1924, went to Cape Town for the Currie Cup
Tournament. The Olympic Games also took place that year and Johnny
Weismuller (later of Tarzan fame) broke every record using a new style of
swimming - the Crawl stroke). His coach was Mr. Counselman. Jimmy Green,
the Northern Transvaal Coach, was also at the games and met up with Mr.
Counselman. Unbeknown to any of the other swimming unions, he introduced
the crawl to Pretoria. Come the 1925 Currie Cup here in Durban, he brought
down a team of teenagers: Dyson, Fridjhon, Aubrey Mann and Rhoda Rennie and Zus Engelenberg,
Celie Frank & Jimmy Morkell. Well, they won every
race, so Mom wrote to Counselman and got all the dope on this new method -
hence the urgent start in new coaching methods. Mom gathered together some
girls and lads at the Town Baths, normally closed during the winter months,
but with some pressure from my Mom it was agreed to keep the baths open.
Her swimmers were Split Payne, Jackie Wyman, Bill Ions, Kathy Russel and Mary Bedford,
Lilly Cohen, Elaine Godfrey, Leone Westwood, Beryl Hall (of Fish
and Chip Fame!), Mona Snell and myself. (Mona's boyfriend, Len West, was a
prefect at Durban Boy's High School and I used to keep out of his way!)