Water veteran still sets the pace

2019-03-14 06:00
Malcom Richards (second from left), who will 87 later this year, just completed his 66th The River Mile in the Sunday’s River with seventy swimmers of all ages lagging behind.      Photos:SUPPLIED

Malcom Richards (second from left), who will 87 later this year, just completed his 66th The River Mile in the Sunday’s River with seventy swimmers of all ages lagging behind. Photos:SUPPLIED

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HE will be 87 later this year, but just completed his 66th The River Mile in the Sunday’s River with seventy swimmers of all ages lagging behind.

Malcom Richards, fondly known as Uncle Mally from Jeffreys Bay, completed the 1.6km with his son and grandson, coming in 167th out of 237.

Nelly Burrows describes him as a gentle man with a broad smile, a toasty tan and snow white hair. “Uncle Mally is one of Jeffreys Bay’s legends!”

Born in Uitenhage in 1932, Mally spent 60 years there, and often still visits old friends. He says he learnt to speak fluent Afrikaans there.

Uncle Mally, also an accomplished sportsman in water polo, rugby, cricket and running (biathlon veteran), swims daily to keep fit in summer, and walks on the beach during winter. He made his debut in 1951 as an EP water polo player until 1979. They played against Rhodesia in 1969 to win the Moss Trophy.

In 2013, Uncle Mally received an International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame certificate after completing his sixtieth River Mile - oldest open-water event in Africa, started in 1924 by AE Murrell.

Uncle Mally swam this as a 14-year-old schoolboy – a year after World War II ended. Now three generations of Richards men do it together. This year, eldest son Garth from JBay (EP water polo) and grandson Shaun joined. Shaun’s dad, Kevin (a triple Springbok), could not make it.

Apart from the swimming, Uncle Mally never skips his daily crossword puzzle. And by 16:30, his throat gets dry and he pops in at the Hideout, partner Priscilla Bonthuys teases. She takes care of Mally and Milly, a cat inherited from Kevin.

Memorable moments abroad include being answered in Afrikaans by a “big black oke” on a packed train in England who had been a municipality worker in Uitenhage. He told Uncle Mally: “I used to watch you play rugby”.

The future?

He quips about future exploits: “I will continue as long as I can get to the water – even if I have to walk the mile. I will only stop if I come in last…”

Burrows says, “His zest for life and his passion for his sport is an inspiration to young and old. A gentle legend walks Jeffrey’s Bay streets!

“A lesson in dedication and consistency.”

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