Australian Dictionary of Biography

  • Tip: searches only the name field
  • Tip: Use double quotes to search for a phrase

Cultural Advice

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

In addition, some articles contain terms or views that were acceptable within mainstream Australian culture in the period in which they were written, but may no longer be considered appropriate.

These articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Australian National University.

Older articles are being reviewed with a view to bringing them into line with contemporary values but the original text will remain available for historical context.

Cecil Patrick Healy (1881–1918)

by G. P. Walsh

This article was published:

Cecil Patrick Healy (1881-1918), swimmer and commercial traveller, was born on 28 November 1881 at Darlinghurst, Sydney, third son of native-born parents Patrick Joseph Healy, barrister, and his wife Annie Louisa, née Gallott, late Girard. He was educated at J. Lee Pullings's school at Bowral and in 1895 won a 66-yard handicap race at the old Sydney Natatorium. He joined the East Sydney Amateur Swimming Club, steadily improved, and in 1901 with Frederick Lane and others won the 500 yards flying squadron teams race in the New South Wales Championships for the first of many times.

In 1902-04 Healy was frequently placed in sprint and middle-distance races, often second to Dick Cavill, and in 1905 at Balmain won the 100 yards State championship in 61.1 seconds, came third in the 220 yards freestyle and was a member of the victorious flying squadron (world record time) and water polo teams. At the Australasian championships in Melbourne the same year he won the 100 yards freestyle title in 58.0 seconds, equalling the world record.

Retaining his Australasian 100 yards title in 1906, Healy finished third to C. Daniels and Z. Halmay in the 100 metres final at the unofficial Olympics at Athens. On a successful tour of Britain and Europe he won the 220 yards Amateur Swimming Association championship of England in 2 minutes, 37.4 seconds, came second in the English 100 yards title and won the 100 metres and Kaiser's cup at Hamburg.

At the Australasian titles in 1908 Healy regained the 100 yards freestyle title in the record time of 57.2 seconds (not equalled until 1922 and not bettered in the event until 1927) and the 220 yards title in 2 minutes, 34.2 seconds. He retained the 100 yards championship in 1909 and 1910 and in 1911-12 had some interesting contests and wins against (Sir) Frank Beaurepaire and Bill Longworth. At the Stockholm Olympics in 1912 he finished a close second to Duke Kahanamoku in the 100 metres final and won a gold medal in the 4 x 200 metres relay.

Short and stocky with powerful arms and shoulders, Healy developed the two-beat Australian crawl and was famed for his brilliant finishes. He contributed articles on swimming and other subjects to the press and was a fluent speaker, often for the Liberal political interest. He was vice-president of the New South Wales Amateur Swimming Association and of the Surf Bathing Association of New South Wales. An excellent surfer, he was a founder, captain and gold honour badge holder of the Manly Surf Club and prominent in the fight to deregulate bathing laws. A paradigm of the true sportsman, he received the silver medal of the Royal Shipwreck Relief and Humane Society of New South Wales in 1911.

On 15 September 1915 Healy enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force and after service as a quartermaster sergeant in the Army Service Corps in Egypt and France he transferred to the infantry officer school at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he swam, rowed, boxed and played Rugby. On 1 June 1918 he was commissioned second lieutenant in the 19th (Sportsman's) Battalion and was killed in his first action in the battle for Mont St Quentin on 29 August. A requiem Mass for him was celebrated in St Mary's Cathedral, Sydney, on 23 September. He was unmarried. He is commemorated by the Healy shield for life-saving in New South Wales and in 1981 was honoured by the International Swimming Hall of Fame at Fort Lauderdale, Florida, United States of America.

Select Bibliography

  • H. Healy, Cecil Healy: In Memoriam (Syd, 1919)
  • Forbes Carlisle on Swimming (Lond, 1963)
  • J. Blanch (ed), Australian Sporting Records (Melb, 1981)
  • Lone Hand, 1 Mar 1916
  • Town and Country Journal, 15, 22 Aug, 12 Sept 1906, 18 Sept 1918
  • Freeman's Journal (Sydney), 18 Aug 1906
  • Referee, 12 Mar 1913
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 24 Sept, 30 Oct 1918, 2 Jan, 18 July 1919.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

G. P. Walsh, 'Healy, Cecil Patrick (1881–1918)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 23 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (Melbourne University Press), 1983

View the front pages for Volume 9

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


28 November, 1881
Darlinghurst, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


29 August, 1918 (aged 36)
Mont St Quentin, France

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.