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Seymour Vivian (Sam) Herford (1912–1983)

by Gary Osmond and Murray, G. Phillips

This article was published:

Seymour Vivian (Sam) Herford (1912-1983), swimmer, surf lifesaver and swimming coach, was born on 28 December 1912 at Manly, Sydney, son of David Herford, a Sydney-born accountant, and his Victorian-born wife Gladys Emilie Filemore, née Eaton. Sam attended Manly Public School and Blue Mountains Grammar School. A keen surfer at Manly, he came second in the Australian under-18 surf lifesaving title in the 1930-31 season and won the open teams title with Manly in 1931-32 and the open individual surf title in 1932-33.

Athletically built with broad shoulders, Herford was also a talented distance swimmer with the Manly Amateur Swimming Club. He was a member of the Manly team that won the 880-yards freestyle relay at the State swimming championships from 1932 to 1935. His best individual distance at State level was 1 mile; in this event he secured a place from 1932 to 1935; he won in 1933. He competed in the national championships from 1934 to 1936, most successfully in the 1935 season, when he won the national freestyle titles over 440 and 880 yards and 1 mile. His swimming career was partially eclipsed by Andrew (Boy) Charlton and Noel Ryan. Herford forfeited his amateur status by becoming a professional coach in 1937.

On 14 October 1939 at St Matthew’s Church of England, Manly, Herford married Thora Miller Dennis, a salesgirl, who was a swimmer and a sister of Clare Dennis. He served in the Militia from 1940 and was a corporal in the New South Wales Lines of Communication Area Records Office when discharged in 1943. Having taught and coached at many Sydney pools—North Sydney, Granville, Balmain, Lane Cove, Double Bay and the Spit Baths at Manly—he started a swimming club at Mosman in the late 1960s. His children were involved in this business.

Herford was an accredited Australian coach for the 1956 (Melbourne) and 1960 (Rome) Olympic Games, at which two of his charges, Murray Rose and John Devitt, were extremely successful. He was also a coach for the Australian Commonwealth Games swimming team in 1958 and 1962. His swimmers participated over distances from 100 to 1500 metres. Rose, who won three Olympic gold medals in 1956 and one gold, one silver and one bronze in 1960, described Herford as an emotional, clever trainer who could bring out the best in him. He saw him as a `nonscientific coach’ who `worked from his gut instincts’.

Herford’s son and daughter, Gary and Kim, represented Australia at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics in rowing and swimming respectively. Herford was a choral singer with a deep baritone, whose `signature tune’, Old Man River, became a nickname. Survived by his wife and their children, he died of a stroke on 15 May 1983 at his Manly home and was cremated. His contribution to swimming was recognised in 1992 by the International Swimming Hall of Fame, which inducted him as an `honor coach’.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Wilson, Australian Surfing and Surf Life Saving (1979)
  • A. Clarkson, Lanes of Gold (1990)
  • H. Gordon, Australia and the Olympic Games (1994)
  • Sun-Herald (Sydney), 5 Feb 1967, p 64
  • Manly Daily, 17 May 1983, p 2
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 18 May 1983, p 15
  • private information.

Citation details

Gary Osmond and Murray, G. Phillips, 'Herford, Seymour Vivian (Sam) (1912–1983)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 14 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (Melbourne University Press), 2007

View the front pages for Volume 17

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


28 December, 1912
Manly, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


15 May, 1983 (aged 70)
Manly, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Religious Influence

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