Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Frederick Claude Vivian Lane (1879–1969)

by G. P. Walsh

This article was published:

Frederick Claude Vivian Lane (1879-1969), swimmer, was born on 2 February 1879 in Sydney, son of John Stoneman Lane, ship's chandler, and his wife Margaret, née Frederick. When 4 he was saved by his brother from drowning in Sydney Harbour and took up swimming. On 2 April 1892 he won the All Schools' handicap race and, after several other wins, the 100 yards championship of St Ignatius College, Riverview, in 1894. Next year he joined the East Sydney Amateur Swimming Club where he was coached by George Farmer. He completed his schooling at Sydney Grammar School where in December 1896 he won the 100 and 200 yards handicap events as well as the All Schools' 100 yards championship.

In 1897-98 Lane set an Australasian record of 64.8 seconds for 100 yards, won the 200 and 440 yards freestyle championships of New South Wales and the Australasian 100 yards title at Christchurch, New Zealand. In 1898-99 he won all but one State freestyle titles and in winning the mile championship in the Murrumbidgee at Wagga Wagga performed the unprecedented feat of swimming the whole distance recovering each arm over the water. Sponsored by Mark Foy in the English championships in 1899, Lane won the 220 yards freestyle title in the record time of 2 minutes, 38.2 seconds and the 440 yards salt-water title.

Australia's first Olympic swimmer and the only one at the Paris Olympics in 1900, Freddy Lane won the 200 metres freestyle title in 2 minutes, 25.2 seconds, winning by 5.8 seconds, and the 200 metres obstacle race title.

Lane swam two more seasons in English championships and worked in a legal firm at Blackpool. In September 1900 he dead-heated in the 220 yards in record time. In July 1902 he won the 100 yards and became the first to clock one minute flat for the distance; in August he won the 220 yards in 2 minutes, 28.6 seconds, ratified in 1974 by the Fédération Internationale de Natation Amateur as the first world record for 200 metres. At Leicester in October he astounded the swimming world and established the first magic mark in swimming history when he broke the minute for 100 yards (59.6 seconds). After a highly successful European tour he returned to Australia and retired.

Lane became a master printer and partner in the printing and stationery firm Smith & Lane, Bridge Street, Sydney. On 14 September 1908 at St Mark's Church, Darling Point, he married Rosemund Pearle Atkinson Lord. His hobbies were art, literature, model-building and collecting stamps, cigarette cards and newspaper cuttings. He had a fine collection of the works of the marine artists Jack Spurling and John Allcott as well as paintings and literary works by his friend Norman Lindsay. He wrote and printed a book on Lindsay's bookplates. He died at Avalon on 14 May 1969 and was cremated with Anglican rites. His son and daughter survived him.

Slim, muscular and smallish in stature Freddy Lane swam a modified trudgen stroke; swimming on his left side he rode high in the water and used a small flutter movement of his legs in between a narrow scissors kick. Although often exhausted after races, Lane dispelled the widely held view that the trudgen was unsuitable for longer distances. His name is engraved on the Helms World Trophy in the Helms Museum of Sport, Los Angeles, United States of America, and in 1969 he was honoured by the International Swimming Hall of Fame at Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He won about 350 trophies, including over 100 medals.

Select Bibliography

  • Forbes Carlisle on Swimming (Lond, 1963)
  • P. Beresford, Encyclopaedia of Swimming (Lond, 1976)
  • ANZ Bank, Chequerboard, Aug 1968
  • Referee (Sydney), 27 Jan 1897, 14 Dec 1898
  • Australasian (Melbourne), 8, 22 Jan 1898
  • People (Sydney), 24 Oct 1951
  • Sportsman (London), 7 Aug 1899, 18 Sept 1900, 25 July, 19 Aug 1902, 7 Jan 1903.

Citation details

G. P. Walsh, 'Lane, Frederick Claude Vivian (1879–1969)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 21 April 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]


2 February, 1879
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


14 May, 1969 (aged 90)
Avalon, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Religious Influence

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