Australian Dictionary of Biography

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William (Bill) Longworth (1892–1969)

by G. P. Walsh

This article was published:

William Longworth (1892-1969), swimmer and businessman, was born on 26 September 1892 at Singleton, New South Wales, son of Thomas Longworth and his wife Frances, née Nowlan. Bill was educated at Sydney Grammar School which he represented at swimming, athletics and Rugby.

In January 1911 the 1320 yards Australian championship at Sydney's Domain baths, although expected to prove the relative merits of (Sir) Frank Beaurepaire's trudgen style and Cecil Healy's Australian crawl, was won by Longworth from the Eastern Suburbs club by 30 yards in the world record time of 17 minutes, 42 seconds. He had used a perfect two-beat Australian crawl which finally proved that it was suitable for long distances. The same season he won the mile championship. Next year Longworth won all the New South Wales and Australian freestyle championships from 100 yards to one mile, a feat unequalled for thirty-seven years. He also set Australian records for 100 yards (56.8 seconds), 100 metres (65 seconds), 220 yards (2 minutes, 27.4 seconds) and three miles (1 hour, 18 minutes, 22.4 seconds). At the 1912 Olympic Games at Stockholm he qualified for the 100 and 1500 metres finals but withdrew because of illness. In 1913 and 1914 he won every New South Wales and Australian title except for the 100 yards.

Longworth enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 13 September 1915. Embarking in May next year, he served in France from November as a sergeant with the Anzac Entrenchment Battalion, and in supply and motor transport columns. He was commissioned in June 1917. He represented the A.I.F. in swimming, married Ellen Humphrey on 16 July 1919 in London, and returned to Sydney in November.

Longworth entered the family business ventures; he was a director of Australian Woollen Mills Ltd (later Textile Holdings Ltd), Ashtonfields Coal Mining Co. Ltd, Bunarba Pastoral Co. Ltd, Oswald-Sealy (Overseas) Ltd, and chairman of Beare & Ley Pty Ltd.

Interested in the history of Australian swimming, Longworth contributed the article on 'Swimming' to the Australian Encyclopaedia in 1926. He was New South Wales amateur snooker champion in 1920 and 1921, Sydney Metropolitan billiards champion in 1937 and a vice-president of the British Billiards Control Council. A member of the Australian Jockey Club, as 'Mr W. Biey' he owned and raced horses and won the A.J.C.'s Metropolitan Stakes with Young Crusader in 1936. He was chairman of the Owners and Trainers' Association and of the Sydney Turf Club.

Longworth divorced his wife in 1946 and at St Mark's Church, Darling Point, married Irene Annie Elizabeth Ley on 5 February 1947. He died at his home at Wahroonga on 19 October 1969 and was buried with Anglican rites in Northern Suburbs cemetery. Two sons and a daughter of his first marriage and his wife and their daughter survived him. His estate was valued for probate at $271,760.

Select Bibliography

  • G. Inglis, Sport and Pastime in Australia (Lond, 1912)
  • Forbes Carlile on Swimming (Lond, 1963)
  • Bulletin, 19 Jan, 9, 16 Mar 1911, 11 Jan, 1, 8 Feb 1912, 12, 26 Aug 1915
  • Australasian (Melbourne), 21 Jan 1911, 13 Jan 1912
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 13, 16 Mar 1911, 30 May 1940, 17 Aug 1943, 19 June 1944, 27 June 1945, 14 July, 25 Aug 1959, 29 Mar 1961, 31 July 1962, 20 Oct 1969.

Citation details

G. P. Walsh, 'Longworth, William (Bill) (1892–1969)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 16 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (Melbourne University Press), 1986

View the front pages for Volume 10

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


26 September, 1892
Singleton, New South Wales, Australia


19 October, 1969 (aged 77)
Wahroonga, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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.