1949 saw Ossett's Phillip Mickman making history. He was eighteen when he became the (then) youngest swimmer to swim the English Channel.
Three years later, at the age of twenty-one, Mickman became the youngest swimmer to have "done the double" by swimming the Channel in both directions. In 1949 he swam from Cap Gris Nez, Calais to Kingsdown, Deal and in 1952 from St. Margaret's Bay, Dover to Cap Blanc Nez, Calais.
Seventeen year old Phillip's first attempt, in the summer of 1948, to swim the Channel was thwarted due to inclement weather, having him fighting wind, rain and tides, which forced him 19 miles off course in the normally 21 mile swim. After 12 hours he was pulled from the water.
Phillip wasn't to be deterred though and, determined to be fit for the worst of conditions, he embarked upon a gruelling programme of winter training. To accustom himself to the cold, his training included trials at the dam at Healey.
He tried again in July of 1949 but, once more, conditions were against him. He found himself swimming into a strong wind, and was made to admit defeat after 13 hours at sea. With his determination, his power of endurance and his natural ability, on August 4th, 1949, Phillip tried for the third time and accomplished the second longest Channel swim in history - in 23 hours and 48 minutes, making him at that time, the youngest swimmer ever to swim the Channel.
On his return to Ossett, Phillip received a huge civic welcome. A crowd of almost 20,000 were in attendance in the decorated Town Hall Square as Phillip was presented with gifts and a commemorative scroll by Mayor Samuel E. Bickle. Amongst the hundreds of congratulatory messages was one sent on behalf of King George VI from Balmoral Castle. This was the biggest day of celebration for a schoolboy in British history.
Ossett's Postmaster, Mr G.H. Haikings said that, as soon as the news of Phillip's achievement was broadcast, the Ossett Telephone Exchange was inundated with calls from all over the country. Phillip's father, Mr W.H. Mickman was also flooded with calls at his hosiery factory on Dale Street.
After a spell in the RAF (National Service) Phillip returned to Dover to complete his ambition of completing the return journey by swimming from England to France. In 1952 he was successful with a time of 18 hours 44 minutes. This made Phillip the youngest person (then) to swim the Channel in both directions.
Phillip William George Mickman was born on the 13th of April 1931 in Hull, the son of William Henry Mickman who married Gladys Patricia May Peek in Scarborough on the 12th March 1928. Their only other children appear to be twins Alan Donald Mickman and Mavis Alison Mickman, born Dewsbury Registration District in May 1933.
Margaret Ann Mickman (neé George), the grandmother of Phillip was the founder of Mickman's Hosiery. The company started in Scarborough, but they moved to Ossett in 1930. Margaret was born in Kentish Town, London in April 1870 and in 1897 she married James William Mickman. Margaret was James's second wife. The couple had nine children, including four sets of twins born between 1900 and 1904. Phillip's father William was the eldest child.
Margaret Mickman eventually returned to Scarborough and she died there on April 17th 1956. Probate was given to her sons: William Henry Mickman (Company Director) and Charles Harold Mickman (Works Manager). Her effects totalled £20,222.
In the 1911 census, Greenland Villa was a single house occupied by mungo manufacturer Allen Mitchell and his family. By 1939, the eight roomed house had been converted into two separate dwellings, which were then known as "Greenland Villa" and "Greenlands". The Mickman family lived at Greenland Villa.
Phillip’s father William was a Hosiery Manufacturer, born in 1898 and his wife Gladys was born in 1901. In the household were Alexander Peek, working as a Braiding Machinist (Hosiery) and born 1876 with his wife May L. Peek born 1874, presumably Phillip’s maternal grandparents. Also living nearby in 1939 at Gordon Avenue, Dale Street was Phillip’s aunt Barbara Mickman.
Above Left: Gladstone Moorhouse and Phillip Mickman at East Cliff, Dover. Above Right: Phillip Mickman and Mayor S.E. Bickle at Ossett Town Hall.
Above Left: The letter sent on behalf of King George VI to Phillip Mickman offering "warmest congratulations on your successful Channel swim". Above Right: Some of the workers at the Mickman hosiery factory located at Ings Mill, Dale Street.
Above: Greenland Villa, Dale Street, Ossett, once the home of the Mickman family with a Virtual Blue Plaque. Picture by Alan Howe.
Phillip Mickman died aged 64 years in January 1996 at 8, North Leas Avenue, Scarborough.
1. "Ossett Through The Ages" Facebook article by Anne-Marie Fawcett.
2. Ancestry web page.
3. Photographs and Mickman family information courtesy of Kath and Clive Machell.