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Special card designed for Eileen’s big day

Presentation: BBC presenter Harry Gration with Eileen Fenton.
Presentation: BBC presenter Harry Gration with Eileen Fenton.

IT WAS a busy weekend for channel swimmer Eileen Fenton who celebrated her 90th birthday on Saturday.

In addition to receiving many gifts, flowers and greetings card, she also received plenty of media attention.

Television presenter Harry Gration brought the BBC “Look North” cameras to Dewsbury to interview her, and, on behalf of the people of Dewsbury, presented her with a handcrafted birthday card, created by a specialist team of designers at Dewsbury-based UK Greetings.

The card’s design also included a miniature painting of the English Channel with the white cliffs of Dover facing the French coast from where her channel swim commenced.

The birthday card was co-ordinated by Catherine Dodd, studio director of UK Greetings, who also gathered research on Eileen’s swim.

A spokesman for the firm said: “It was a privilege to produce this card. It was a small team effort by a really talented group of people.”

Eileen, who became the first women home in the famous Cross Channel swim sponsored by the Daily Mail in 1950, said she had been overwhelmed by the beautiful card.

She said: “I received lots of cards and good will wishes but this was the greatest surprise of all. It is absolutely wonderful. I will treasure it.”

Eileen’s television interview was broadcast that evening, as was the Pathe News film coverage of her epic swim, and the card was also shown.

The Pathe News film showed also her jubilant welcome home when an estimated 20,000 people crowded into Dewsbury town centre. In Thornhill Lees, another 3,000 crowded around her home waiting to give her one of the biggest street parties Dewsbury had ever seen.

Eileen can still fit into the tiny black costume she wore, and this is now in the care of Kirklees Cultural Services, along with the Desvres porcelain vase the citizens of Boulogne presented to her.

Eileen said she would like the birthday card to be eventually placed alongside her other items currently in the care of Kirklees Council so that the public of Dewsbury could see it.

Councillor Cathy Scott, who had helped arrange a birthday buffet for Eileen, said she felt Eileen’s memorabilia should be on show in Dewsbury.

Since Crow Nest Museum closed last year, all these items, including a life-sized portrait of her painted by the late David Martin, have been kept at Bagshaw Museum in Batley.

Councillor Scott said: “It is time they were brought back to Dewsbury. They are part of Dewsbury’s heritage. So is this beautiful card made by a local firm. Dewsbury people have a right to see them.”

She thought Dewsbury Town hall would be a suitable place, and is exploring this possibility with council officers.