Judith B Rowley

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Judith B Rowley (Grinham)

Birthplace: Hampstead, London, England
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Norman Frederick Grinham and Flora Edith Grinham
Widow of Michael Roe
Ex-wife of <private> Rowley
Mother of <private> Rowley and <private> Rowley

Managed by: Private User
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Immediate Family

About Judith B Rowley

Judy Grinham MBE (born 5 March 1939) is a British Olympic swimmer. She was born in the London suburb of Hampstead and grew up in Neasden. She married Pat Rowley in Neasden in 1960, in St. Catherine's Church and they had two children, Keith and Alison.

Grinham competed in the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne, Australia, winning the 100m backstroke in 1 minute 12.9 seconds, a World record. She became the first Briton to win an Olympic swimming gold since Lucy Morton in 1924.

Grinham competed in the 1958 British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Cardiff, Wales and won the 100m backstroke in 1:11.9. She went on to win a second gold medal in the four x 100m medley team and the 1958 European Championships in Budapest and won a gold in the 100m backstroke. This led to her being the first athlete in any sport to hold Olympic, Commonwealth and European Gold medals, at the same time. In 2007, she was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the Queens Birthday Honours list, 50 years after winning gold in Melbourne.

Judy Grinham was born in 1939 in Hampstead, West London, to Norman Frederick Grinahm and Flora Edith Grinham. Six months after she was born her father was sent to France as part of the British Expeditionary Forces, having survived Dunkirk, he was then posted to the Middle East and did not return until Judy was nearly 7 years old. On his return, to build a relationship with his daughter he took her swimming in the open air pool in Gladstone Park, Neasden. Over the next few years she learnt to swim so well that he put her up for trials at the newly formed Hampstead Ladies swimming club. She trialled three times before they felt she was good enough to join the club, and in January 1950 she was finally given a place. Her progress was slow at first, but she was determined and motivated to do well. As she gradually began to improve she started to train regularly, but training in those days was not the same as the Olympic Athletes of today. She would train in public swimming pools, with no dedicated lanes, dodging members of the public. No training facilities, no sponsorship deals, the sport was strictly amateur, and the cost was funded by her family.

Over the next 5 years, slowly but surely, she began to start winning and progressed to national competitions.

Six years later, in 1956, at the age of 17, she was picked for the Olympic squad and went to the Melbourne Olympics, where she outswam the favourite and by a hairs breadth won the Olympic Gold Medal in a New World record time (and the first British Swimming Gold Medallist for 32 years). She also went on to be the first athlete in any sport to hold the Olympic, Commonwealth and European gold medals at the same time.

Judy retired at her peak and went on to report on the 1960 Rome Olympics for the Daily Express.

She married her first husband, sports journalist Patrick Rowley, in 1960, and retired from the limelight, they had two children, Keith and Alison. Judy later divorced and remarried Michael Roe, and moved to Cornwall. She was widowed in 2010 and now lives in Hertfordshire and spends her time enjoying her extended family, she has five grandchildren and five step-grandchildren.

Judy Grinham - Achievements


  • Hounslow Swimming Club Birthday Gala
  • Broke British Native, English, Southern Counties and Middlesex record for 100 yards backstroke - 1 min 6.3 seconds
  • G.B. v. Germany, Aberdeen (First representative of country – aged 16)
  • 2nd – 100 metres Backstroke – 1 min 14.7 seconds
  • N.B. Judy was taking her O levels either side of this international
  • Middlesex County Championships

  • 1st - 100 metres Backstroke – 1 min 15.6 seconds
  • Denmark v. England, Aalbourg

  • Six-cornered International Moscow.
  • 1st – 100 metres Backstroke – 1. Min 14.7 seconds

  • National Championships, Blackpool
  • 1st - 110 yards backstroke
  • 1956
  • G.B. v. France, Birmingham
  • Broke British record.

  • Grand Prix de Paris
  • 1st – 100 metres Backstroke – 1 min 13.4 seconds

  • G.B. v. Netherlands, Coatbridge
  • 1st – 100 yards Backstroke – 1 minute 6.8 seconds

  • National Championships, Blackpool
  • 1st - 110 yards backstroke - 1 minute 14.5 seconds

  • 'Olympic Games, Melbourne, Australia, 1956
  • 1st – Gold Medal - 100 metres Backstroke Final – 1 minute 12.9 seconds – World & Olympic Record
  • 8th - 100 metres Relay Final

  • Daily Express Sportswoman of the Year 1956

  • A.S.A. T.M. Yeadon Trophy, Swimmer of the Year.

  • President’s Plate, Middlesex County Swimming Association
  • 1957
  • N.B. Swimming frontcrawl only, not backstroke, this year.

  • Germany v. G.B., Hildesheim (relay team only)
  • Broke Middlesex 100 yards freestyle record.

  • G.B. v. Holland, Blackpool'
  • Competed in individual and team frontcrawl events.

  • China v. England – 3 internationals in Peking, Shanghai and Canton
  • 1st – 100 metres Backstroke – 1 minute 12.9 seconds

  • National Championships, Blackpool
  • 1st – 220 yards Front Crawl

  • 2nd – 110 yards Front Crawl
  • 1957
  • Individual tour of South Africa, including South African Championships

  • South African Tour
  • Johannesburg - 1st – 150 yards Backstroke – 1 minute 49.4 seconds
  • Cape Town - 1st – 100 yards Backstroke – 1 minute 6.3 seconds

  • SA Championships
  • 1st – 100 yards Backstroke
  • 2nd – 100 yards Freestyle – 59.4 seconds
  • 1st - 220yards Freestyle – 2 mins 28.3 seconds

  • 1958
  • G.B. v. Germany, Cardiff
  • 2nd – 100 metres Backstroke – 1 minute 15.3 seconds

  • G.B. v. Holland, Blackpool
  • 2nd – 100 metres Backstroke – 1 minute 13.6 seconds
  • Southern Counties Championship – London
  • 1st – 100 yards Backstroke – 1 minute 4.8 seconds

  • 1958 British Empire Commonwealth Games, Cardiff
  • '1st - 110 yards Backstroke - 1min 11.9 seconds - World, & Commonwealth Record'

  • 1st - Medley Relay Team - 4 min 54.0 seconds - World Record
  • 3rd - 4 x 110 yards Relay

  • National Championships, Blackpool
  • 1st - 110 yards backstroke
  • 1st - 110 yards frontcrawl

  • 1958 European Championships, Budapest
  • 1st - 100 metres Backstroke Final – 1 min 12.6 seconds ('European Record)'
  • 3rd - Women’s 100 metres Freestyle Final – 65.4 seconds
  • 2nd - 100 metres Relay
  • 3rd - Medley Relay Team

  • 'Daily Express Sportswoman of the Year 1958

  • First athlete in any sports to win and hold Olympic, Commonwealth and European Gold Medals at the same time.
  • 1960
  • Retired from competitive swimming. Covered 1960 Rome Olympics as journalist for The Daily Express.

  • 1981
  • Honoured in the Swimming Hall of Fame, Florida

  • 2006
  • Awarded MBE in Queen’s Birthday Honours

Other Achievements

  • Swimming coach for Hampstead Ladies Swimming Club, Ruislip/Northwood Swimming Club.
  • Appeared in film ‘Operation Bullshine
  • Waxwork model- Madame Tussauds
  • Worked for the Daily Express for 2 years as swimming reporter, covered 1960 Rome Olympics
  • Barnardo’s for almost 15 years as Field Fundraiser, National Trainer and Head of Appeals Training - Abbeyfield Society
  • Samaritans
  • Mount Edgcumbe Hospice, St. Austell.
  • Member of Eastcote Hockey Ladies 1st XI that won the Middlesex County Championships x 2


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Judith B Rowley's Timeline

March 5, 1939
London, England