On This Day: British solicitor breaks water speed record

Norman Buckley lines up his speedboat Miss Windermere IV in May 1965. (Rex) (Rex)

SEPTEMBER 17, 1956: Briton Norman Buckley snatched the water speed record from Germany on this day in 1956 after averaging 79mph during an hour of racing his boat on Lake Windermere.

The then 48-year-old solicitor from Manchester smashed Charles von Mayenburg’s feat of 64mph – although he was disappointed he couldn’t reach 80mph.

A British Pathé newsreel shows Mr Buckley shaking hands with speed legend Sir Donald Campbell before setting off in a boat that looked like a 1950s F1 car.

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He then sped off in Miss Windermere III – his own design – as he did tried to cover as many miles as possible in the Lake District beauty spot in the space of 60 minutes.

A rippling wave caused by a passing pleasure cruiser forced him to slow down – and stopped him from averaging 80mph in his Jaguar-engined craft.

'I throttled down just before the wash hit me, but even so the boat leaped clear of the water,' said Mr Buckley, whose full-time job meant he could only race at weekends.

'Had I not slowed, anything might have happened.'

Yet despite coming 0.4 miles short of his goal, the bespectacled lawyer’s wife still gave him a big kiss when got out of his boat and was told he’d broken the record.

It had been the third time the member of the Windermere Motor Boat Racing Club had tried to beat Von Mayenburg’s feat.

His previous attempt, in May 1956, failed disastrously when the boat's propeller broke after it was thought to have hit some driftwood.

In October, he kept time for his close friend Sir Donald as he reached 225mph – a new world speed record over a short distance on nearby Coniston Water.

Sir Donald, who achieved repeated feats on both land and water and was given a knighthood in 1931, died in a 310mph crash on the same lake in 1967.
In 1972 Mr Buckley was awarded an MBE from the Queen after breaking the one-hour water speed record again in his Miss Windermere V boat.

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But he died two years later aged 66.

His great nephew Simon Berry still owns the Low Wood Hotel on Lake Windermere that Mr Buckley bought in 1952.