Edinburgh Recollections

Ned Barnie

John Smith and Ned Barnie preparing to swim the Firth of Forth -  1955

Ned Barnie  -  Portobello Channel Swimmer

©  Reproduced by courtesy of Evening News.   Click here for web site details.
and with acknowledgement to Bryan Gourlay, Biggar, Lanarkshire, Scotland


Ned Barnie

Ned Barnie was is one of the Edinburgh characters remembered in the swimming baths  recollections section of this web site.

Below are more recollections.




George Smith

British Colombia, Canada wrote:

George wrote:

Boy Scouts' Gala

"I remember Ned Barnie doing a demonstration swim at a Boy Scout Gala at Dalry baths where he amazed us all by doing a Johnny  Weismuller (Tarzan) underwater swim of a full length and a return part-length. I think he was a former Channel swimmer."

George Smith, British Colombia, Canada,  April 21, 2006 and




Bryan Gourlay

Biggar, Lanarkshire, Scotland

Thank you to Bryan Gourlay for providing the photograph above, taken in 1955.

Bryan wrote:

Channel Swimmer

"As George says, Ned Barnie was a very famous bloke, around Edinburgh, for his many Channel swims and involvement with kids.  He lived in Portobello.  He is the older chap on the right of the picture and would have been aged almost 60 when the picture was taken.

The Edinburgh Evening News reported:

Ned Barnie

"Ned Barnie and a young John Smith were preparing to swim from Granton to Burntisland, which Ned had done on five previous occasions, once there and back. On this occasion, the 7 mile swim took four hours and 20 minutes.

Born in 1896, Ned was the first Scot to swim the English Channel (in 1950) and the first man to swim it both directions (1951). He held the record of being the oldest person to swim the Channel for 28 years. He was a dedicated swimmer, estimated to have completed 200,000 lengths of Portobello baths in 1932.

As well as teaching science, he regularly swam in competitions. He won the Scottish Amateur 880 Yards Freestyle in 1924 and 1925 (cutting an amazing 18 seconds off his winning time) and was Scottish Amateur Swimming Association president in 1946. During the First World War he was awarded the Military Medal.

He was officially known as W E Barnie (and appears in the record books as such), but was such a weel kent figure in Portobello, he was more popularly known as Ned.

He swam in the Forth every day, sometimes almost breaking the ice on the water. For his 70th birthday he treated himself to a swim from Fisherrow, Musselburgh to Portobello, a leisurely 2 mile journey. He continued swimming almost up to his death at the age of 87.

He died on Christmas Day, 1983."


Bryan Gourlay, Biggar, Lanarkshire, Scotland, ,  April 25 + 26,  2006




Walter Barnie

Oxford, Massachusetts, USA

Walter Barnie wrote:

Grandfather's Cousin

"Ned was my grandfather’s cousin.  My grandfather moved here  from Edinburgh in 1919.  I remember him speaking about Ned growing up.

I must have inherited the swimming gene as I swim 5 days a week, however, I only do 3 miles a week not like Ned."

Walter Barnie, Oxford, Massachusetts, USA:  August 7+13, 2006




Archie Foley

Joppa, Edinburgh

Archie Foley wrote:

Commemorative Plaque

"On 16h July this year, a commemorative plaque was unveiled at 7 Straiton Place, Portobello  where Ned lived for many years,"

Archie Foley, Joppa, Edinburgh:  August 18 + 19, 2006




Margaret Mccafferty

Allanton, near Shotts, North Lanarkshire, Scotland

Margaret Mccafferty wrote:


"Around 1950, we were on holiday in King Street, Portobello when Ned Barnie came home after swimming the English Channel, and there was a big noise about him then.

I was quite young and can just remember faintly."

Margaret Mccafferty:  February 4, 2008


Straiton Place

 Commemorative Plaque

I visited Straiton Place on August 20, 2006, and took a few photographs of the plaque and the buildings that it has been attached to.

 Straiton Place, Portobello  -  Plaque to Ned Barnie, Channel Swimmer  -  2006 ©       Straiton Place, Portobello  -  Looking East  -  2006 ©

-  Peter Stubbs,  August 22, 2006




John Warnes

John Warnes wrote:


"I was reading the piece on Ned Barnie.

He was my science teacher at St Anthony`s school in Lochend Road, 1969-1971. He always smelled of the sea and swam 2 miles every morning. He was not a bad teacher but did seem a bit eccentric.

John Warnes, Doncaster, Yorkshire:  September 14 2008


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