Every South African a Swimmer


BARBARA DOWELL (19 July 1926 - 30 April 2019) Barbara Dowell (nee Cornelius) was born in London on 19 July 1926, but moved to Durban with her parents and brother when she was four year old. She passed away peacefully in Durban in the early hours of 30 April 2019 aged 92.

Barbara was married to Colin who predeceased her in 1975. She is survived by a daughter and son-in-law, Colleen and Marais de Villiers, a son Doug and his partner Ros, as well as four grandchildren - Kate married to Nicholas Townsend, Jane, Bridget and Nicholas de Villiers and a great grandchild William Townsend. Our love and sympathy go to them on the loss of an outstanding mother, grandmother, and leader.

Growing up Barbara was a keen sportswoman. She received provincial colours for swimming and squash, and participated in rowing and diving. Barbara swam in the Olympic trials in 1948. She was head girl of Convent High School in Durban, and attended Rhodes University where she completed a BSc UED aged just 19. While studying she chaired the Ballet Society. She taught at Durban Girls College for 43 years and was Senior Deputy Principal when she retired. The new swimming pool at the school was named after her in 1991 and she took great pride in referring to it as “my pool”

Her interest in ballet together with her love of music and swimming skills laid the foundation for her involvement in synchronized swimming. She introduced the sport in the 1950s in Durban and managed the first SA team to compete internationally.

Barbara elevated the sport of synchronized swimming to great heights in South Africa and created the solid base on which it stands today.  She was a dedicated coach, but an equally tireless administrator, who served the sport passionately. For decades her club, Cygnus, was unbeaten, and KZN was the top province. She chaired the SSA Synchronized Swimming board and was the South African representative on the FINA synchro committee for many years. This enabled her to attend several Olympic Games, Commonwealth Games and World Championships. Barbara was a FINA judge and officiated internationally. She was a passionate supporter of women in sport and very proud of being an amateur coach in the true sense of the word.

Barbara received the State President’s Sports Award in recognition of her service to synchronized swimming. She was also an Honorary Life Member of SSA, South African Schools Swimming Association, KZN Aquatics and Cygnus Swimming Club. She joined Cygnus in the 1930s and remained a member until her death.

Barbara always wrote a poem to read at the Awards function at National Age Groups and this became her trademark. In her latter years she would still attend National competitions and could be found preparing the forms for the officials and eager to catch up on any news.

All those involved with synchronized swimming, both past and present, will miss Barbara – her ready smile, booming voice, passion for synchro, boundless energy and zest for life.

Funeral arrangements:
Cremation private. Memorial service at Durban Girls College on Monday 6th May 2019 - time to be confirmed.