Attempt to swim from Portsmouth to Ryde

Eccentric Europeans

On Monday afternoon Professor Albert, the Scandinavian Swimming Champion, started from Portsmouth on a well-advertised attempt to swim from Portsmouth to Ryde. He had been challenged to a race by a Portsmouth professional,  Sargeant, but indignantly declined to make a race of it. This did not deter the Portsmouth man, however, and when the Scandinavian, at half-past 3, on Monday afternoon, made a dive from the South Parade Pier, Sargeant was there in a wherry with a waterman, and exactly five minutes after Albert had started, took a header from his wherry and started in pursuit of the Professor, who was swimming with a steady breast stroke and accompanied by two boats. Sargeant, however, started with a quick side stroke, and caught the Scandinavian champion three hundred yards from the Pier. Albert had just been affably declaring that he was “just getting right,” and wished “he had been born a fresh,” but on seeing his rival he stopped and warmly upbraided him for interfering with his attempt. Sargeant, however, heeded him not, but, swimming beautifully, went right over towards the Island shore. He was splendidly steered, which is more than can be said for Albert, and after they had been an hour in the water the Portsmouth man was more than a mile to the good, and rapidly drawing away. At half-past 4 Albert was nearing the Knoll and Bell Buoys, and there he stopped. He caught the tide running off the Spit, and in vain he tried to get across so that he might get the favouring current to carry him over towards Ryde. Twice he took doses of brandy in the water, but still he made no headway, and at 20 past 5, raising himself in the water, he warmly vituperated the men who were steering him in the boats. A general feeling was expressed on board the launch that his course had not been well chosen, and at length the Professor proclaimed “it vos damn humbug,” and he should give it up. And he did so. With great difficulty he was got on board one of the boats, and from there to a launch, where Dr A G Reid, who was in attendance, pronounced him as strong as when he went into the water. Be this as it may, during the last hour he had been in the water he had done little but drift, and the launch was hardly two miles from the South Parade Pier when he abandoned the attempt. Sargeant was by this time out of sight, and close up to Ryde Pier. He was then well underneath the shore, and, swimming down, he reached Ryde Pier shortly after 6 o’clock, having accomplished a remarkable feat.

An Eccentric Artiste

Isle of Wight Observer April 1, 1893

M Pachmann’s conduct was eccentric enough when he paid a visit to Ryde a week or so ago. When he came on the platform and sat down and commenced running his fingers up and down the keys. “Bah! Nairvous,” he exclaimed, “Put dem lights down!” He waited for a second and began again, but, as none of those composing the front seats of audience seemed to think it their duty to jump on the platform and extinguish the gas, he shouted “Veel no von put out ze gas?”

Eventually the hall keeper came, and there was some distraction caused by his mounting chairs, and then the gas was extinguished. The gifted player even then seemed anything but tranquil, and once when he apparently did not touch the correct note he said “sac-r-r-ree-e-e-e!” in a very audible tone of voice.

Then he quieted down and managed to get through a difficult passage to his satisfaction, and looking around as if to say “What do you think of that?” caught the eye of a lady who smiled and nodded. That put him in a good humour. He played to that lady the rest of the evening. Chopin’s music flowed dreamily from the piano, quite a new revelation to many, and the audience warmly applauded. Pachmann was all right after that. His face beamed, and after the performance he favoured the local manager with a stage embrace. “Oh, I do like ze Ryde people,” he said enthusiastically, “They is ze nicest people I play to for ver long time.”

Valdimir Pachmann

At Southsea, however, he was in a very bad humour. The Portland Hall was not crowded, and they applauded in the wrong places, and we understand he was so much annoyed that he threw in a little musical instruction gratis. After playing very softly and sweetly, he informed them “Zat ees piano, and this (he added, giving a tremendous crash at the keys) is forte.” But all this was capped by what he has just done at Weston-Super-Mare. He was recalled after a piece of Paderewski’s, and in announcing the title of his encore piece he is reported to have said, “Paderewski is de most modest artiste dat I have never (sic) seen; I myself am de most unmodest artist except Hans von Bulow. He is more unmodest zan I am.”

Vladimir Pachmann (1848 – 1933), an acknowledged top player of the time,  was renowned for his eccentric style. Wikipedia reveals that George Bernard Shaw once reported that Pachmann ‘gave his well-known pantomimic performance, with accompaniments by Chopin.’