Street art inspired by a Dewsbury legend that was hailed by the royal couple

Dewsbury-based commercial artist Trafford is brightening up the town center one shop at a time with his street art.

There are now over ten Trafford paintings scattered around Dewsbury, including a portrait of boxing legend Muhammad Ali, Marilyn Monroe, Lady Gaga, David Bowie and now local hero Eileen Fenton MBE.

At the age of 22, Eileen, who was then a schoolteacher at Thornhill Lees, was one of 24 swimmers from around the world to take part in the first international cross-Channel swimming race, sponsored by the Daily Mail, in 1950.

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The artwork is located on Westgate in Dewsbury town centre.

Only nine swimmers finished the race and not only was Eileen one of those nine swimmers, she was also the first woman to finish the race.

Eileen’s success made her an instant local hero and she continues to support Dewsbury at every opportunity.

Trafford painted her image on the shutters of the Phone Revamp shop on Westgate, opposite the town hall, as a reminder of the positive impact Eileen had on the town.

Trafford said: “The mural means so much to so many people.

Prince William presented Eileen with his MBE in November 2019.

“Obviously it was a life-changing experience for Eileen, but it was a life-changing experience for a lot of people and it was a life-changing experience for me – it made me more of friends and it started to get people thinking about what art can do in Dewsbury.

“I did another piece from Eileen’s mural which is a map of the world with hands, which is still on this theme of identity of who we are and where we are – I think it’s a very good thing for Dewsbury.

“Art can bring us together, it can make us happy and inspire us.

“It’s great to paint things that inspire me and hopefully inspire others, but I don’t think I could do it without everyone’s support.

“I hope this gets things moving. There are a few more Dewsbury heroes I have in mind and I will be looking to paint them before the summer is over.

Thanks to Trafford’s work, Dewsbury now benefits from famous faces of actors, sportsmen, flowers, animals, pop stars and images from nursery rhymes, all meant to enliven the environment.

Elieen also recently discovered that she had been congratulated by Prince William and Kate Middleton.

The couple called Eileen “remarkable” in a social media post celebrating four women who have touched their lives.

The post shows a picture of Eileen receiving an MBE from William in November 2019, with the caption: “Eileen was the first woman, aged 21, to complete the cross-channel swim race in 1950, and went on to to train scores of first-class long distance and sprint swimmers.

Eileen said: “I got the MBE in 2019 and it was Prince William who gave it to me and we talked quite a bit about swimming at the palace.

“It was the only time I spoke to the prince, other than that it came out of nowhere.

“Someone recently showed me seeing it in Hello Magazine and they said it was almost as good as meeting the prince.

“I am delighted, it was a wonderful thing to be recognized by Prince William.”

Dora W. Clawson