The Life of Sarah Frances Fanny Durack

Sarah Frances Fanny Durack also known as Fanny Durrack. She was born on 27 October 1889. The third daughter and sixth child of Irish parents Thomas Durack, publican, and his wife Mary, née Mason. An Olympic swimming legend and a champion of women’s rights. Fanny is the first Irish-Australian who won the first women’s Olympic swimming medal.
At Stockholm, she swam a heat of the 100 meters freestyle in 1 minute 19.8 seconds to break the world record. On 15 July she won the gold medal for the 100 meters, the only individual event for women.

World Record for Sarah Frances Fanny Durack

Between 1912 and 1918 she had broken twelve world records some of these are:
  • 100 meters freestyle 1 minute 19.8 seconds
  • 100 yards (91 m) in 1 minute 6 seconds
  • 100 meters in 1 minute 16.2 seconds
  • 1 mile (1.6 km) in 26 minutes 8 seconds
This success took her on tours of the US in 1918-19, accompanied by Mina Wylie. A fellow Irish-Australian woman as well.


The fascinating thing about Fanny Durack is that she was a self-taught swimmer, yet by the time she was 17, Fanny Durack won her first state swimming title. She had a natural knack for swimming, an athlete who was born at the right time to shine. Pursued the sport despite an enduring nervousness about the dangers of deep water. 

Life after swimming

Fanny was very unlucky not to be able to swim at the 1920 Olympic Games in Antwerp. She came down with appendicitis. After the appendectomy, she developed typhoid fever and pneumonia. It was the end of her competitive swimming career.  And when she decided to retire she devoted herself to coaching young children. 

Married Life for Sarah Frances Fanny Durack

In 1921 Fanny married horse trainer Bernard Gately. The couple settled in Douglas Street, Stanmore.
Fanny was a life member of the NSW Women’s Amateur Swimming Association in 1945. Honored by her inclusion in the International Swimming Hall of Fame. This is in Florida, United States of America.
Fanny  Durack died on 20 March 1956, aged 66 years. She was still living in Douglas Street Stanmore. Buried in Waverley Cemetery. In 1990 they restored the grave and headstone with funds from Waverley Council. The NSW Olympic Council, the NSW Department of Sport and recreation. And also local swimming clubs and the Durack family.
Her family presented her gold medal to the nation in the same year. And this is held at the National Library in Canberra.