As he poses next to a life-size replica of Copenhagen’s Little Mermaid, it’s not difficult to imagine that Tony Milton and his family had a close association with water.
Tony, aged 85, is now a resident at the 25-bed Forder Lane House Care Home in Dartington. And his mermaid statue is much more than a decorative figure in a corner of the care home’s grounds.
His parents were both Olympic swimmers, so it’s no surprise that in his twenties Tony followed in his parents’ wake and also took to the Olympic swimming pool, competing in the 4×200 freestyle relay event at the 1960 Summer Games in Rome. His team finished fourth, in a new European record time.
Meanwhile, back to the Little Mermaid statue, which was a gift to Tony’s father Freddie from Denmark’s Carlsberg Brewery in recognition of his services to the company. He was even awarded the Order of the Dannebrog (like a knighthood) for his services to Danish business.
Freddie was following in the footsteps of his father – Frederick senior – who had joined Carlsberg early in the 20th Century when demand for horses from his London stables dwindled due to the growing use of cars. As a director, Frederick played a pivotal role in bringing Carlsberg to the UK.
Tony’s father Freddie and mother Irene both competed at the Olympic Games in 1932 (Los Angeles) and 1936 (Berlin). Freddie was a member of the GB water polo team, while Irene was competing in the pool for her native Canada. Irene’s brother Bob was a Canadian champion in the pool and Tony is especially proud that his ‘Uncle Bob’ broke the 220 yard freestyle record set by US Olympic legend Johnny Weissmuller, who went on to movie stardom as Tarzan.
Freddie and Irene later married and brought up their son Hamilton Milton, known to all as Tony, to share their love of the water. Tony would also compete in an Olympic pool – in Rome, 1960.
Tony worked with his father for Carlsberg while he was swimming competitively but later left to set up his own business importing European doors and windows. Tony met his late wife Pat in London at a water polo match. They married and had two children.
The mermaid statue now has pride of place in a secure location within sight of Tony’s room at the care home, which is owned and managed by South Devon Rural Housing Association (SDR).
An impressive life-size replica made of fibreglass, the statue was damaged when it was dug out of Tony’s garden but was restored by a relative before moving to its new home at Forder Lane.
Daughter Kelly Milton-Zaki said: “My brother and I have fond memories of the mermaid, which we first saw by the side of our grandparents’ swimming pool in Spain, where they retired. It is very special to us”.
Tony has numerous items of Olympic memorabilia, including scrap books, medals, his Olympic tracksuit and Olympic passes from his time as an active competitor on the world stage.
Christine Candlish, SDR’s Chief Executive and a regular visitor to Forder Lane House, said: “We were delighted to be able to accommodate this ‘extra’ resident at the care home, because we know how much it means to Tony and his family.
“People who become residents at Forder Lane House are able to bring something from home when they move in. But this is the first time we’ve had a mermaid arriving with one of our clients! Tony is something of a celebrity, with his Olympic swimming pedigree, and we’re privileged to have him as one of our residents”.
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