Club’s 150th Anniversary Finale
Durham City Amateur Swimming and Water Polo Club had rounded off its 150th anniversary with a celebratory dinner and special medal presentations by Durham County Council Chairman Dennis Morgan and the Mayor of Durham Les Thomson.
The grandson of a former club member has also got in touch and sent copies of an antique – and possibly the only surviving - 1905 programme for a swimming gala in the river Wear.
The celebratory dinner on October 14 at the Radisson in Durham was sponsored by Swinburne Maddison Solicitors, and included a display of photos and trophies, and speeches about Britain’s second oldest swimming club (Brighton is the oldest).
Some things have not changed over the years – the camaraderie, commitment and continuity, with three generations of some families now involved. However there have not been any races in the river Wear for quite a few years!
Attached is a copy of the 1905 race programme, a photo of young club members making the figure 150, and a photo of current club chairman Terry Dawson with two medal winners Ken Spirit and Charmian Rawlings.
In early October Durham County Council Chairman Dennis Morgan presented two special Chairman’s medals to two longstanding club members, Ken Spirit and Charmian Rawlings, and a third medal to the club as a whole. He described the club’s 150 years of teaching and promoting swimming as ‘a wonderful achievement’.
Ken Spirit used to swim in the pool in the old wash houses, watched Lord Barnard open Elvet Baths in 1932 and taught himself to dive. He won gold in the Northumberland and Durham Diving Championships, served on the club’s committee for so many years that he was awarded a long service medal, and still gives occasional diving lessons to young club members at Freeman’s Quay.
Charmian became an Olympic and Commonwealth Games diver after teaching herself to dive in Dawdon pit pool. She was just 15 when she finished fifth in the three metre diving competition in the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki. Four years later she was in the team for the Melbourne Olympics and in 1958 won double gold in the Empire and Commonwealth games in Cardiff. She still helps out the club with teaching and galas.
On October 16 the Mayor of Durham, Councillor Les Thomson, presented medals to the victorious Durham Medley Challenge swimmers and learned all about timekeeping!
The club was founded at a meeting in 36 Saddler Street in 1861 and members swam in both the river Wear and Durham’s Public Baths and Washhouse next to the Baths Bridge. These were built in 1855 and replaced in 1932 by the Elvet Baths swimming pool, which in turn closed in 2008 and were replaced by Freeman’s Quay. For further info on the club’s history see the attached A4 sheet. We have a good selection of historic photos and letters etc.
Since Freeman’s Quay opened in 2008 the club has blossomed to around 200 members aged 6-18 who train regularly and cover between 4 – 40km a week in the water. They all work their way up through an Amateur Swimming Association (ASA) squad structure, regularly attend galas and use the latest techniques and technology to develop their skills and speed. In fact they are one of the first clubs in the UK to trial underwater video diagnosis to help the top squad swimmers improve their techniques.
The club also runs successful water polo squads, which competed in the National Water Polo Championships this year, a disability squad and master’s classes for older swimmers.
The club’s is supported by a team of around 50 coaches and parents, mainly dedicated volunteers, who put in as many hours as the swimmers and water polo players. The club also values the tremendous support given by its partners at Freeman’s Quay, Durham School and Durham University.
In the future the club aims to continue promoting high-quality and enjoyable recreational and competitive swimming and water polo training and events.