BARRY AMATEUR SWIMMING CLUB
1926 - 2001
75th ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATIONS
This year (2001) sees the 75th anniversary of the Barry Amateur Swimming Club (BASC), but in the early 1900's a Swimming Club also known as "The Barry Amateur Swimming and Lifesaving Association" was formed. At the Association's Annual General Meeting held in the Barry Hotel on the 6th June 1907, Mr W. Douglas (later a founder member of the BASC) presided. The income for the year amounted to £10/4/5d, and after expenses, the profit for the year amounted to £2/8/10d.
The history of the BASC, which was formed on April 7th 1926, could not have been written without the impetus given to its formation by the building of the Cold Knap Swimming Pool.
In May 1926 the Chairman of the Council, Councillor Beck, opened the pool. The future success of the Club and the Pool were guaranteed on its opening. The Club now had a pool in which to swim, and the pool needed a regular attendance, and the publicity of galas and other events held by the Club in order to attract visitors there.
Because of its size, the facilities offered there, and the enthusiasm shown by the Club's founders, many of the swimmers who came to compete later became members. Teams from South Wales and further afield quickly made Barry a regular fixture on their sporting calendar, bringing not only swimmers to Barry, but visitors to stay.
After the official opening, officers of the Club, together with Councillors and guests invited to the official opening, were entertained to lunch at the Ship Hotel. At the lunch Mr Shanly (who leased the pool from the Council) discussed the future use of the pool by the Club, and was very supportive in helping it to become established. At the Pool's Opening Gala all swimmers and officials were presented with commemorative medals by Councillor Beck.
Mr Paolo Radmilovic (Raddy), who had represented Britain in six consecutive Olympic Games and won four gold medals, and a member of the Welsh International Swimming and Water Polo Teams, gave a demonstration of swimming.
Mr Hugh Lightbody who was employed as a beach inspector/lifeguard together with Mr. Radmilovitch offered to act as coaches to the Barry Club.
In August 1926 the Welsh Swimming Association, with members of the Barry Club taking part, held a second Gala. Although a strong wind was blowing across the pool and the water was very choppy, a diving display was given by Mary Yorke, the Midlands Diving Champion, and Leigh McEwen, the Welsh Diving Champion from Porthcawl.
The first club members to win trophies were :
A number of novelty events also took place including climbing a greasy pole, and this was won by A. Nicholls, and second place was taken by Claude Curtis.
A series of Open Swimming events were held and a number of swimmers who had represented Wales entered.
Mr C. B. Griffiths; Mr Dudley Howe; Mr Henry Gethin Lewis; Mr John Lowdon and Mr Shanly presented trophies to the Club for yearly competition.
The first Gala held by the Barry Club was held on 11th September, and one of the main events was a Water Polo Match organised by Paolo Radmilovic. A group of invited players representing South Wales formed Radmilovic's Team, and their opposing team representing West Wales opened the Gala.
Amongst the many events were -
The Gala finished with the 500 yards Welsh Ladies Handicap.
Captain Lionel Lindsay, Chief Constable of Glamorgan and president of the Club, awarded trophies to winning swimmers.
At the end of the Gala Mr Radmilovic was presented with an inscribed gold medal in recognition of his help in establishing the Club and organising the Gala.
During the Gala a young competitor, Peggy Wolfe, a member of St. Helen's Squadron Team, failed to finish the course and sank under water 10 yards from the finish. The lifeguard /beach inspector, Mr. Hugh Lightbody, jumped in and pulled her to the side to tremendous applause from the crowd watching. She was later taken to hospital to recover.
The following year the first club headquarters was built, the contractor was Messrs. Brittons, the building was of wooden construction, and cost £102.
In 1927 the club was selected to be the venue for the "Sladen Squadron Trophy Races", a singular honour for a club that had only been in existence for a year. In September of the same year the Club advertised "The Greatest Swims Organised in Barry". This was an open event consisting of a mile swim for men, and an 880 yards swim for ladies. Many county champions entered the races, which finished with a fun team event, "The Daily Mail Push Ball Competition".
1928 saw the club fully established at the Knap, with plans for three galas to be held there that year. The first Gala was held in June and was confined to club members only. Over 2,000 spectators arrived to watch the swimmers compete, and other attractions put on for their entertainment by the club.
Among invited guests taking part were Harry Temme who had successfully swum the English Channel, and Kathleen Thomas who had recently swum the Bristol Channel from England to Wales. Both gave demonstrations of their swimming prowess. Diving displays were given by members of the ASA of London, and by Welsh Diving Champion Leigh McEwen, after which a water polo match between "possibles" and "probables" took place to select members of a Water Polo Team to represent Britain in the Olympic Games.
The club organised 30 and 60 yards scratch races for boys, 50 and 100 yards handicap races for ladies, and 100 yards handicap races for men.
August the same year saw a club and open gala take place with the following trophies being competed for :
After the police race had taken place, swimmers who had taken part asked for the race to be shortened in future years. This was to encourage young police officers who had not had much experience in swimming to enter, as they thought that three lengths of the pool was too far for inexperienced swimmers.
A team from the Birmingham Amateur Swimming Club gave a display of diving. Once again a large crowd watched these and other events.
September saw the last Open Gala of the season take place with the Ladies American Diving Champion, Aileen Riggin, Valerie Davies of Cardiff, and members of the British Olympic Diving Team taking part and giving demonstrations.
The Shanly Silver Trophy and Shanly Silver Cup were competed for. BASC races were 30 yards and 60 yards for boys and girls, and 100, 220 and 440 yards for men and ladies. Squadron races were held between Barry County Schools and the Club, the Club winning both. The gala ended with a water polo match to select players to represent Wales in forthcoming international matches.
The end of the season Mr. (Hughie) Lightbody was appointed as swimming instructor for schools and coach for the swimming club.
On Tuesday 20th January 1932 the first Junior Swimming Club Dance was held at the Merrie Friars, and over 200 junior members attended. The Club's Chairman, Cllr Maslin, congratulated the committee, Messrs. E. Ford (Treasurer), Chris Jones (Captain /Coach) and Sid Miles (Secretary) on organising such a successful event, and hoped that it would become an annual event.
At the AGM of the club, held in February the same year, the Club Treasurer reported that it was the first year since its formation that the Club was free of debt, and that the cost of the clubhouse had been met in full. He stated that owing to the bad weather the Club had recently experienced, holding galas was a risk, but one the Club had to take. Both the Club's water polo teams (senior and junior) had performed well and it augured well for the future of the Club. It was suggested that a ladies water polo team be formed in the near future. During the meeting an offer of a silver trophy by Mr Little, a patron of the Club, be accepted and it be competed for by pupils of the Boys' County School. A vote of thanks to the Ship Hotel for the free use of a room since the Club's inception was given. After the meeting a film was shown of Galas and other events held at the pool, and the unsuccessful attempt by Miss Glietz to swim the Bristol Channel from Cold Knap to Weston. The meeting concluded with a Dance and Social get-together.
In the Club's Gala held later that year, Ruby Major from the Club defended her title of Welsh Ladies Diving Champion. Nine races were held plus two water polo matches.
The Club's Third Annual Tour to Oxford ended in its first victory, but Oxford would be seeking revenge when it visited Barry later in the year.
Barry's deadly rivals Henleaze (Bristol) ASA were beaten by both the senior and junior water polo teams, and in the swimming events Barry won eight races. Henleaze beat the juniors in the squadron race but could only draw in the senior race.
Over the years the club had produced many excellent swimmers and had entered many competitions. Prior to the demise of such events the club had supported The Taff Swim, The Neath River Swim, The Thames Swim and the Ilfracombe Sea Swims. It had also taken part in many Lifesaving Courses organised by the Royal Lifesaving Society.
In 1945 the pool reopened after the war with the Club organising an Aquatic Gala in Carnival Week in aid of the "Welcome Home Fund". Teams from RAF St. Athan, Penarth and Barry competed, together with a number of exhibitions given by teams and individuals from Newport, Merthyr, Cardiff and Pontypridd swimming clubs. As part of Carnival Week a "Miss Barry" competition was held at the pool and the winner was presented with a silver cup.
1950 saw the opening of a new clubhouse which was built on the base of a former barrage balloon site. It also saw the club go from strength to strength, with the start of the Channel Swim, which went on to become an annual event in the club's calendar. The course (which was approximately a mile and a quarter in length) was as follows: Starting from the slipway, out to a buoy in the channel, across the bay to the Island, back to the breakwater and across the bay back to the watchtower.
1951 was the year of the Festival of Britain in which the club entered a competition for the "Corona Cup" presented by Thomas and Evans. Teams from Cardiff, Aberdare, Merthyr, Pontypridd and Neath competed. Barry won all the squadron races. In that year's Channel Swim, swimmers from Cardiff and Aberdare also took part. Although the men's race was won by J. Taylor of Cardiff, Barry swimmers B. Dawe, D. Dunning, John Lewis, I. Thomas, T. Andrews, Tony Phillips and Peter Morgan took the next seven places. The ladies race was won by Ann Jones, with G. Roberts also from Barry second, and third was J. Richardson from Aberdare. Four of the first five swimmers were from the Barry Club.
1952 started with the opening splash on 24th May, when members of the club Esme Burge, Jill Roberts, Pat Eddins and Jean Campbell were selected to swim for Barry in the Welsh Schools Squadron Race, which they won. Later in the year Barry competed in a triangular match against Pontypridd and Aberdare. Barry won 14 out of 19 events and came second in the five they didn't win. In the Marine Festival, "Goudache Zwemclub", a team from Holland, visited Barry and the Police Race for the Gethin Lewis Cup was revived.
On August 22nd - 24th, the Swimming and Diving Championships of Wales, which were organised by the Club under the auspices of the WASA, were held at the pool. The compere and MC for the competition was Mr Sid Miles.
Ann Jones of Barry took second place in the 440 yards to Olympic representative P.M. Linton from Maindee, who set a new Welsh record for the event. Ann came third in the 220 yards.
In the Welsh diving championships Barry's Jean Foster was placed second. 13 year old Jean Campbell won both the Junior and School Championships for the second year running.
By 1971 the club had to limit membership, and the club night changed from Fridays to Tuesdays. Friday nights were retained as a training night for competition swimmers only. The total membership on the club's books was over 270. Club training night at RAF St. Athan saw a regular attendance of over 65 competitive swimmers.
In 1976 at the Club's 50th Anniversary Celebration, Ray Sutton commended the names of former members and officials for the work they had done to establish the name and reputation of the Club over the years.
In the 50's a number of members names stood out more than most -
Joyce, who had previously been selected for the Welsh team, was not born in Barry.
Names of other members who had brought honour to the club in the 60's were also commended. They were -
None of these swimmers would have reached the heights that they attained without the coaching and dedication of the officers of the Club, amongst whom the names of Harry Baker, Bill Bravey, Ann Jones, George Rix, Neil O'Donnell, Brian Hutchings, Ray Sutton, Frank Hobbs and Thelma Jones stand out. Ossie Williams should be singled out not only for his help in coaching the club, but for his efforts in obtaining the use of the pool at RAF St. Athan on Friday nights for over 30 years, for training in the winter months. The help and co-operation of the P.Ed Staff at St. Athan was greatly appreciated, and helped the Club to compete successfully in the many galas held over the year.
1982 saw the Club move to the newly opened Barry Leisure Centre, where for the first time in its long history it was able to offer competitive swimming and coaching all the year round. In so doing it gave up the use of the facilities it had enjoyed over the years at the pools at the Knap, RAF St. Athan, Penarth and the Polytechnic of Wales pool in the former Barry Training College. For some time training for youngsters was also catered for in the Bryn Hafren Pool. Unfortunately the Leisure Centre pool proved too shallow to hold any of Welsh Amateur Swimming Championships there.
One of the high points of the Club's calendar is the "Easter Games" which are held either in Rheinfelden, Fecamp, Mouscron, or in Barry. The Club has competed in every Games since they were first held in the 60's and have met with considerable success both athletically and socially, and it is hoped that this will long continue. Another high point in the calendar is the friendly rivalry between the Barry Club and Kings Lynn.
In the Eight Nations Tournament held in Cardiff in 1984, the Club provided seven time keepers and judges from its membership, and has established a creditable record for supplying officials to major swimming events in the area.
In 1985 the sudden death of one of the stalwarts of the Club, Ray Sutton, came as a tremendous shock to the Club. Ray, ably assisted by his wife Grace, was not only the secretary and the chief coach, he was also one of the prime movers in the establishment of the club in its new headquarters. A permanent reminder of his services was the presentation of a cup, named after him, by the ladies committee, and to be competed for annually at the Ray Sutton Memorial Gala.
In 1986 the first Vale of Glamorgan Championships were held in Cogan Leisure Centre.
In 1999 the pool closed for repairs, and the Club found itself in the position of a serious drop of over 50% in membership. This, together with an increase in fees and transport costs for the hire of an alternative pool in which to train, nearly spelt the end of the Club. Training came almost to a standstill while the pool was being repaired, and consequently many fixtures that usually took place at the Leisure Centre were cancelled.
Looking through the Club's records, there are so many names of competitors who gained honours from the Club and represented the Club in numerous competitions and galas that it would be impossible to include them all in this brief history. The only exception is Julie Crayford, who in the past few years has broken more Welsh Masters records than any swimmer in the Club's history.
Also the many members and parents who act as assistant coaches and helpers, both at the poolside, and in organising social functions and trips to away fixtures. There are so many that it would be invidious to try to name them as some names might be overlooked and cause offence.
Over the seventy five years of its existence the Club has only had seven Presidents.
Over the past 20 years Heulwen Cooper has served the Club in various capacities, as Secretary, Assistant Coach and now as the present Chairman.
The success of any club is not in the amount of silverware it accumulates, but in the atmosphere it creates in organising social and other events and in its coaching. The Barry Club has been very fortunate in both spheres with the appointment of its coaches, Hugh Lightbody from 1926-45, and from 1946-52 Harry Baker, but neither would have had the success without the band of assistant coaches drawn from the ranks of swimmers to assist them. From 1952 onwards were coaches Ossie Williams, Ann Jones, Thelma Jones (Roberts), Ray Sutton (whose enthusiasm brought many fixtures to the club from all parts of England and Wales, one of the most enjoyable being the annual fixture with Kings Lynn Gladiators), Ken Griffin, and Glyn Davies. This year Jacquie Latter, who together with her helpers on the poolside has stepped in, and is continuing to bring success to the Club. In recent years the social side and trips to away Galas and competitions have been organised by Jenny Wilcox together with her band of helpers. These bring in necessary funding to enable the Club to attend away fixtures, without which the Club would cease to flourish.
A TRIBUTE TO HARRY BAKER 1901-1965
The history of the Swimming Club would not be complete without a tribute to Mr. Harry Baker, who was coach and worked as manager /lifeguard at the Knap Pool from 1937 until his retirement in the 1960's.
During his lifetime he had rescued over 150 people from the sea and at the Knap pool, which he called his second home. It would be impossible to count the number of children that learnt to swim under his careful gaze.
It was in 1916 that his first rescue took place when he was just 15. It was at the Bendricks, when he noticed two young children in difficulties. Without hesitation, Harry went in and rescued them.
Whilst at sea and visiting various ports around the world, Harry always seemed to be there when somebody got into trouble in the water. In South Africa, Canada, West Indies and numerous ports in Britain, he had the knack of anticipating trouble and reacting to it. He was commended for his efforts on numerous occasions.
On leaving the sea Harry took up the post of Lifeguard /manager at the Knap Pool, and not only did he look after the pool, but also acted as lifeguard at the Pebble Beach and at Watchtower Bay.
In 1963 in the last week of the season, Harry was congratulating himself on not having to rescue anyone from the water for the whole season, when he noticed a young girl in difficulties in the water. Without hesitation he entered the water and brought her out to safety.
Whilst the pool was open it was the only place in Barry where parents could send their children, and know that Harry and subsequent lifeguards and managers would do their level best to ensure their safety.
© T. CLEMETT 2001
This is not intended as a comprehensive history of the Club but a brief summary of its activities over the past 75 years.
So many people have contributed to the Club's success that it would be impossible to name them all. I have picked out the many names that I remember from the 40's onward and relied on newspaper reports and the Club's scrapbook for the remainder.