Newbury Swimming Club is one of the oldest clubs in Newbury dating back to 1948 when members swam in Northcroft open air pool. Since then the club has moved to St Bartholomew’s School pool (now demolished) and then back to Northcroft in the mid seventies with the building of the recreation centre and the indoor pool.
As some may remember, Northcroft closed in the summer of ’93 for refurbishment and during the following eleven month period the swimming club suffered from falling membership and the lack of a main competitive pool. Northcroft re-opened in 1994 and club membership rose from a low of 120 to well over 200 and the addition of much improved spectator facilities has enabled us to host, for the first time, a number of galas, including our own Open Meet, which has now become an annual event. We now run regular training sessions at Hungerford and The Kennet Centre (Thatcham) in addition to pools at Northcroft, Brockhurst and Downe House (Cold Ash). As a result of our expansion into the locality, Newbury SC is now registered with the ASA as Newbury District SC or more frequently the initials NDSC.
NDSC has a number of life members in recognition of their service to the club over a prolonged period of time. The following is a compilation of memories sent to us from John Widdicombe – founder member of Newbury swimming club way back in 1948:
1. The original Newbury Swimming Group was concocted one summer evening as the Baths were closing in conversation between George Ainge (schoolmaster, who died after a brain tumour operation a few years later), George Donald, (the baths attendant), and yours truly. I do not remember the year, but the original minute book of the Club contains a note about this historic occasion!!
2. George Ainge was the coach of course, a brilliant one, there was very little he did not know about swimming, how to teach it and how to make good swimmers better ones. Of course as you may already know, he couldn’t swim himself, as has been the case with other great coaches.
3. The Group ran weekly classes for a few weeks/months, became very popular and we decided to form an official club under the auspices of the Amateur Swimming Association (ASA). Kay Sage (Mrs) at that time I think she was secretary of the Berks ASA as well as secretary of Reading S.C. kindly came down from Reading to one of our meetings and let us have a pro-forma outline for setting up a swimming club. Sticking closely to her guidelines (she had been one of Berkshire’s champion swimmers) Newbury Swimming Cub was established.
4. For some time prior to this several stalwarts, Micky Pirouet, Cecil Buckingham, Ted/George Bullock (whichever didn’t go to N.G. School) I think it was George, frequented the Baths very early in the morning, and with the tacit consent of George Donald, climbed over the boundary fence, and spent a healthsome half-hour cruising up and down the pool. It occurred to me, searching for a suitable Chairman for the new Club, that “stately Spanish galleon” describing Cecil’s swimming expertise, was just the very best choice. He most generously agreed and we were off and running.
5. The next or was it an earlier problem was to find a treasurer. This solved itself. Dick and Tisser Butson (Buckingham Road Garage owners) keen parents to make sure their offspring could swim well had been in full attendance at our meetings and Tisser (maybe Tessa) was only too pleased to step into that office which she carried through expertly for many years.
6. Our early meetings, not at the Baths, were held courtesy of Cecil in his office at Elliots of Newbury and after his untimely death in ’53, his brother Horace Buckingham kindly allowed us to have the use of their hall for our AGM’s while the committee meetings were held at the White Hart, yours truly having moved to the awe-inspiring and non-energetic position of chairman.
7. “Wilkie” arrives. This marks a turning point in the fortunes of NSC. A member of Newbury Rotary I think his chosen task was to show interest in our Club, considerate father of mermaid daughters, what else would he and Mary choose? I am not sure when (H.H.V.) Wilkie Wilkinson first appeared at the Baths. Be that as it may he took over when George Ainge passed on. No member should ever forget the debt to George. In the Wilkie years that followed the Club has grown from strength to strength and is now probably one of, if not the, most important in the South of England!
8. The Dysons. Most vital to any swimming club is the position of Captain. John Dyson was our first and he has set the example for those who have followed. Only a teenager in the early days his sensible advice on the practicalities far outweighed his youth. Largely responsible, with his sister (married to Duncan Campbell, James & Cowper, please check I may be mistaken) for the success of our first few galas, water polo efforts and competitive swimming, he and his family’s work for the club is second to none.
9. Only a few names have been nominated, as time goes by it is certain that these old memories will turn up many more who were just as responsible for the resoundingly successful initial years of Newbury Swimming Club.
10. I completely forgot Elsie Kimber. If it has not been for this redoubtable Lady Mayor who against all tradition at that time turned the face of Newbury from the blank wall to the entrancing aspect of mixed bathing, how could NDSC have progressed at all…