Wellingborough Amateur Swimming Club



During the 1960s the Wellingborough Swimming Pool Association, chaired by Mr Richard Swindal (Chairman of the Wellingborough branch of the National Union of Ratepayers Associations) was formed to encourage the Town Council to build an indoor swimming pool.  The Council challenged the association to raise £50,000 towards the venture.  Many dedicated local people collected weekly for a tote, covering the whole town, Finedon, Irthlingborough and many of the villages, and the £50,000 was raised relatively quickly.


An advert placed in the local paper invited interested people to a meeting at the Hind Hotel with a view to forming a swimming club. Many of the Wilby Amateur Swimming Club members, together with Cyril Pine, Ron Berril, Liz Titmus to name but a few, helped to form the new W.A.S.C.  Secretary was Mrs Win Lett and Treasurer Mr Ron Lett.


The pool opened for public viewing on Easter Sunday 1970. Members of the newly formed club were able to sit up in the balcony, to look down on this lovely, sparkling new pool all decked out with its lane ropes, starting blocks and turning flags.  A job well done.


On the first Monday teaching and training night 70 members attended.   The session was arranged into half hour classes using the teaching pool and the main pool divided into sections across the width.  The final half hour 9.00 - 9.30 p.m. was used by adult swimming members.  Cash desk organiser that night was Mary Adnitt.


Mr Cyril Pine who had Olympic coaching experience at Loughborough was the Chief Coach.  He was assisted by, among others, Liz Titmus, Ron Berrill, John Farrow, John Gotch, Joan Emms, Audrey Hardwick and June Clark.


The first Wellingborough Amateur Swimming Club Chairman was Dick Swindal.  After 18 months he was elected President and Mr Gordon Haddon became Chairman, a position he held for many years. 


Soon, the better swimmers had an extra training session on Thursday evenings.  For a time Wednesday evenings were available for one hour and a diving section was formed, coached by Mr Bernard Kelly. 


Our first match was against Rushden Swimming Club.  The team was selected from a group of swimmers on the poolside by Cyril Pine as the gala progressed.  We lost!


The first "Annual Gala" in 1970 was mostly made up of 25 and 50 metre events with heats and finals on the same night.  The Modernian Swimming Club entertained during the interval with an exhibition of diving.


At the first early morning training session the Town Council permitted six swimmers to train between 8.30 a.m. and 9.00 a.m.  Those chosen had achieved the A.S.A. 100 metre Gold Proficiency Award times.  Later they were joined by those who achieved Midland and National Age Group times.  Eventually, we were allowed to train a complete squad Monday to Friday mornings, the schools having been approached by Cyril Pine for the swimmers to miss school assembly.  Cost ten pence per swim.


Our best swimmers were now training five mornings, Monday club nights and Thursday evening at Wellingborough.  On Wednesday, Friday and Sunday they attended County training sessions with Neville Cross of Modernians.  His protegees Brian Brinkley and Barry Prime often trained with them on Sundays.  We performed well over this period, winning the county league seven times.  Many swimmers qualified for Midlands and Nationals. 


Our 25th Anniversary celebrated in 1995 was a memorable occasion.  Many of our past swimmers and present members competed with tremendous spirit at a gala followed by a Buffet and Dance.


A whole new world has opened with the advent of Masters swimming.  Anyone over 25 years of age can compete locally, nationally, in Europe and the World master events.  Our club now has a successful group of Masters who swim in the morning and Sunday lunchtime sessions.


Since Wellingborough twinned with Niort, the club has competed against their Swimming Club at home and away in alternate years.  This has given some of our swimmers experience of international swimming and many friendships have been formed.


Wellingborough Amateur Swimming Club looks forward to a bright future.  Coaching methods have improved immensely since we started but it is still just as hard to pace 100 metres today as it was in 1970.


Geoff Bunker

W.A.S.C. President

November 1996



Geoff Bunker (5 July 1926 to 5 September 2005) was a founder member of Wellingborough Amateur Swimming Club.  From the start of the club in 1970 until ill health forced him to retire in October 2003 he taught teachers and swimmers, and coached many children and adults. He introduced the Breaststroke Style competition and provided the trophies for the event that he loved.  He officiated at galas as time keeper, judge, starter and referee and served the WASC committee as a member and then Chairman prior to becoming President.




From 1996, when Geoff  Bunker wrote our history, until 2004, the Club continued much as he described; but inevitably, there were changes.  Spectators in the balcony still looked down on a sparkling pool, but the tiles were beginning to come away and, beneath the pool, the plant was wearing out from decades of constant use.  Increasing interest in swimming and the growing number of children wanting to join encouraged the Club to find additional water time elsewhere.  By 1998 squads were swimming at the home pool and at Rushden, Wollaston and Oundle.  All the squads were full, and entry into the Club became (and remains) competitive.  In 2005 land training was added to the programme.


The last competition with Niort before their swimming club merged with another was swum in 1998.  Apart from that, the Club continues to compete at all levels from “Diddy” to Masters.  For some years a few swimmers were able to join the County swim camp at CrystalPalace.  When the County camp discontinued in 2004, we took on the organisation of the camp giving more of our swimmers the opportunity to train intensively with swimmers from Kettering and Corby.  In 2009 Wellingborough swimmers will go to a training camp in Italy.


By 2004 the Club website was well established and widely used, and everyone had become accustomed to paying their fees by Standing Order, but the Croyland Road pool was showing its age.  In January of that the year the Borough Council announced that further maintenance was uneconomic and they would demolish the pool and build a new one on the site.  This would leave the town without a pool for at least fifteen months, a potentially fatal blow for WASC.  The Club, along with other groups, had talks with the Borough Council and campaigned for a better solution.  The outcome was a decision to build the Waendel Centre and to maintain the old pool until the new one was ready.  Although the new pool did not open to the public until a fortnight after the old one closed, WASC was given access and did not lose a single session.


In June 2007 spectators once more looked down on a sparkling new pool, this time with electronic timing.  The meeting room was named in honour of Geoff  Bunker.


At this time the Club was working on another big project which they completed by the end of 2007.  In 2008 the Club gained the ASA Swim 21 Award, only the second in the county to do so.  Swim 21 Accreditation is a 'Quality mark'. It recognises nationally and regionally the clubs that are committed to providing safe, effective and quality services for the benefit of their members.  Many well established features of the Club contributed to gaining the award, including the Website, the Newsletter, published since September 1995, and now issued mostly by email, and the Handbook, first issued in 1996. 


Families joining WASC from other clubs often comment on the caring and friendly atmosphere.  This is undoubtedly because of the large number of volunteers who contribute to the smooth running of the Club.  New helpers bring energy and innovation; the long-standing contribute experience and ensure continuity.  New-comers are made welcome and it may be proof of the satisfaction they derive to notice that many stay on long after their children have left the Club.  Among those still helping today: June Clark, a poolside helper when the Club started still issues ASA competitive swimming awards each month; Sheila Welch, Fixture Secretary for 35 years and still a committee member; Shirley Berrill, another founder member, still timekeeping; Sandra Starkey, coaching since 1987 now leading the coaching team, Jean Thomas, our Secretary since 1992; Jim Peto, Masters Coach, teacher and committee member; Mike Roach, swimming official and Club Chairman since 1992.


Ultimately, Wellingborough Amateur Swimming Club is about the swimmers.  Over the years many have swum at County, a lot going on to Regional competition and the special few to Nationals.  To achieve still higher levels we have encouraged those who would benefit to leave us and go on to larger clubs who can take them further up the ladder.  Among our best were Jackie Thompson and Nicky Whitney (nee Titmus) who both broke more than 50 CountyRecords; Brian Triptree and Paul Mitchell; and more recently Michelle Smith and Mark Strachan. But every swimmer is valued highly and as we approach our 40th Anniversary we look forward to continuing to help our swimmers to achieve their full potential and enjoy swimming. 

December 2008