Centenary Gala Pictures here, BBQ Pictures here
16th June 2001, Watford Central
(33 1/3 Yard pool, MT)
Full Results Team A Team B
Having realised last year that he had clocked half a century as a member of Watford SC, Neil Chapman decided to record some memories for the centenary.
Half a century by Neil Chapman
I joined Watford S.C. in
November 1950, when I was fifteen. Today that would seem to be a ridiculously
advanced age at which to join a swimming club, but it was not unusual. One of
the club's rising stars at the time was Julie Hoyle, who was only eleven, but
she was an exception. She was exceptional not only for her age, but also for
her talent and above all for her determination. Six years later she swam in
the Olympic Games coming sixth in the final of the 100m backstroke. In 1950,
however, Julie's older sister Pat regularly beat her into second place, and it
was she rather than Julie who caught people's attention, not least because she
was rather glamorous.
Pat and Julie were coached by Bill and Jose Juba, an extraordinary and inspiring couple, who were the making of WSC. Bill was the club coach, but also doubled up during the day as the chief schools swimming coach. Jose taught and coached free lance. Bill talent spotted during the day and as he was such an enthusiast and such fun it was difficult to refuse the suggestion that you should join the club. Jose, who had been a national standard swimmer herself before the war, was a superb coach and motivator and produced succession of fine swimmers in addition to Julie during the 50s and 60s when she coached at the Watford Pool.
Club nights were on Wednesdays. There was some organised swimming and coaching in the early part of the evening for younger members but nothing for older members except a general swim and the advice of the club coach if you wanted it. I can remember swimming alongside people who seemed very old to me (they were probably only about forty - quite young from my present perspective) among them Fred Parsons, Club Captain, who had held the club together during the war, and Lorna Frampton, who had swum for England in the 1938 Empire Games. Soon after I joined Bill introduced an organised training session for seniors.
After the swim came the water polo. Watford had two water polo teams, the first playing, I think, in the second division of the London League and captained by an ex-Irish international Tommy Dwyer. One of the prolific goal scoreres was Peter Messider, then eighteen, who was later to play for England. Water polo was rather frowned upon if you were serious about swimming; it was supposed to ruin your stroke. But Peter, one of Bill Juba's protégées, was the fastest swimmer in the county on freestyle and backstroke and the first Hertfordshire man to break sixty seconds for 100 yards freestyle. When he came out of the RAF two years later after his National Service he was an accomplished player (and a faster swimmer), but moved on to London Polytechnic S&WPC to further his ambitions. He also played basketball for the very successful Watford YMCA and later on for England. A wonderful ball-player.
The captain of the second team, Bob Daplyn, who was also Club Treasurer, was keen to get young swimmers involved in the game. I remember a special training session he arranged for would be players at the Royal Masonic School in Bushey, which had a small indoor pool, and how impossibly difficult it was to catch that ball in one hand and keep afloat at the same time. Bob introduced a few of us into the second team and used to drive us to far flung parts of the county. His driving was hair-raising, not least because he talked and smoked incessantly and was fond of a pint; indeed we suspected he sometimes went to the pub before as well as after a game. When he died in 1959 from lung cancer we mourned a much loved character.
By present day standards our training in the early 50s was pathetic with only one organised session of fifty minutes per week. I used to swim on my way home from school in the public sessions at the Hempstead Road pool. It was possible to swim lengths in the winter; occasionally indeed when the weather was really bad, as in the great smog of 1952, I was the only swimmer in the pool. I remember vividly the changing cubicles with their clanking wooden doors and canvas curtains around the edge of the pool and the diving boards the highest of which was four metres. I also remember from time to time seeing Tony Turner training on the boards. Tony was a former member of the club who had shown a talent for diving and then joined Highgate Diving Club. He went on to represent GB in the 1952 Helsinki Olympics.
But from about April onwards it became impossible to swim lengths in public sessions; so it had to be widths in the deep end just clear of the diving boards and leg kicking holding on to the side of the pool before moving outdoors into the chilling temperatures of unheated pools. That meant the public pools in Bushey, Hemel Hempstead or Rickmansworth, or school pools at the Boys Grammar School, Merchant Taylors or St. Albans Boys School if you were lucky. Before the end of May it was generally not possible to spend more than half an hour in the water without getting numbed fingers. Bushey did not have a proper filtration plant and the water had to be replaced every two weeks so the temperature rarely rose above 65F/18C. Hemel was somewhat better but rather exposed to the wind and it took time and money to get there. And Rickmansworth was in a league of its own. In June 1952 Rickmansworth SC organised a gala to celebrate the Queen's coronation at the outdoor pool in Ebury Road. The pool was generally on the cool side as most of its water came from a nearby underground spring and as summer was slow in coming that year the water temperature was only 52F/11C. Patriotism was the order of the day. The gala organisers kept to their plans and the swimmers swam. We deserved our commemorative medals. I never swam there again.
The first competition I swam in for the club was against RAF Halton, near Berkhamstead. It was the normal routine for a water polo game to be preceded by a swimming match, usually consisting of individual events over 100 yards followed by a freestyle relay. I can remember swimming against Slough at the community centre baths and against Luton and Vauxhall. Towards the end of the 50s we had some full scale swimming matches against clubs like Heston and Isleworth, which were thrilling and closely contested.
Then there were the county championships, held during the summer at three different venues, at least two of which would be outdoors: at Hemel, Welwyn Garden City, Letchworth, Hitchin (all 55 yards long and unheated), Hoddesdon or Bishops Stortford (25 yards). The indoor venue was generally Watford, although I do remember going to Ironmonger Row Baths in North London. There were only two age groups in the championships: under 16 and over 16. There was also the occasional inter-county match. I remember a long coach journey to Hastings to swim against Sussex in the 110yard pool on the sea front: one length backstroke under floodlights with invisible lane ropes totally defeated my limited powers of pacing and navigation.
We were ready to compete anywhere within easy reach. For several years a group of us went to Bedford for the river swim (half a mile downstream in cold, dark water) and to the Thames for the Maidenhead Mile (slightly warmer but still black - no goggles in those days). We even set up a Watford open water swim in the Ricky Aquadrome. The club's finest exponent of open water swimming was Elaine Gray, one of Jose Juba's protégées, who never quite made the break through in competitive swimming, but who discovered depths of stamina in herself which enabled her to swim the channel some years later.
I have very happy memories of those days and the people I swam with, several of whom are lifelong friends. Pat and Julie Hoyle, Peter Messider, Malcolm Kemish, David and John Williams, Malcolm Cathery, Anne Gerrard, Ernie and Brenda Biggins, Colin Dunstone, Pete Nurse, Brian Curtis, Basil Barkway, Christine Bowen, Roger and Mike Harford, Roy Woollard, Elaine Gray, Dick Marchant, Anthony Gimson, Mick Hester, Maurice Mendham, Roy Hollingdale.
A fascinating experience of the early to mid 50s was learning how to swim butterfly - an exciting new variation of breast stroke, used to devastating effect by the Australian John Davies in the 1952 Olympic Games 200m breast. Most reasonably competent swimmers found it fairly easy to combine the over arm recovery with the breast stroke leg kick, and it was still permitted to swim butterfly in a breast stroke event (until the 1956 Olympic Games, I think). I remember David Williams winning a thrilling race for the county title doing just that.
The new dolphin kick, however, demanded a different order of skills. Jack Hale from Hull was the foremost exponent in the UK if not the world, but we had our own local expert in Brian Curtis. Brian seemed to be made of elastic, able to recover his arms effortlessly at the same time as fitting in two of those awkward new kicks. Bill Juba spotted Brian's aptitude, developed his technique and encouraged his ambitions. The lack of decent water space made a proper training programme very difficult. Quite a lot of Brian's training was done in the early mornings in the cold water of the Boys Grammar School pool before going off to work. To our great delight he was selected for the English team in the Commonwealth Games of 1958 in Cardiff. On impulse Malcolm Cathery, Roger Harford and I decided to see the Games. We bundled couple of tents into Malcolm's old Riley and made our way to Cardiff where we camped in Pontcanna Fields, scrounged and bought what tickets we could, saw all of the swimming which included some world records, much of the athletics and some boxing. Will young swimmers be able to do the same for the Manchester Commonwealth Games in 2002? Unfortunately Brian did not reach the final of the 220 yards fly, but we were very proud and envious of his achievement in being selected.
With swimmers like Brian and Julie competing successfully at national level the national championships at Blackpool became an annual pilgrimage, not just for those with ambitions but also for keen swimmers and supporters. There were no qualifying times for entry; all you had to be was a bona fide member of a swimming club. The ordinary swimmer could rub shoulders with the best in the country; there was a remarkable cameraderie. Watford entered relay teams, and although we never won a medal I recollect we came sixth in the men's medley once. The atmosphere at the championships was simply electric. The Derby Road Baths were packed with a huge audience, many of them standing. And after the swimming there were the delights of Blackpool's golden mile to be sampled.
Two years national service for men aged 18 took several of us away from the club during the 50s. Some benefited greatly, Brian and Peter Messider particularly, as they had been drafted into the RAF, which was on the look out for swimming talent, and had cornered most of the men's national team. I had done my two years in the army with very little swimming, although just before I was demobbed I managed to compete in the army championships and reached the final of the backstroke.
Then there was university, which generally provided much better opportunities for training and for competition than we were able to get at Watford. Roger Harford, who was at London still managed to swim with Watford when needed, I could rarely get away from Oxford, largely because of poor transport, and Roy Woollard at Durham never even tried.
By the end of the 50s our much beloved club coach, Bill Juba, who had also become Editor of the Swimming Times, had moved on to coach Otter S.C., then among the strongest men's swimming clubs in the country. The lure of the big club was strong and over the next few years Brian, Roger and I joined Otters. We gained wider competitive opportunities, but with hindsight I don't think it made much difference to our standard of performance. We did not, however, lose touch with Watford, having double membership.
Roy Hollingdale took over from Bill as club coach, and a few years later he was succeeded by Roy Rogers, who led the club through its finest decade. During the 60s Watford was among the strongest clubs in the South East. There will be others to tell that tale.
Neil Chapman, Feb 2001
Greetings from British
Columbia and congratulations on your great website.
I have just finished reading Neil Chapman's chronicle of events in the mid 50's and early 60's. I am a contemporary of Neils and can identify with many of the things he remembers. The most significant to me is the lifetime friendships that were made at that time. I have been away from the UK now for over 40 years and still, whenever my wife and I return, a get together is arranged. I remember many things from those days away from the pool, we made many trips together. To the West Country ostensibly to play water polo but also to sample other delights. To the Lake District to hike around the hills, we camped in a field immediately behind a pub. To Spain where we rented a "villa". To Happisburgh one April and nearly froze to death on the beach. To Wales to stay in my Uncle's caravan. We look forward to meeting many "old" friends and making some new ones at the barbeque on the 17th. We have a family reunion that day so we will not arrive until around 4pm.
Brian Curtis, 2001
Well I have just received info about your BBQ in 2 weeks time . It bought back many memories especially when I looked at your site. Don't know if you have any members now who would remember me....... Jane Wizard ? If anyone out there does, please get in touch as I'd love to catch up on the news about old friends. As I cannot be with you on the BBQ day, I'd just like to wish you all a great day. I will be thinking of you all.
People I'd like to contact are : Claire Stockley, Trevor Wright, Stuart Duncan, Patsy Lyons, Hilary Ball, Mike Foskett, Derek & Lesley Pitts, Nicky Juba and Steph Rosamund, Gosh there must be others, so if I've forgotten you please forgive me.
HAVE A GREAT DAY AND LOVE TO ONE AND ALL ROLL ON THE NEXT 100 YEARS
Jane Wizard, 2001
Swimming at Watford in '63 and '64 by Vicky Bialas
Hi, What a treat to find Watford Swim Club on the Web on a Sunday night after midnight! I swam for Watford in 1963 and 1964. The coach was a tall, handsome man with curly-ish black hair who always wore a maroon sweatsuit. I think this was Roy Rogers, but I'm not sure. In 1963, I was 6 years old but had already been swimming competitively for 2 or 3 years. My father was a swimming coach and ex-speed skater, and was always very cheerful and enthusiastic about getting me to all those morning and evening practices. (Sometimes, I was not so cheerful and enthusiastic, having never been a morning person myself.) I also swam for a coach named Don---but this might have been at another club--and also had some coaching from Reg Laxton, who I believe coached an Olympic backstroker. My hero was Bobby MacGregor, a great sprinter. I remember Bill Juba and his wife who I believe ran several technique clinics during the time we were there. Swimmers I practiced with were Claire Stockley, who wore a pinstriped maroon and white bathing suit, and Trevor Wright who wore a turquoise bathing suit. I have vivid underwater mental pictures of those colors and swimmers in lanes on either side of me. I have rich memories of swimming in and around London, which is my birthplace as well as a key ingredient of my swimming past. The water in those pools seemed very cold! I loved horsing around and dunking each other after practice, and the wonderful splashing sounds echoing off the walls at night and the underwater lights making everything blurry white and yellow and blue. I used to love going underwater and looking up at the ceiling through the surface of the water. No one wore goggles then that I can remember and so after practice there would be rainbows around all the lights from the effects of the chlorine. I still love indoor pools the best, and often have dreams that I am in some walking along the deck of an old high-ceilinged indoor pool that is suspiciously reminiscent of the pools I used to swim in London.
Long ago, my mother lovingly pasted into a scrapbook my Watford Swimming Club cards and Gala Programmes from the early 60s, along with memorabilia from Queensbury Swim Club, Ilford Baths, Wembley Swim Club galas at Marshall Street Baths, and Stevenage. I take this down now and then and page through it as a way of re-gaining a sense of orientation in the world. The experience of swimming is really one of my greatest joys in life, and the people and the experiences surrounding it a resource of love and learning for me. I also swam competitively in Puerto Rico, Texas and California. I held U.S. an age group national record and competed in 3 U.S. nationals and the 1972 U.S. Olympic Trials in 200 meter butterfly with a time of 2:27+. While in Texas, I also swam in a lot of rivers, sometimes for fun--jumping into rapids and off cliffs with waterfalls and out of tree branches, and sometimes swimming upstream for the workout. I just read Neil Chapman's wonderful piece on "Half a Century" at Watford and was stunned when he talked about river swims in the Thames. I had to go put on an extra pair of socks just thinking about such a thing. A river swim in Texas is quite a bit warmer I suspect.
Now I live in Northern California, work at a
software company, and am an avid, albeit cautious, surfer, windsurfer, and
novice sailor. I hope to return to London sometime soon, and go for a long
swim. Thank you so much for creating this Web site. Happy 100th
Good wishes, Vicky Bialas
My Generation, Baby! By Alan Morris
I have just discovered the Watford Swimming Club web page and was delighted to see in the centenary BBQ pictures some old familiar faces from when I swam there a few years ago (well, actually I swam and played polo there circa 1958-1967). Then I read the pieces by Neil Chapman, Brian Curtis and the others and decided I should write about some of my memories of the club and the people of my g-g-generation, baby!
I take up the story as Neil left off, although he was still very much of a factor during my time at the club and I have many great memories of him competing in galas and playing polo. I remember him driving a group of us younger guys over to the Haberdashers school on a series of Sundays for water polo training. He taught us some of the finer points of the game (if you know what I mean). I also remember swimming with Brian Curtis in a swimming exhibition (at the opening of a school pool, I think). He had swum for England and it was a tremendous honour for me to demonstrate the butterfly with him, although many of the onlookers may have subsequently drowned trying to emulate his side breathing technique! Until I read his contribution to the centenary page, I did not know that he later emigrated to beautiful British Columbia, where I too have lived, in Vancouver, for the past twenty four years ... small world! Roger Harford is also in my memory bank as a great gentleman and all round swimmer with a super smooth backstroke. Both he and Neil are in the BBQ photos and still look in wonderful shape. These were the previous generation we all looked up to.
I started at the club at age eight in 1957 and had a struggle to swim the one length needed to get in. Soon after (or so it seemed) I was asked to swim for the county at Seymour Place Baths where I came 4th in the 44 yards breaststroke, and I was hooked on swimming. My dad, Bob Morris, had been a competitive swimmer in his day and he taught me, my sister, Christine, and mum, Jess, to swim. He and mum went on to get their teaching certificates and became involved in teaching and coaching at the Hempstead Road pool. Roy Hollingdale was the club coach at the beginning and at some point Roy Rogers rode into town and took on the job.
In the late fifties something special started to happen at Watford which led to a period of tremendous swimming success for Watford SC. Neil wrote about the difficulty in getting training time and of having to swim widths at the deep end during the public sessions. But in 1957 a new pool manager came to Watford, an unsung hero called John Anstey. John was very interested in the development of all kinds of swimming, including competitive swimming. He worked closely with the late, great, Bill Juba who, based in Watford, was in charge of school swimming throughout Hertfordshire and was extremely well known and influential in swimming circles throughout the country and beyond. John and Bill organized the periods in between public sessions and soon there were a number of professional swimming teachers and coaches running their own teaching and training groups. In addition to Bill and Jose Juba, there was Fred Palmer (a great teacher), Norman Clarke (focussed on life saving), Roy Rogers (club coach.. take your marks..GROWL), Don Overnell (a former international butterfly swimmer), Frank Grey (until he got a big swimming job in South Africa) and Bob Morris (my dad, who taught and coached part time). The water between sessions was really the evolutionary soup in which these training groups turned tadpoles into some really wonderful swimmers.
Jose Juba had most of the top girls in her group and, provided they could take the heat, they progressed to reach their full potential and then some. Anne Cotterill was the most successful. She swam butterfly for England at the Tokyo Olympics, broke British records and won bronze and silver medals at the European and Commonwealth Games, respectively. I remember her telling us when she got back from the Commonwealth Games in Perth that it was so hot for the Games that she burned herself sitting down on a chair at the open-air pool. Anne was part of a group of great girl swimmers (and lovely girls!) who were a few years older than me and the boys. Another was Cordelia Williams who had a beautiful front crawl technique and probably still does. The inter club galas at Watford had an electric atmosphere at the time and I remember one such occasion when Anne broke the English record for the 100 yards butterfly and Delia broke the record for the 100 yards freestyle. Other ladies I remember from that time were Janet Elwell, Sue Cooper, Dianne McManus, Penny Haynes, Sandra Percival, Lynn Piggott and Yvonne Willett. A little younger were Melanie Tearle, who won the women's southern counties title in the 880 yards freestyle when she was fourteen and Catriona Irvine, who burst on the scene in the mid sixties and broke the Scottish women's record in the 220 IM when she too was only fourteen.
We also had a very strong contingent of boys representing the club in my age group (or thereabouts). None of us will ever forget John Beresford, the slasher, who had unbelievable guts, determination, self-belief and a slow heart beat. One year at the nationals in Blackpool he discovered he had the stamina to go the distance when he unexpectedly made the final of the men's mile at fourteen years of age. He went on to swim for the English men's team at that distance on a number of occasions when he was still a junior and he captained the English junior team in its first ever international competition, winning the 440 yards freestyle into the bargain. I remember one of his first international mile races at the then new Crystal Palace pool. His stroke turnover rate (55 per length) was twice as many as any of the men he was swimming against. He broke his personal best 220-yard time in the first 220 yards and then continued at that pace for the balance of the race! Nobody had explained oxygen deficit to John.
Other buddies were Pete Heffer, John Foskett (nice bbq picture of Noddy and his lovely wife, Sandy), Nigel Crinson, Kelvin and Nicky Juba (guests from the Otter club), Jonathon Lowe, Dave Chapman and Jeff Ogden. Pete Heffer and I helped my dad in the land and water training of a young fellow called Derek Pitts and it was gratifying for us when Derek, together with John Fosketts younger brother Mike, became junior internationals. Derek swam breaststroke and Mike freestyle. Watford had particularly strong representation in my year. In 1964, when under 15, we won the southern counties under 16 medley relay and the girls won the freestyle relay. We were set to do great things at the nationals the following year but unfortunately for us they changed the age qualifying date and we missed our time in the limelight .. darn it!
Another thing that I remember vividly were some intensive training courses run by Bill and Jose Juba which all of us used to go to. Early on I remember going to Berkhamstead School for one of these and later there were courses on the weekends at a school in Watford. I also remember a weekend course at a school at Welwyn Garden City. We would all be in different groups and would alternate between swimming with Bill and aerobic land training to taped music in the gym with Jose. Jose was amazingly fit for her age and pushed us all really hard at the same time as doing the whole workout herself. It was not long before that time that land training was thought to be bad for swimming! At the end of the course day we would all go to the pool for fun relay races doing newly invented strokes and getting out at both ends to touch the wall.
In 1963 or 64 I was lucky enough to be selected to go to Kingston-on-Thames for a one week southern counties intensive training course run by Tony Holmyard, who was the ASA national technical officer (a new post, I think). This was really around the time that science was being first thought of as having some relevance to sport, including swimming. There was even a medical doctor at the course. We didn't take hormones or anything but we were weighed and measured, tested for strength, our pulse rates were charted, our fat and lung capacity measured, etc. My dad was my coach at the course and he was not supposed to tell me what the coaches talked about, but later he told me that I was a puzzle to the coaching staff. I had no measurable fat. Most of the boys were tall, except me. I had relatively low muscle strength, low buoyancy, you name it. They were surprised I could swim at all! I thought that this was a bit much, as I had swum the whole course on butterfly and I was the best at scaling the ropes in the gym, which I did without the need to use my legs. So anyway, science cant tell you everything (or it couldn't at that time).
I look back on lots of great memories of galas against other clubs at Watford, all over the London area and as far a field as Swindon and Southampton. The age categories were usually under 12, 14, 16 and open. Watford had a strong team with lots of cheering and spirit and was often victorious. The London League got started in the mid sixties and included most of the strongest teams in the South East. One year Watford won the whole league. I was the team captain and received the trophy for the club. It was a proud moment. We would all travel to away galas by coach, have lots of fun and enjoy our time together.
Each year there were the county championships at places like Watford, Hemel Hempstead, Bishops Stortford, Stevenage, Hoddeston, Ware and Hertford. Watford swimmers completely dominated the county in all age groups and county records fell like leaves in autumn. I was an all rounder and at various times swam breaststroke, butterfly and individual medley. Some of the most exciting and nail biting times were the Watford club championships which were held over a series of nights allowing us to enter races in all strokes. There were some good all round swimmers and the competition was fierce as we crossed into each others stroke specializations, sometimes with surprising results.
I also remember swimming with some of the other Watford swimmers for the Division 10 team (Herts and Middlesex) at three English Schools Championships at Cambridge, Grimsby and Cardiff. These were special occasions not only for their competitive swimming and team spirit but also for the interesting billeting arrangements. I remember having to share a double bed with John Foskett in Cardiff (with a wall of pillows down the middle!) and being offered old wartime shells filled with hot water as bed warmers! I also had to pretend to like the breakfast of fried eel in Grimsby that the father of the house had dredged up from Grimsby harbour the night before on his dredging night shift - achh!!
Like Neil Chapman before me, I swam in the nationals in the salt water of Derby Baths, Blackpool, although, by then, there were qualifying times we had to make before we could go and a strong team of visiting Canadians won most of the events! I also competed in the in the nationals the first time it was held at Crystal Palace. There was always a strong showing of Watford swimmers at the nationals during this time.
After age 16 I still swam and played polo for the club but my training fell off as I concentrated on my sixth form studies. Then at 18 I moved with my family to Plymouth where I continued to swim for the Port of Plymouth club and played polo for Devonport. However, my training reduced again when I started my career as an articled clerk (chartered accountant in training). I continued to compete for a few years and then stopped swimming regularly. I have recently rediscovered the joys of swimming in an ozone-filtered pool at the Y in Vancouver.
I married an English girl, a figure skater from Bournemouth, before emigrating to Canada and we have two grown kids, who are good swimmers and skaters, but not competitively. Instead, they took up badminton and competed at the Canadian national level in that. I am now a tax partner in the Vancouver office of the Deloitte & Touche accounting firm. If anyone from the old days would like to write me I would love to hear from you. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
Happy 100th year Watford SC!
Alan Morris Nov 2001