Vital time ahead for historic club

DEWSBURY Amateur Swimming Club are hoping to welcome their 'dolphins' back soon after a seven-month break.

The club is the second oldest amateur swimming club in Yorkshire and will be back in business when the swimming pool at Dewsbury Sports Centre re-opens.

But committee members hope swimmers who may have gone to clubs elsewhere while the pool has been shut will stay loyal and return to Dewsbury to ensure the survival of the club which has seen the likes of Channel swimmer Eileen Fenton through its ranks.

Club treasurer Chris Blakeley said that this year the club would face its biggest challenge in its 130-year history.

He said: “The survival of our club will rely on getting the community and our members back to the club as soon as we are open. We need to cover the costs of the pool and prevent so many years of hard work and commitment being lost, and Dewsbury being left without a swimming club.”

The club is run entirely by volunteers, many who have learnt to swim there as children. Committee members are Ron Stead, Ron Robinson, president, Chris Blakeley, treasurer, Pat Sugden, secretary, Stan Wood, competitions secretary, Karen Bastow, child welfare officer and Sheila Atkinson and Carol Jackson, who arrange the annual exchanges to Germany. Coaches at the club are Ron Robinson, Kieran Pickles, Nicola Jack, Phile Yorke, Janette Brooks and Edith Whitelock.

Club president Ron Robinson, said: “The basic principle of the club is to bring in children, teach them to swim, develop them, and put them into competition swimming, and then they may move on to coach other children who are coming through.

“We’re just hoping that when we start up again, people will have their Thursday night free so they can come and join us again.”

The club - which had 100 swimmers a week before it closed in March and has a successful open-age water polo team - is holding its first meeting since Dewsbury Pool closed on November 5. Despite most beginners at the club being children, adults learning to swim are also welcome.

The club hires the pool from 6.30pm-10pm every Thursday - the younger the children the earlier the class - and although they have to pay for the pool hire, the club tries to charge as little as possible for members.

Ron said: “We try and keep the prices as competitive as possible because if you’ve got two or three kids, and some clubs charge 10 a kid, that’s a lot of money. We charge 7 membership a year per child and 1.50 per swim, we have our overheads to cover but we’re not trying to make any money out of people, we’re all volunteers and give up our time for nothing.”

Club treasurer Chris said they wanted to make the club as accessible as possible to people.

“The costs of running an amateur club are getting higher and higher. Each member of the club has to be affiliated to a number of associations for insurance purposes, the costs of which are ever increasing. We also have to ensure all our coaching staff have up-to-date life-saving and teaching qualifications. After we have paid for the pool hire there is very little left.”

The club also runs a successful exchange programme with a swimming club in Bergkamen, Germany - a 20-year-old tradition - where they take it in turns to visit each other and compete for a trophy. This year is Dewsbury’s turn to visit Bergkamen during October half-term.

The Dewsbury Amateur Swimming Club was formed in 1875, and was first based at Bath Street, Northfields, before moving to the new baths and library on the Old Westgate site, then moving into the current sports centre in 1974.

The 1950s were the most successful decade for the club which saw Miss Eileen Fenton who went on to swim the channel, having national and county successes along with many other club members.

If you want to know more about the club ring Dewsbury Sports Centre on 325300, and ask for Phil Yorke, or log on to www.dolphins-asc.com.