Scotland and Swimming

Scotland and swimming are two things that you wouldn’t normally equate with each other – well not at a professional level anyway. Here we will take a look at some tidbits of trivia that link Scotland and swimming together.

Scotland and swimming are two things that you wouldn’t normally equate with each other – well not at a professional level anyway. Here we will take a look at some tidbits of trivia that link Scotland and swimming together.

Water polio claims swimmers life.

Nancy Riach was a swimmer who swam for the Motherwell Amateur Swimming and Water Polo Club, by the age of 18, she held a total of 28 Scottish and British swimming records. In 1946, Nancy became the British swimming champion at 100, 220 and 440 yards freestyle. She was rightly revered as the finest swimmer in the British Empire of the time. Things turned sour though in 1947; after swimming at the European Swimming Championships, Nancy contracted polio. The disease took soon took her life; she was only 20 years old.

Outdoor swimming? In Scotland?

Outdoor swimming is all fine and well if you are in a country with a hot climate. Scotland, however, is not known for being like that – in fact it is quite the opposite. In 1936, a brave move was made when an outdoor swimming pool was opened at Portobello, Scotland. The pool, at the time, was actually the largest outdoor swimming pool in Europe and had seating around it for 6,000 people. The Portobello pool was closed and demolished in 1988, despite much opposition from the public and despite a personal plea from Sean Connery (who had once been a lifeguard at Portobello swimming pool.)

(Potobello outdoor swimming pool in its heyday - Image Source)

Beaten by a butterfly.

Elenor Gordon was only 16 years old when she set of to compete at swimming at the Empire Games in New Zealand in 1950. She raced to victory in the 200 yards breaststroke, becoming the first Scottish woman to win gold in those games. Two years later, at the Helsinki Olympic games, Elenor became the only British swimmer at the games to claim a medal. Although she won bronze, the final itself was controversial and perhaps Elenor should have done better. Bizarrely, the swimming race Elenor came third in included both breaststroke and butterfly swimmers at the same time. The butterfly was, at that time, a new style and it certainly was a faster one. Elenor, swimming the breaststroke, came third behind two swimmers doing the butterfly.

We need a bigger swimming pool.

Bobby McGregor had swimming in his blood; his father, David, was in the British Water-Polo team at the 1936 Olympics. Bobby however didn’t take up water-polo, but did concentrate on swimming. He won silver medals at the 1962 and 1966 Commonwealth games and a gold medal at the 1966 European Championships. The swimmer, who came from Falkirk, Scotland, also won a silver medal at the 1964 Olympic Games, in the 100 metres. He could have won gold but he was overtaken in the last 5 metres by American swimmer Don Schollander. The interesting thing is that Bobby McGregor did so well in an Olympic swimming pool of 50 metres length at a time when no such pool existed in Scotland!

Swimming the channel many times.

Between 1906 and 1913, Glasgow born Jabez Wolffe, attempted to swim the English Channel 22 times. On some occasions, he almost made it. Once, he even failed by yards – tiredness getting the better of him. Although Jabez may have been a decent enough swimmer, he never managed to swim across the channel!

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Val Mills
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Posted on Jun 9, 2010