It’s a year of anniversaries in 2018, with 70 years of the NHS, the 100th anniversary of the Royal Airforce and the 25th anniversary of the European Single Market (enough said there perhaps).
And this year Askern Spa Amateur Swimming Club is also celebrating 50 years.
A golden anniversary; a half century; call it what you will, 50 years is a milestone worthy of note and celebration. In 1968, many of Doncaster’s villages were different places to what we see today. Of course, there are some obvious changes like the price of a pint of milk and the fact that our skyline is no longer dominated by the once mighty coal industry.
On the other hand, some things haven’t changed all that much and at 50 not out, Askern Spa Swimming Club is still steeped in the same community values that were first set out all those years ago.
The club was formed shortly before the opening of Askern swimming pool following a meeting held at the local Miners’ Welfare. Doug Kimber, then sports master at Campsmount School, was the club’s first head coach. Initially, there were no qualified teachers, so three members of Doncaster Swimming Club: Walter Harrison, John Predery and Cyril Chaffey, came along for a number of weeks and advised the few on the pool side how to organise lessons etc.
At the same time, Phil Johnson, the arts master at Campsmount School, designed the logo which reflects the spa heritage of Askern. The swan and white rose motif have been used ever since.
The club’s first “Home Championships” took place in 1969 and consisted of 24 events held on one Friday evening. Today, the Home Championships are one of the highlights of the club’s annual calendar, where swimmers race in age groups in various events of their choice. Another highlight is the annual awards night where trophies from the Home Championships event are awarded. Over the years various ‘celebrities’ have presented awards. For example, Mick Bates (the Leeds United footballer from the famous Don Revie team) and, in 2017, Olympic swimmer and former club member, Max Lichfield, popped in to present awards.
The striking thing about clubs like Askern Spa is the generational nature of those who participate and support the club; children are learning to swim in the same pool as their parents, and in some cases, grandparents have swam.
Hundreds of children and young people from the communities of Askern, Campsall, Norton, Sutton and further afield have benefitted from the opportunity to join the swimming club. This has ranged from those who simply learn to swim and enjoy the exercise, to those whose talents bring the rewards of competitive success. Indeed, some of the club’s past members have gone on to great success in swimming with Max and Joe Litchfield representing Great Britain at several levels, including the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. This competitive spirit is nurtured through the galas and competitions, giving Askern Spa members the opportunity to pit themselves against swimmers from other swimming clubs. The groaning trophy cabinet is testament to a fair share of success down the years.
Of course, for the vast majority though, the swimming club is about learning a simple but essential life skill, getting some exercise and of course having fun with family and friends. The club has an active social calendar with trips out to the likes of Flamingo Land. Cliché or not, the emphasis is on encouragement and enjoyment, while those with the talent and desire will equally have their chance to succeed.
There have been some minor problems over the years, especially in the mid/late 1990s, when the swimming pool was closed due to “faulty” concrete (this was at the time of the Poulson problems with pre-stressed concrete). However, alternative arrangements were quickly made and for two years a hired double decker bus from Doncaster Corporation transported swimmers to Adwick for two hours every Saturday evening. The club continued on two hours per week until Askern Pool re-opened.
Over the years, the club has continued to be at the heart of community life. Many people contribute to the running of the club and it is thanks to the time and effort of volunteers that the club has been able to reach this golden milestone; the club simply wouldn’t exist without them. So it is with pride that Askern Spa Amateur Swimming Club looks back at the last 50 years, and looks forward to continuing success. To mark this milestone, each member has been given a shirt to commemorate 50 years and as an important signal of team spirit. Visit www.askernspa.org.uk website for how to join and more.