Market Harborough Swimming Club

Go to content

Main menu:

Over 100 years

About > History of the Club

MHSC - a Swimming Club with a long history

Market Harborough Swimming Club has existed, in different forms, for
over 100 years.

In the 1890's the local council medical officer suggested that a pool should be built to help improve the health of the local community. Of course, at that time, leeches were the medical wonder of the age, and 14 year olds, rather than spending time at the swimming pool, were sent out to earn a decent wage to pay their way.

Local MP Mr J W Logan promised to donate £1000 towards the costs (no doubt set against his Parliamentary expenses) in the hope that private subscribers could raise the additional £1000 required to build the pool. The local residents obviously managed to do so because in October 1896 the brand new 25 yard x 4 lanes pool, designed by H G Coales, was opened. The baths included laundry
and washing facilities - although I'm sure the local inhabitants did not take it personally. These facilities were provided well beyond the 1950's - in fact, Alan Finch can remember the old pool being used in this way (source - many trips into London at 6:15!)

The old pool was opposite the end of Welland Park Road where now stands a block of old people’s flats, Marshall Close, named after Ron Marshall, one of our former teachers whose wife Margaret Marshall was also a teacher at MHSC.

In 1896 Market Harborough Men's Swimming Club was formed. There seems to be little information about these early days but apparently Ian was not coach at that time. However, early successes are recorded in 1912 with the Men's Club winning Water Polo and Swimming Shields and cups, competing against other clubs in Leicestershire. No doubt the war years impacted upon the use of the pool but during the post-war 1920's the Market Harborough Ladies Swimming Club was formed. Both clubs continued until the
dark years of the 2nd World War closed both clubs for 6 years.

Existing members can recall people going into the building to use the slipper baths as not all households had a bath at home then. There would be people queuing outside with a towel and a bar of soap going for their weekly (monthly?) bath. Showers? What’s that?

The MHMSC reformed after the war in 1946, but it is unclear when the MHWSC reformed. The two clubs had separate committees and club nights. It was not until 1989 that the two clubs amalgamated under the Market Harborough Swimming Club banner.

In 1991 the old pool finally closed down and the club moved to its current location at the Market Harborough Leisure Centre. This was also the last time Dave Lander was seen in a pair of swimming trunks that fitted.

Through the last 20 years, the club has been coached by Ian Johnston ... how has he managed to put up with so many rebellious teenagers for so long? That's enough to make anybody go grey!

MHSC Award Ceremony - 1993. How many people can you spot?

The Leisure Centre has also received a visit from Princes Anne, the Princess Royal. Her Royal Highness seems unimpressed by the sight of Mr Bott's sausage. Also, can you spot a younger Nicola James and Val Dunton.

And if you ever have any doubt about the benefits of swimming, here is a little anecdote:

Recently, one Melanie McWhirter set a lifetime best of 28.30 in the 50m free style. In 1989, she set the Leicestershire County Junior record for the same distance in a time of 28.38. 2 children and 17 years later, she still trains regularly and is clearly just getting faster. You might see her name on some of the club trophies - before she was married - when her name was not McWhirter but ..... Lister. Now there's a name you might recognise!

The old Market Harborough Swimming Baths in 1952. These were the days of "top bombing", pike and swallow dives performed into 6 feet of water. Today’s elf 'n safety people would have a fit!

MHSC throughout the years

A few dates that have marked the history of the club.

1896/1897 Men’s Club formed. Ladies club followed after.

1933 There is
today, a trophy in the cabinet carrying the name A. Underwood. That is our Audrey Walker.

1946 Reformation of a men's swimming club.

1947 Gala Programme.

1949 Gala Programme - Don’t forget some pools were 33 and a 1/3 yards. Three lengths per 100 yards.

1950’s Queues recalled outside of people going for a bath.

1950’s Pool staff left the Men’s club with a key to the building with the instruction to “Lock up when you have finished”. The staff went home!

1951 Ernie Davies was a stalwart of the Men’s Club having been responsible for its reformation after the war. His tea, which he made on the poolside for teachers, became legendary for its viscosity and its ability to support a spoon vertically.

1951 Treasurers records show that there was a “Coppers in the pool” event to raise funds for the club. They made 11 shillings (55p).

1951 They swam a “Festival of Britain” gala programme for which the pool hire cost £1 2s 6d (£1 & 12p).

1955 Treasurers records show that the paper for the annual gala cost 16/- shillings. That’s a lot of paper BUT the biggest single expense was for the buffet served to the Gala Officials after the Gala.

1968 Running costs for the Club were £5 15s 0d per week.

1970’s Marked the arrival of Ted Quarmby from Leicester. At that time there were 216 junior members and 53 seniors.

1978 The first Combined Gala of the Men’s and Women’s Clubs.

1985 Liz Webb was “volunteered “ as Treasurer. And yes, it's her Silver jubilee next year!

1986 Ian Johnston arrived. And yes, he's still here!

1986 The Annual Gala presentations award was held at the Phoenix next door to the old pool. The MC was David Lander – for the first time.

1988 Two separate clubs ceased to exist and reopened in 1989 as a combined club. John Marlow became the new Chairman and the new pool opened in 1989.

1989 The reception on the opening night of the new pool was a disaster as the water turned BLACK due to some technical difficulty.

1991 Memorial trophy created in memory of Anthony Shepherd, young MSHC swimmer who died tragically at the age of 17.

2000 The club launched a competition to design the new logo (as used today). Ed Robinson won the competition and local artist Vanessa Francis helped finalising the artwork.

2002 The club changed its colours from Black/Rainbow to the current Black/Silver livery.

Roll of honours

We do not have the details of all past members who served the club at some point in its life, but we would like to thank and remember the following individuals who have given their best to make the club what it is today.

Here are a few names associated with the Club at some time or another from the 60’s until recently:

Nev Woodford
Yolande Shaw
Pete Scotchbrook (Pool Manager)
Roger Merchant
Ray Timson
Hamish Watson
Ron and Margaret Marshall
Linda Petersen
Frank Woodhouse
Norman Bishop
Richard Winters
Jenner Aldridge
John Marlow (President 1991 - 2008)
Audrey Walker (President xxxx - xxxx)
Malcolm Robinson (first webmaster)

Why they became involved

Audrey Walker
Was a MHSC swimmer, became a qualified teacher in 1956. Did her course at Aylestone pool, travelling daily by train. Became (with Faith Marlow) an examiner for other examinees.

Liz Webb
The club was desperate for a treasurer. Her husband Michael very kindly volunteered her in her absence! That will be 25 years ago next year!

John Marlow
Faith, his wife, was a teacher and volunteered him to record galas tiems and results. He recalls galas starting at 6.30 pm and finishing at 11 pm.

Val Dunton
Children joined as swimmers. Her husband Roger, volunteered her as a Secretary. She is still poolside every Friday teaching the Diddies.

David Lander
Original Treasurer of Rykneld Swimming Club (Derbyshire) in 1969 – volunteered by boss. Moved to Harborough in 1979 and son started swimming in 1986. Got fed up sitting on poolside and became a teacher and official. QUalified as a referee.

Malcolm Robinson
Became the first webmaster. Alyssa, his wife, organises the club officials.

Back to content | Back to main menu