Marlborough Amateur Swimming Club was formed at a public meeting on the 21st May 1958. Swimming then took place at the open-air (unheated) pool where the Town Mill housing development now stands. This pool had been built in the late 1920s and the main photograph above, shows the turf cutting in 1927. It was a private venture at the time but was taken over by the Town Council in 1937. It was a six-lane 33 1/3 yard pool with a depth of 2’ 6’’ in the shallow end and 6’6’’ in the deep end. Because it was unheated it meant there was a short season of about 4 months and it meant it being used in all weathers with a water temperature of sometimes less than 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Even with these restrictions the club flourished and rarely had less than 250 members.
Marlborough Club had however been formed before the turf cutting in 1927, as there is mention in the history of Wiltshire ASA of Marlborough being one of the four established Wiltshire clubs present at the inaugural meeting of the Wiltshire County ASA, held in Trowbridge, on January 27th 1907. Where the members swam at that time remains unclear, but probably it was in the River Kennet near Washpool Cottage in Treacle Bolley.
In 1967 a plan was mooted to heat the open-air pool and with the effort of the club, £1,700 was raised. The official opening of the new plant took place in June 1968 and then the swimmers could enjoy the ‘luxury’ of water temperatures of at least 70 degrees. The Council also fitted a filtration plant, as previously it was only when the water looked a little murky that the pool was emptied and refilled – usually overnight on a Sunday!
In 1971 another fund raising effort enabled the club to build a two-storey building, providing storage at ground level and a refreshment section with space for recorders on the first floor (bath side level). The highlight was a sponsored 24-hour swim, when swimmers covered an amazing 48 miles and raised £250.
1981 was the year when talks started in earnest about the possibility of an indoor pool. MADIP (Marlborough and District Indoor Pool) was formed, and the College offered £100,000 and a site at Barton Deane. Eventually the new pool was built and officially opened on 9th July 1984. Arguably this was the turning point in the club’s history – all year round swimming in ideal conditions made a dream come true. The Club Championships had to be changed from yards to meters with many additional events arranged.
The introduction by the County of the Moonraker League produced fierce competition; Marlborough has always featured prominently and has been placed 2nd in Division 1 only beaten by Thamesdown (now Tigersharks). There have been three teams in the Summer League and two in the Winter League, an indication of the overall depth of swimmers available at one time.
Financially, the club has always been on a sound footing and has tried to keep subscriptions down.
The club has in the past enjoyed social events as well. Dinners were an annual event, which was in 1959 graced with the then president of the ASA – Cecil Clark.
1990 was probably the best year so far competitively. The club won the Tipper Trophy, successfully staged a Separated Medley Competition, won promotion to Division 2 of the Summer League, was 2nd in the Secondary Club event and had considerable success at the open Metalite Meet, County and District Championships.
In 1991, following a competition for a name amongst all of the swimmers, one whom designed the club logo, the name of the club was changed to Marlborough Penguins Amateur Swimming Club and the membership topped the 500 mark. In 1994 the club had its first National Age group Champion and for several years there have been swimmers with National Qualifying times.
The club has always featured prominently in the affairs of the County and has provided four County Presidents and at the moment has three Life Members. Members have served on many Committees and over the years have provided County Officers, Easter Course Organisers and Examiners.
The club can be justifiably proud that it had so many County qualified swimming officials and at one time had 2 referees, 12 judges, 27 timekeepers and 2 recorders. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case. The club is finding increased difficulty in obtaining volunteers from parents for these essential duties.
When the club was formed results and records were kept in an exercise book! Now everything – swimmers details, personal best times, championship records etc. are on computer and available virtually at the touch of a button. These records and details of the Trophy Donors are also presented, and are accessible for all, in a ring binder.
A few comparisons show the sort of progress that has been made. In July 1958 for instance, the club held the first gala comprising 4 – 100 yard events, 4 – one-length races and 6 one-width races. At the 1997/1998 galas there were 74 events ranging from 25 to 800metres, 28 master events and 16 age groups in the Separated Medley Competition.
It is time to mention the names of two people who played an important part, firstly in the original move to set up a club and once this was achieved, in establishing the high standards that the club has also tried to follow. They were former Borough Surveyor Mr. H.C. Yeoman and Councillor W.J. Winchcombe. Mr. Yeoman went on to qualify as a National Official. Mr. Winchcombe served for many years as chief coach. Together they insisted from the outset that all the club competitions were controlled to as high a standard as possible with full observance of the A.S.A. Competition laws.
Other Councillors ably assisted the club by teaching the swimmers and assisting as gala officials.
The club also enjoyed support form a wide section of the town’s business community with donations of trophies etc.
Two former members continue to work in swimming full time. Firstly, Mr. Dennis Yeoman, son of H.C. Yeoman, works for the A.S.A. He was involved in the swimming programme for the Commonwealth Games in Manchester, the Beijing Olympics and the 2012 Olympics. In 2010 he was named ‘Sports Administrator of the Year’ at the 2010 Commonwealth Sports Awards, for his invaluable contribution to swimming. Mr. Andrew Manley was Chief Coach at a Derbyshire Club Derventio eXcel, working with some potential national swimmers, before moving to Canada to coach in Ontario and then returning to coach at Loughborough University.