Kilmarnock Swimming Club and Humane Society was instituted in 1902 and began life in the River Irvine and Kilmarnock Water near to the Dean Castle in Kilmarnock. Within a few years it took up residence within the Pool at Kilmarnock Academy as it was the only Swimming Pool in the town at that time.
As can be seen from the pictures above the pools are not very deep now and in fact you could wade across them. This was not always the case as the Rivers were dredged frequently at the turn of the last century and therefore the pools were not silted up. You certainly could not swim in these pools nowadays. Contact the Scottish Environment Protection Agency for information on water quality in Kilmarnock Water and River Irvine.
KILMARNOCK ACADEMY POOL
Records are not available for the initial meeting but, from the only Documentation found dated 1907 for the Swimming Programme of events for that year the sport of Swimming was in its infancy.
Many of the events would not be recognised by today’s swimmers with handicapped races to the fore over 100 yards and 50 yards respectively. In fact only two strokes are mentioned throughout the event namely Breast Stroke and Back Stroke. It is also not known if the races were of one sex or mixed sexes but if the rule of the day is anything to go by then I would assume that the races were male only.
In total there were 13 official swimming races and these were interspersed with other competitions such as Diving and Ornamental Swimming, the Bottle and Bun Race and exhibition of Diving, Plunging etc and last but not least the Greasy Pole competition in fancy dress. What would today’s swimmers think of that lot?
By 1914 the Club had developed into a strong Association but World War I was to change all that. Like most organisations it seemed to disappear and hazarding a guess I would say that a fair number of its participants were caught up in that global catastrophe and when the war ended in 1918 they would be too interested in getting there lives back on track without worrying about the continuation of the Club. Then the Great depression struck and like everywhere else survival would have been the priority and not swimming but somehow that was not the case.
On the 12th August 1925 what we now call Kilmarnock Amateur Swimming Club was born within the Co Operative Halls in John Dickie Street. A Committee was formed from the 100 or so ladies and gentlemen who attended. 1926 was to be its first year in competition but due to a burst boiler within the Academy Baths the Education Authority failed to repair it promptly and as a result 1927 was the first year of real competition within the Club. By this time some of the original Club members had handed over two of the original Trophies, namely the Lord Howard de Walden Trophy which dates back to 1908 and the Kilmarnock Amateur Swimming Association Junior Cup which dates back to 1913 which was presented by W.C. Forbes. The first winners of these trophies were J.G. Edgar and R. Goudie respectively.
The Club had two three hour training evenings, Mondays for girls and Fridays for boys. It was found that this would give ample time for Teaching Practice which even to this day is the most important part of the club. In 1940 Kilmarnock got its first Public Baths which were built next to the Fire Station (opposite the Galleon Centre). This pool was to be open all year round and was 33.3 yards in length and 14 yards wide.
KILMARNOCK OLD POOL
It had several strange features:
1. The pool could be flooded for Galas.
2. A wave machine, donated by Glenfield and Kennedy, was constructed at the deep end.
With reference to the pool being flooded it should be noted that during normal swimming sessions to the public the pool started at a depth of 9” and increased to a depth of 9’ at the deep end. When it was flooded boards were inserted into the stairs leading into the shallow end increasing the height by 3’. This allowed all swimmers to start races in the safety of 1 meter of water.
Through time every Friday night became a training night. The Pool was flooded and the swimmers got used to swimming Long Course instead of short course distances. Training across a 14 yard pool on a Monday and Thursday Club night and every week night between 1730hrs and 1845hrs is certainly a very short course.
Throughout its long History KASC has produced some very famous and very strong Swimmers, Divers and Water Polo Players of all ages. Some are listed below, all are to be found on the Clubs Trophies:
Lawrence Beatty, John Graham, Andy Dick,Dougie Campbell Grace Morton, Vi Bland, Jimmy Stewart, Harry Stewart, Margaret McDowall, Jim MacTaggart, Eleanor Stewart, Gary LittleJohn, Wilma Nicol, Rita Coleman, David Johnstone, John Stewart, Joe Julyan, Alex Devlin, Steve Dunlop, Lynn Daly, Alan Daly, Stephen Kenny, Brian Colvin, George Findlay, Jim McCormack, Elizabeth Laidlaw, Tommy Laidlaw, William (Billy) McCracken and Betty Paton to name but only a few.
Today the Club has taken up residence within the Galleon Centre which is a purpose built Sports Centre built quite literally across the road from the old Kilmarnock Pool which was demolished in the late 1980’s.
THE GALLEON CENTRE
The Club has come a long way since its beginning in 1902 and holding its races etc in the River Irvine. It has produced during that time many Scottish, British, Commonwealth and Olympic Swimmers all of whom have carried the name of Kilmarnock to all four corners of the World.
It is not an easy mantle to carry but with the enthusiasm, skill and determination that the Coaches, Parents, Swimmers and Grand Parents have shown not only in the passed but in the present and into the future the Club is in great hands and will no doubt continue to flourish.