Over the past few weeks one of the windows by the entrance to the swimming pool charity shop in Duke Street has featured a number of photographs submitted as part of the Pool Your Memories project. The aim of the project, which has previously been reported in Community News, is to record the stories behind the way in which Settle created and has sustained its community swimming pool over the past 47 years.
One of the photos that attracted a lot of attention is that featured on this page showing a group of men in the pool wearing wellingtons, not on their feet but on their hands. The photo was taken by the Craven Herald and includes the intriguing half headline “Farmers take the plunge to…”
The remarkable story behind the photos and headline has its origins in the last disease to cause at least as much misery in this part of the country as COVID-19 has done over the past year. That was not a human illness, but one that led to the slaughter of much of the area’s livestock in 2001.
Everyone who was around here at the time will have bitter memories of Foot and Mouth, but what is perhaps less well remembered is that in the years after the disease, the government funded an initiative offering “Bite Size” courses to encourage adults in rural areas back into education.
As part of that project, in partnership with North Yorkshire Adult Education, Settle Pool launched a synchronised swimming course.
Ed Roe, assistant manager at the time, was not content with attracting the sort of folks normally seen performing what amounts to underwater ballet and so he encouraged a group of farmer friends to sign up to learn the sort of skills not normally associated with the agricultural sector and have a bit of fun in doing so. All were great supporters of the pool and keen to help raise the profile of the pool at a difficult time.
Betty Sedgwick, herself a synchronised swimmer and long-time swimming trainer and support of the pool, readily agreed to train this group. She spent many hours working with the group to ‘perfect’ the routine.
Not surprisingly, the synchronised swimming farmers attracted a lot of media attention. Besides the Craven Herald photo and headlines, both BBC and ITV brought camera crews to the pool and for a short while our little community pool got almost as much attention as London’s Olympic one.
Sadly, to date, we have not been able to locate any recordings of the story, but perhaps some readers of Community News have a tape or two. If so we would be delighted to see them: email@example.com.
The swimming farmers were not the only ones to benefit from courses as others followed, including a slightly more practical, if less newsworthy one teaching life-saving skills.
We are on the lookout for more on this and other stories from the pool’s history, so do let us know if you have any photos, cuttings or just marvellous memories. You can get in touch through firstname.lastname@example.org.