Swimmer’s lasting fondness for Derby Street baths

The final days of  Derby Street  baths.
The final days of Derby Street baths.

They come from far and wide – letters, emails and phone calls, from readers reacting to articles and pictures featured in the page or online.

Recently I received two such communications, one from a reader in London and the other in Australia.

Gordon Lambert's family shot.

Gordon Lambert's family shot.

The first came from Fiona Bradshaw, who saw the article on Derby Street Baths which closed in 1993.

The baths, it turned out, still has a special place in Fiona’s heart, as she explains.

“It was lovely. I learned to swim there, in fact I had swimming lessons four times a week there and ultimately ended up representing my county.”

In fact, Fiona, who is 42, represented Tyne and Wear in the breaststroke and crawl in individual and medley races at swimming meetings throughout this country and abroad.

“I was about 15 at the time,” she explains. “I swam for the county in quite a few different places, including London and Sheffield, and even Germany.

“Swimming was such an important part of my childhood in South Shields. My mother, Joan Gribben, (who lived her whole life in the same street in Shields) recently died of cancer, aged 69, so I have started to think a lot more about what it was about South Shields that gave me such an amazing start in life – and I keep coming back to Derby Street Baths.”

During her teenage years, Fiona swam for three or four different clubs.

“I live in London now, work in the city, and have done for 20 years, but Derby Street is still ever present in my thoughts. It was a really great baths, and I couldn’t believe it when I found out it had been knocked down. Anyway, thanks for the article I really enjoyed reading it.”

Also “feeling very nostalgic” was Gordon Lambert, when he read John Wilkinson’s account of the Queen’s Coronation in 1953.

“My family lived at 4 Bywell Avenue and the street party that day remains very clearly in my memory,” says Gordon, who lives in Kiama Downs, New South Wales.

“The pictures include my late brother Brian, who was seven-years-old at the time, Alwyne (two) dressed as Princess Anne and me, aged nine, dressed as a Bevin Boy in full miners regalia. Alwyne won the fancy dress prize only to surprise the judges (who thought he was a girl) when he lifted his dress to relieve himself by the wooden fence. Keep up the nostalgia it brings back many fond memories of a great town and community.”