There was no stopping Derby Street baths swimmers

Despite the risk of stinging eyes from the chlorine in the water, so many of you have incredibly fond memories of the old Derby Street baths in South Shields.

The newly-installed sauna at Derby Street baths in 1966.
The newly-installed sauna at Derby Street baths in 1966.

As promised, here are more of your recollections following the posting of a picture of the bath’s on social media.

Paul Mckiernan thought back to remember: “The dreaded disinfectant pool as you went in, a mucky yellow colour, and the showers, when they were hot they were great, but oh my, when they were cold, it felt like they were below zero.

“Having said that I’d go back there no problem, it was a proper swimming pool.”

Steven Guthrie explains how: “I lived right opposite it as a kid, in Derby Terrace. I always remember the smell from the feet-wash, the chlorine was soooo strong ha! I learned to swim there years later with Mr Hodgson from Redwell School.”

Bernie Hepplewhite recalls “the strong smell of chlorine”, while Dave Stothard added: “Loved going there, eyes were on fire off the chlorine.”

Gillian Wilkinson says: “Pamela Sharp and myself grew up in that pool, quite literally! The best pool I’ve ever swam in,” while Dorothy Burridge Johnston said: “Had a brilliant time there in the 50s/60s. My great grandad Alderman John Imrie was Lord Mayor of South Shields when it was first opened. He opened the baths. Apparently the sign is still there in the street.”

Dave Harrison told how he “went to Redwell in 1959 and we were supposed to visit Derby Street baths on Friday mornings. It was closed for its first refurbishment within weeks of my arrival”.

Sylvia Dixon emailed: “I just about lived there in my school days. Mrs Bennett got me through all my certificates and medals, swam for Cleadon Park School and Westoe Ladies, was in all the galas, loved it,” while Margaret G Blythe recalls: “Friday evening swimming club with my daughter. Ken Nessworthy coaching, this was after the Friday morning early session at Hebburn baths before school and work. Happy knackered days.”

Delaine Johnson recalls how he “went with Westoe Comp and got pushed in the deep end, along with the smell of oxtail soup out of the vending machine”.

Kevin Bell said: “Took all my swimming certs there. We used to walk from Westoe School(also gone now) for swimming lessons 50 years ago now. Happy days.”

Maureen Shorter recalled: “Learning to swim, then going through my badges and life-saving with Belle Bennett, an amazing lady. Oh and being pushed off the splash by another girl who thought it was a laugh!”

Carole Smith proclaims: “Best pool ever, as a kid, chip shop straight after, then went on my lunch time as a grown-up since I worked just at the top of the street. Really miss it.”

Liz Wetherill tells how she “went every week and at school holidays, used to get changed in the laundry if there was no changing cubicle left. Great memories”, while Allan Stonehouse says: “Did all my swimming medals there. Jumping off the high board in my pyjamas then making them into a float. All while treading water.”

Bill Duncan said: “We used to race to be the first one to dive in Saturday mornings. While the lifeguard shot you with the cold hose pipe in the early 70s,” while Maggie Gale recalls “sitting on the edge, trying to pluck up the courage to get in, then I was pushed”.

Gillian Henderson says: “Best times of my youth! Did all my water safety, bronze silver and gold awards!! Remembering Mr Mordue and his catchphrase ‘Never fear Mordue’s here!’ Hours of fun with one tiny slide, plus they didn’t always have the diving board open.

“We just swam and then had fun. Happy happy days! Oh and the Bovril drink when you were leaving to go home.”

Michael Jacobson explained how the baths were the place “where I learned to swim, back in the early fifties. Every Saturday morning, even when King George VI died”.

John Staines tells how he “spent most of my school holidays there and with Westoe Boys School once every week. I loved the place, happy days”.

Deborah Smith: “Can fondly remember friction burns from the floats and tiptoeing around the edge of the disinfectant pool,” while Deka Ridley says: “I was always there, there was a small slide in there but it was taken out. Did my bronze, silver and gold there.”

Phil Kennedy recalls: “Getting a Bovril when coming out and then a massive cream bun from the bakers at the top on Westoe Road,” while Viv Marley says: “That’s where I learned to swim with Mrs Bennett, loved it.”

Lyndsey Dee Newbrook told how she and Joanna Wraith “lived there in the holidays. Happy days”.

Jackie and Jim Waugh remember: “Jumping off the high board in dad’s pyjamas to get swimming medals.”

Andrew Rambo Reilly said: “Loved the six weeks holidays in the pool with the inflatables,” while Rob Price remembers “Miss Peel – all you heard was ‘kick, kick, kick’ at the top of her voice”.