Making a splash at Derby Street baths

Jumping off a “horrible tall” diving platform and playing truant from school are just two of the memories readers recalled when we featured a photo of a South Shields swimming baths recently.

Alan Forrest, chairman of South Shields United Swimming Club, before club members took part in the club's annual gala at Derby Street Baths in  October 1965 .
Alan Forrest, chairman of South Shields United Swimming Club, before club members took part in the club's annual gala at Derby Street Baths in October 1965 .

The pictured, posted on the Gazette’s Facebook page, showed Alan Forrest, chairman of South Shields United Swimming Club, at the club’s annual gala in Derby Street baths in 1965.

Jean Behling got in touch to say: “My memories go way back. As a young girl, I gained my certificates there until I received my medals – bronze, silver and gold. I also got the bars with the striped ribbons.

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Back in Janaury 1965 Miss N Collingwood, assistant matron at the Ingham Infirmary, switches on the background music which has been installed for a trial period.

“I still have them and I intend to give them to one of my granddaughters. I hope they will keep my treasured hard-swam-for collection together.

“When I look back, (I am now 80 years young) I remember the joy I had all those years ago.

“When taking the honours certificate, I had to jump off that horrible tall diving platform; it was the one and only time in my life were I was really frightened. But I did it, and gained my much-fought-after certificate.

“The life-saving procedure was the Holger Nielson method, time progressed and a better method evolved.”

Many readers recalled the cold water, including Lianne Douglas (the water was freezing!) and Simon Weaver, but it was “hot water” that Carl Lister landed in when he and his mates decided to take the day off school to go for a swim.

“I got caught playing truant one afternoon at Derby Street baths,” he explained.

“I was there with a few mates, we decided to take the afternoon off and go swimming. Then all of a sudden the headmaster appeared and I was the only one that got caught.

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“‘What are you doing here Lister’, he said. ‘Swimming,’ I said.

“I went into Redwell School the next day...and was put on a 10-day

“I also remember the blue slide that bruised yer hip.”

Brian Docherty posted: “That’s me on Alan’s right, with both my hands on the shoulders of the lad looking down on the cup. I can remember the photograph being taken. I was 10” while Suzanne Baker took to social media to say: “I learned to swim there.”

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Susan Flannagan recalled: “I was terrified to jump in Derby Street, and the swimming teacher used to make me hold one end of a broom handle and she had the other end and would make me jump in.

“The foot-bath was freezing too.”

Simon Weaver remembers being “given a diving brick to swim with instead of a float ... and really cold water.

“Although I was there after 1965, more like 1985, so not linked to the club, I did have to suffer the sub-zero temps.”

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Pamela Spour spoke of Mr Mordue, swimming instructor, and the beef soup out of the vending machine” while June Mcleod told how she “learned to swim there!

“However, I was terrified of the swimming teacher. She used to push you in!”

Meanwhile, other readers commented on a photo which accompanied an article in 1965, which told how nursing staff at the Ingham Infirmary, South Shields, were playing background music for a trial period.

Phil Brown posted: “Nora Collingwood featured here, she was Matron,” while Sheila Carlberg said: “My mother nursed at the Ingham at that time, Mary Bridgewood or Bridgie as she was known. She is still reasonably fit at 90-years old.”