I’m Keen On Swimming – But


My worst detractors, the inhabitants of the Antares Place asylum, would be hard pushed to make the claim that I’m not keen on swimming. I’ve been in a river, or a lake or a swimming pool since 1950. I first swam 800 meters when I was four years old. My daughter Jane beat me. She did the same swim when she was three.

When the Wahine ferry sank in the entrance to Wellington Harbour on the morning of the 10 April 1968, where was I? At the Freyberg Pool is the answer – doing my training.

In fact let me tell you about that morning. The weather was bad – obviously. Sufficiently bad that instead of catching a bus my grandfather said he would drive me to the pool. Even at 5.30am the roads were more deserted than normal. We drove through the Mt. Victoria tunnel without another car entering or leaving the tunnel the whole time we were in the tunnel.

I said to my grandfather, “Wow the weather is bad this morning.”

He smiled. “You will get plenty of days like this in Wellington,” he said. I took him at his word. After all my grandfather had sailed in and out of harbours all over the world as a wireless operator in the Royal Navy and then chief engineer on cargo ships. If anyone knew bad weather, he should.

Freyberg Pool was even more deserted than the roads. In fact I was the pool’s only swimmer. I decided to do a main set of 1×5000 straight swim. After 1000 warm-up, I was about 2000 meters into the 5000 swim when the Pool Manager started throwing kick-boards at me. I stopped. “Get out, get out now,” he screamed.

I finished the length and climbed out. “What’s all the fuss about,” I thought. And then I saw. Two of the huge sheets of glass that make up the wall of the Freyberg Pool lay shattered on the bottom of the pool. That was the end of my 5000 swim. I was lucky it hadn’t been the end of me as well. When I got home from University I teased my grandfather about his “many mornings like this” comment. Clearly the Wahine and the Freyberg Pool did not agree.

And 51 years later on tonight’s TV1 six o’clock news there was a short item in the sport’s news of me helping Eyad swim in the Auckland Championships. Here is the link to the internet report. What do you think of Eyad’s batman cap? My Grandson loves Batman gear. But he’s only four!



For Christmas on the 25 December this year or my birthday on the 3 March next year – if you have any thoughts of buying me a swimming pool rug – please don’t. Mind you some kind soul should buy one for the Swimming New Zealand reception. That way, when Cotterill, Johns and Francis come to work, they can be reminded what a swimming pool looks like.

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