Somerset ASA

Your cart

Years of Development

It appears, based upon the evidence contained in the County Minute Books, that when compared with the situation at the end of the first world war, the County had lost few of its senior members ‘killed in action’ in the second. The benefit of this situation was that the ‘business’ of the County was up and running very quickly.

At a meeting of the Executive Committee on 14th April 1945 proposals from the Diving and Education Committee for revised conditions for the Diving Championships would include dives described as Fancy, Pike, Swallow, Running and Plain Header all with reference to the international FINA List.

At the same meeting a complete rewrite of the Constitution was agreed which would be put to the next Annual General Meeting. With ‘democracy’ in mind it was agreed that the position of President – Elect would be chosen from each of five geographic areas in turn into which the Clubs were divided, so worthy members from small Clubs would have a chance to hold high office. On the sixth year the choice would be left to the Executive Committee. It was also decided that the Swimming Championship events would be auctioned as in the past. After such momentous decisions it seems likely that members went home well pleased with themselves over their day’s work!

1946 proved to be a very special year fo the County Water Polo Team. Following success in the regional rounds, the County won the National Inter County Water Polo Championship. It must be remembered that in these times Water Polo was held in the highest regard by Clubs, Counties and Districts and the Executive Committee decided to hold a dinner to reward the team members. The meal was to cost no rnore than 6 shillings and six pence a head, about 30p. Each team member would receive an engraved statuette and a team photograph would be taken. Finally the ASA were asked to loan the trophy shield so that it might be carried around the County with pride. More great news for water polo came in 1948 when Tom and John Holt and Reginald Webber were chosen for the GB polo team at the Olympic Games.

A momentous event took place in 1947. Miss D Harrison of Bath Ladies SC was elected president – the first lady to hold this position. Since then there have been 43 men and 12 lady presidents.

In these times and for many years to come, only two meetings of the Executive Committee were held each year – in March and November with the AGM taking place in January. There is no evidence that this small number of meetings led to any problems. The Executive Committee took decisions on most issues other than on constitutional matters which were left to the AGM and no one complained. There were also two active Sub Committees. The first was called ‘Diving and Education’ but its remit seemed to go much further than these headings. The other Sub Committee was the Water Polo Committee which dealt with team selection and the appointment of officials for matches. The County Officers and other senior members such as Past Presidents sat on both Sub Committees. Whilst this concentration of power may seem undemocratic, it was probably fairly typical of its time.

In 1948 the AGM considered the need for the County to be identified with a proper badge and research was undertaken with the County Archivist. The emblem chosen was the Wessex Dragon and there is still dispute as to whether our flag bears a Dragon or a Griffin, but as is well known the mystic animal does not hold a staff as does that on the Somerset County Council flag. In recent times it has been noted that Somerset County Cricket Club has exactly the same emblem as Somerset ASA.

At the 1949 AGM, word was received that the ASA was to sponsor promising swimmers at coaching sessions at Loughborough College in July and August, to find swimmers who could be prepared for the 1952 Olympic Games. Philip Penny who later became the County Medical advisor attended the course and the County received a very complementary letter from the college on his participation. It is not recorded that he was chosen for the games, perhaps medical studies intervened.

This ‘History’ can only highlight items of special interest in these years of quiet and slow progress in County affairs. In 1953 however the long time Hon. Treasurer, Mr T J Coles caused a minor sensation when he called for the suspension of Standing Orders because he was not able to present a Closed and Audited Account for the year. The first six months of the year had been very difficult due to the very slow receipt of affiliation fees from clubs. Considerable expenditure was also occurred in this period. In previous years the County had built up a reserve and it had been decided to put a significant proportion of money on deposit to earn some interest. Sadly the proper arrangements were not made for access to this money at times of shortage. The Treasurer proposed three measures to assist Treasurers in future years: a sensible separation period between closing the accounts and the AGM, to allow sufficient time for the Audit: access to the deposit account with the authority of two signatures and dead lines for the payment of affiliation fees. With these measures approved and assurances from the Auditor over the information he had received, the AGM also approved the unaudited accounts and Mr Coles continued as Hon. Treasurer.

The events in the County Championships were gradually increasing. In 1954 the Executive agreed the inclusion of Club Team Medley Team races and new conditions for these races were required.

It was agreed to follow the Western Counties in this and the order of strokes in the races was agreed as:-
2 lengths Backstroke
2 lengths Crawl
2 lengths Freestyle
2 lengths Freestyle

1 length Backstroke
1 length Crawl
1 length Breast
1 length Freestyle
In 1958 a proposal was made that the second length in both cases should be ‘orthodox breaststroke’, the third ‘butterfly’ and the fourth ‘front crawl’ but this was defeated.

These were lean years for Water Polo and the County league competition was in doubt. Only three clubs played water polo in 1955 – Bath Dolphin, Frome and Weston super Mare. Nevertheless it was agreed that closure of the league would have a negative effect on the remaining Clubs and the ability of the County to take part in District and National events so a round robin tournament was held.

Little is recorded in the minutes about the process by which swimming officials were appointed as timekeepers, judges and referees. The detail of strokes was less well defined than in the later years. County and District lists of officials came about by recommendations based upon the ‘network’ process and seniority. The appointment of officials for County Championships was confirmed by the Executive and those appointed had to visit the clubs where the events took place following the auction of events. There were obviously problems over expenses in these arrangements.

Eventually, led by a WCASA decision, each County nominated a panel of its most experienced officials. These persons would visit galas on request to mark the performance of the officials on the poolside. There are no reports of the judgements made being challenged which suggests either that their decisions were respected or that candidates were mostly successful.

There must have been some consternation when a complaint was received from the District Competitions Secretary saying that some of the County Officials had not executed their duties ‘with credit to themselves’. County Delegates to the District Executive meeting were instructed to protest about the letter – forcibly, but it was then learnt that the District had decided to concentrate its events in one or two centres so that the most experienced officials could be employed and possibly be paid expenses.

In 1956 the District held it first swimmer training camp at Barton Hall, South Devon which was a holiday camp for rest of the year. Those who attended from the County, when reminiscing about these camps do so with such affectionate memories, one is left to wonder who gained the main benefit from the attending the camps – the swimmers or the organising team.

The County AGM in the following year heard that the balance on funds was down to £199 and Clubs were blamed yet again for late payments of affiliation fees. Part of this issue was the fact that many small Clubs found it difficult to operate successfully from year to year.

Short term closure was relatively common – after a year or so, a new committee was formed and affiliations were renewed but backlogs in affiliation payments were not paid. To assist matters income was increased by the introduction of a training levy later to be called an education levy.

In 1957 George Allen retired as Hon. County Secretary after 21 years service. It is remarkable that an individual was prepared to carry out his duties for such a length of time.

The minutes of an Executive meeting in November 1959 record another really surprising item. The ASA had issued a warning to Clubs, Counties and Districts that they should not allow their events to be filmed for transmission on the Independent Television Network. The ASA had apparently negotiated an exclusive ‘deal’ with the BBC which would be lost if it was transgressed (Black and white TV swimming coverage must have been dull to watch).

In 1963 another very long serving Officer – the Hon. Treasurer, T J Coles retired after 18 years in the post.

1964 proved to be the year in which Age Group swimming competitions were introduced. Those who have become involved in swimming in recent times must be really surprised that this very large number of swimmers had not been part of the competitive swimming scene until then. The consequences of the change must have been immense, particularly in clubs with many more young children joining to enjoy the competition. The need for extra water time for lessons and coaching followed, as well as the need for more teachers and coaches. This must have lead to many pressures on club committees.

Detailed proposals had come from the ‘Diving and Education Committee’ which suggested that competition should cover the 10/11year olds, whose races would be one length and the 12/13s whose races would be two lengths. (14years and above were seen initially as catered for by the Junior Championships). An individual medley was included – Butterfly / Back / Breast / and Freestyle. Clubs were encouraged to run trials from which their fastest three swimmers would qualify for the County event. Entry fee was 1 shilling (5p) per event.

The first competition was held at Taunton on 26th September 1964 and it is recorded that the event was very successful. There was some ‘concern’ about the ages of swimmers on entry forms and in the following year Club Secretaries had to confirm swimmers dates of birth on the entry form.

The first three swimmers in each event qualified for a similar competition run by WCASA. In 1966 the County made a successful bid to run a District Age Group Block at Weston super Mare – known as a Block because a number of events were brought together in one manageable length gala.

In 1967 the County Age Group event had to be ‘blocked’ into two events – at Taunton and Bath with 10year olds included. From the results, 63 county swimmers qualified for the WCASA blocks from where in turn 8 county swimmers with one reserve went on to the national finals in Blackpool.

Age Group Swimming had certainly arrived and the County elected an Age Group Secretary to deal with all the associated matters. By 1970 the 15 year old age group was added. The events were held in three swimming pools including Filwood Bristol – out of County. The number of entries exceeded 500 and as will be seen, age group events were held alongside Championship events.

In 1966 the Hon. Secretary, F Grimes and his wife unexpectedly emigrated to America. This allowed, mid term, a new Hon. Secretary to be elected. Dennis O’Brien began 25 years of service in this post for the County.

From 1967 Executive Committee minutes were typed and duplicated for circulation but this did not satisfy some traditionalists who thought they should be written up in a bound volume.

In 1968 the number of Executive Meetings had increased to three – in March, September and November, the last of these meetings being largely concerned with the process of elections for County committees and nominations to the Western Counties Executive and its committees. The increased influence of the ‘District’ is seen mostly through the importance attached to its competition programme. It is also worth noting however the close relationship between Somerset County and its Clubs which begins with the role County plays in the affiliation process through the acceptance of Club constitutions and the introduction to its competition programme – in effect that the County is its member Clubs.

This County / Club relationship which seems to have been harmonious throughout the life of the Association gave the County an important part to play when a second Swimming Club based in Weston super Mare sought affiliation at the March Executive meeting in 1968. It appears from the minutes that strong personalities in Weston super Mare SC saw the future of swimming in the town differently. A professional swimming coach wanted to put competitive swimming first and was supported by some parents in this view, whilst the establishment in terms of the older committee members were anxious that the very strong water polo interests should not be jeopardised by such a change.

The County exercised such power as it had to mediate between the parties and by the November meeting, through conciliation, a satisfactory constitution for the new club to be known as Mendip was brought to the Executive and affiliation was approved. Sadly the relationship between some members of the two clubs remained difficult for many years. Whilst these deliberations were taking place some of the swimmers who had joined Mendip also joined the Henleaze Club in Bristol to be able to take part in competition. A team of junior boys from this group entered the Inter Club team relay championships causing some consternation amongst the other Clubs. However ‘the committee’ ruled that swimmers from clubs outside the county had been allowed to swim in events provided they were resident in the County. Nevertheless the incident led to a change in the conditions for team races so that only teams affiliated to Somerset ASA could take part in the County Inter club competitions.

Millfield School affiliated as a Club in 1966 and its achievements in the County Championships and Age Groups gradually improved. County Officials faced another interesting challenge in 1969 when the School entered two teams in the Girls Inter Club Freestyle Team Championships. It seems that the teams were interchanged between the heats and finals and Millfield came first and second – which some thought illegal. However a check on the ASA conditions for teams showed that this was a perfectly legal practice and the result stood.

The saga of curious and sometimes sad stories in the County minutes does not only apply to swimming events. A report on the County Water Polo team’s journey to Kent to play in the preliminary round of the Inter County competition, states that the match was claimed by Kent due to the default of the Somerset team! This was due to the non arrival of one of the Somerset team players at the Croydon Baths – he had lost his way! He was offered the sympathies of the County Secretary but one wonders what happened at the next team training session.