The West’s Past – The Birth of the Scottish Amateur Swimming Association

Extracted from “One Hundred Years of Scottish Swimming” – Peter Bilsborough (1988)

From its inception in 1884 the A.S.C.G. had agreed to work towards the establishment of a national swimming association.
In the ensuing three years it worked hard to widen the sports appeal. By 1887 sufficient development had taken place outside Glasgow to necessitate the need for a national governing body.
The A.S.C.G. took the initiative.
In May it convened a special meeting of the affiliated clubs to decide upon the best way to proceed.
Two issues were foremost (i) the need for a truly national organisation (ii) the acceptance by all interested parties, both within and outside Scotland, of an unambiguous amateur code.
To seek nationwide support the A.S.C.G. Executive sent a circular to all Scottish swimming clubs inviting them to send up to three representatives to Holten’s Hotel, Glasgow on June 28th ‘with the object of instituting a National Association’.
On the amateur question, the Executive opened discussions with the Amateur Swimming Association (A.S.A.).

The meeting was the largest and most representative ever held in Scotland.

The following clubs sent delegates:
Glasgow: Arlington, Caxton, Dolphin, Eastern, Leander, Northern, Queen’s Park, Southern, South-Side, Western, West of Scotland.
Edinburgh: Burntisland, Forth, Portobello, Brandon, Heart of Midlothian, Lorne.
Dundee: Officials from the newly constituted Dundee Swimming Association representing: Belmont, Northern, Triton, Lochee, Wallace, Wallace Juveniles.
Provincial Clubs: Carnegie, Irvine.

The following clubs wrote, but were not present:
Bon-Accord, Dee (Aberdeen), Clyde, Bellahouston, Pollokshields (Glasgow).
The A.S.A. had also been invited. It was represented by Archibald Sinclair, the doyen of English swimming administration.

Hugh McCulloch, President of West of Scotland S.C. and the A.S.C.G., was elected Chairman.

There was unanimous agreement that a national association should be formed and the title chosen was the Scottish Amateur Swimming Association.
Most of the meeting was taken up with discussions about representation and amateurism. On the former it was agreed to establish three ‘Local Centres’ or ‘County Associations’ based on Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee. Each was required to pay the parent association an annual subscription of 5s. for every club affiliated to it.
In return each Centre was represented on the S.A.S.A. Council by one member for every three clubs affiliated to it.
It was also agreed that the Association’s day-to-day affairs should be dealt with by a small Executive Committee consisting of the President, Secretary, Treasurer and several Council members.
0n 28 January 1888 at the Bible Institute, St Andrews Square, Edinburgh the S.A.S.A. was constituted. Sixty delegates representing over 20 clubs met to appoint office bearers, elect a committee of management, establish Local Centres and confirm the constitution and rules.
Like the A.S.C.G., the new national body also spent a considerable amount of time and energy promoting swimming.
At a local level it delegated various aspects of development to its district associations.
In the west, the Western Counties Amateur Swimming Association (W.C.A.S.A.) provided a great deal of grass roots support. It offered advice and assistance to new clubs and occasionally gave financial assistance.
In May 1910 it donated some money to the Bellahouston Academy gala fund. It also helped clubs to acquire the services of experienced teachers and the use of expensive equipment and facilities. In May 1907 the Glasgow Blind Asylum asked the W.C.A.S.A. to supply two instructors to teach a group of non-swimmers. They were supplied by clubs using the Townhead Baths.
In March 1909 it was successful in persuading the bath-master at Townhead Baths to allow the Glasgow Hairdressers’ A.S.C. to use a water polo ball in the small swimming pond.
In 1911 the following memorandum was sent to James Donaldson, a member of Partick Town Council from the Secretary of the W.C.A.S.A. Executive Committee:
‘I understand there is a proposal to erect baths in the Burgh of Partick, and as Convener of the Baths Committee of the Western Counties Amateur Swimming Association I have been asked to
write to you stating that in the event of a swimming pool being constructed, it be made the usual standard size, viz:- Exact length 25 yards, width about 13 yards and the depths 6ft 6in to
7ft at the deep end and 3ft 6in at the shallow end. If a swimming pond was constructed on the above scale it would meet with the entire approval of all swimmers.’

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