The West’s Past – Centralised “National” Swimming Championships
Extracted from “100 Years of Scottish Swimming” – Peter Bilsborough (1988)
All the Scottish swimming championships were held at a central venue for the first time in 1948. In the previous 60 years championship races took place in different pools throughout the swimming season. Each year the S.A.S.A. invited clubs to bid for any listed national championship race.
The fees covered the cost of medals and a permit plus any extra money which the club added to secure the race. Clubs making successful bids featured the event in one of their gala programmes. It was a good system. After paying various expenses the clubs invariably made profits from gate money and race fees. They also gave spectators in all parts of the country the opportunity to watch the leading swimmers of the day.
The number of championship races grew steadily as competitive swimming became more popular. In 1895 there were six Scottish championship events, in 1925 there were 19 and in 1935, 21.
In 1946 there were 25 events which was too many for the system to deal with. Some of the less popular ones failed to attract bidders. In 1946 offers for the ladies graceful swimming contest and a relay event were not taken up and consequently they did not take place.
During World War II, Jock Coutts recognised that the system required overhauling but there was so much other business to attend to as hostilities ended that it was pushed to one side.
In 1946, 181 entries were received for the various events while 12 months later there were 156 — a reduction of 14%. Swimmers were finding it increasingly difficult to travel the length and
breadth of the country to compete in the various championships and so centralised championships were arranged for 1948.
Paisley offered to hold the event which was ‘an outstanding success. There was a record 309 entries. A similar arrangement was made with Bon-Accord in 1949.
The response to both events was very encouraging and so for 1950 the Association agreed to formalise arrangements.
Under the new rules:
(i) Districts were given the responsibility for the event.
(ii) A six yearly rota was established.
(iii) The event took place over three days.
(iv) The Association received an entry fees.
(v) ‘The District shall guarantee a sum to be fixed and any profit over and above that
sum shall be equally divided between the District and the Association.’
There were some notable championship performances. Jack Wardrop (Motherwell) won all five senior freestyle events at Kilmarnock in 1950.
During the next two years he won eight of the 15 senior titles.