Club History

About Halliwick Penguins Swimming Club

A Swimming Club for all ages and all disabilities was formed in 1949, when wheelchair users and other disabled people were all too often sitting around and being entertained rather than participating.  However, we believed they had potential and could be involved in personal achievement and therefore, a fuller life.

Swimming seemed to be the answer: you do not need wheelchairs, crutches and sticks in water!  The buoyancy of the water provides an ideal classroom and playground.

Our first 12 swimmers were from the Halliwick School for Disabled Girls, hence the name of the club – and “penguins” indicates that any lack of mobility on land is more than compensated for in the water.

We spent our first year working on a concept of teaching that would apply equally to all disabled and non-disabled people.  This – the HALLIWICK CONCEPT is now known and used world-wide.  We have taken it to Australia, South America, Iceland, to many countries in Europe and as far as Japan and Brazil.  Those countries are supported by the International Halliwick Association (IHA) which has also been set up.  We have also inaugurated a national body in the UK – the Hallliwick Association of Swimming Therapy (Halliwick AST) – with its regional associations, called Halliwick ASTRAs.  To date, there are more than 100 affiliated clubs within the UK.

This, the first club, HALLIWICK PENGUINS SWIMMING CLUB, is still flourishing, with a membership of over 100 including swimmers, instructors and helpers in all capacities.


Pictured top/left is one of the club’s original penguin mascots, owned by Phyl McMillan, MBE, co-founder of the club in 1949.

Pictured below-left is Phyl McMillan, MBE, in 1998 with her MBE medal, having just been awarded with it. (You will see Phyl is wearing our club top!)

Pictured below-right is Phyl McMillan, MBE with William Wyatt in 1998, cutting a cake to celebrate Phyl being awarded the MBE. Fittingly, we cut the cake at the pool during a swimming session!

You can read about the history of Halliwick in more detail on the website of the Halliwick Association of Swimming Therapy (Halliwick AST), which is the UK’s national Halliwick Association. Just follow the link here: