Well, when my disabled son, Oliver, was 6 years old, I was given a phone number for Phyl McMillan and we duly turned up at Arnos Grove Pool the following Saturday. He joined straight away and very soon became a ‘water baby’. I would sit on the poolside with my 3-year-old daughter and get on with knitting the next school jumper, but, with Phyl in charge that didn’t last long! She arranged for my daughter (Alex) to go into the water too, and I started learning the ropes and working with the girls from Halliwick College. My Late husband (Ian) also started in the water with some of the bigger boys, so it became a real ‘family affair’!
Later I took over as Secretary. I also got involved with competition and very often acted as Team Manager when we put a team into galas and later took on the role of Check Starter at galas; all this meant that I visited a lot of other clubs and got to know many, many swimmers across the whole of the Halliwick network. I must say that those were wonderful times and it always felt like meeting up with old friends wherever we went. At one time we also got involved in national meetings and Sundays would often find us driving to meetings in Birmingham, Chepstow and sometimes even as far as Kensington!
I took over from Phyl as Chief Instructor when the club reached its 40th birthday in 1990. This means being responsible for running club sessions; making sure that swimmers are teamed up with suitable instructors; and making sure that the instructors have suitable training so that they are able to give our swimmers the best possible chance of succeeding. I handed over to Paul O’Byrne and took a side step as Tutor Instructor for a while, but when Paul died I went into ‘automatic mode’ and am now back as Chief Instructor.
The club has changed considerably over the years and we now have more youngsters with learning difficulties of all sorts and not so many with the physical disabilities, which were more prevalent when the club started. We have a team of really nice young instructors, several of whom are doing the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme and have chosen our club for their voluntary work. But, of course, we always need more help!