Queen's Park Swimming Club


The history of the QP goes way back. It started life as a swimming club in Durban North in something like 1896. The swimming club was really successful – boasting a number of Springboks over the years.

Almost 100 years later, the QP water polo side was a social club playing in the Natal 3rd division. In these days, the QP used to train at Crusaders in Durban North. In 1987 though, a few strategic imports and changes began a turnaround of the fortunes of the QP. The water polo broke away from the swimming and once they moved premises to the Northlands School Pool, things changed irreversibly.

Firstly, the horde of naughty Hansas that used to overwhelm unsuspecting members on their way through the Crusaders car park were no longer a threat, and all that was left to do was actually train – horrors! Secondly, a rather useful crop of schoolboy players was rising through the ranks of the 2 local feeder schools: Northlands and Beachwood (who amalgamated in 1990 to form Northwood). Later the club associated itself permanently with the school and is now officially know as the All Durban Northwood Queens Park Water Polo and Pocket Billiards Club or The QP to the chinas.

The relationship between the school and the QP has been an unmitigated success. The club has provided water polo services in the form of coaching as well as help in upgrading the facilities. In return, the school provides an inordinate amount of talented recruits and a first class, floodlit, one depth (and now heated) pool. Notably the Headmaster diplomatically declined the proposal of building a clubhouse on the school grounds - something about it being too close to the boarding house.

Of course the traditionalists would occasionally return to the Source on the odd evening and brave the Hansa Horde at Crusaders. Here voice control and arm co-ordination exercises were employed as part of the land training. This is an essential part of training and team building, and is taken very seriously by the QP and is never overlooked.

In the last 2 decades of playing 1st division polo, the QP has won the Natal League 9 times. They’ve won Old Eds - the National Club Champs – 3 times and consistently won the Spirit prize there. They’ve also won a host of local knockout titles. In more recent times, the trophy cabinet has been a bit lean, but no doubt this will change shortly. with ex-Springbok and chief equipment officer Chris Reardon now coaching the first team, the healthy mix of experience and youth are setting their sights on greater things.

The club boasts rather a hefty number of National and Provincial representatives whilst playing for the QP including:

Springboks

 Natal A

 Natal B

 Natal u19

 Colin Gibson **

 Gary Watson **

 Steve Wilment **  Julian Lewis

 Tommy Osbourne

 Warren Mills *

 Duncan Hill

 Ryan van der Waal

 Gus Woolridge

 Evan Sim *

 Justin Paget

 Ryan Symington *

 Andrew Shedlock

 André Stadler

 Anton Truter

 

 Chet Wiese **

 Garry Shea  Morné Truter *  

 Chris Reardon *

 Joel Burger *

 Elvis Bartel  

 Jean Oosthuizen **

 Craig Munday

 Jarrett Reardon  

 Brent Wiltshire **

 Graham Cox

 Cablan Khaled *
 

 Wayne D'elboux

 Brent Taylor

  Olly Hardy  
 Matthew Bouman

 Patrick Lyttle

  David Horton  
 Cebo Mdletshe  Ross Littlejohn *   
 
   Fred Hart    
   Dylan Campbell    
   Mike Harrison    
   Brad Birnie *  

* DENOTES CURRENT ACTIVE MEMBER ** DENOTES HONORARY LIFETIME MEMBER

QUEEN’S PARK AMATEUR SWIMMING CLUB

A REVIEW OF THE FIRST 90 YEARS

In keeping with the festive spirit of our 90th Anniversary Gala, this historical review is not intended to be a detailed account or even a completely comprehensive one. As with any other sport, a measure of statistical information is unavoidable, but we have striven to reduce t to a minimum, and to demonstrate the close involvement of the Club in the history of Durban and Natal.

Queen's Park is certainly the oldest swimming club in existence in Natal, and indeed in South Africa, for it was on 6th March, 1893, that a few enthusiasts met in the office of an accountant, Mr Murray Smith, at 16 Mona Place and decided upon the formation of a swimming club. The office bearers elected at that meeting are recorded on the first page of tonight's programme. Before launching into an account of the Club's achievements, however, we should first delve a little further into the past as the developments leading up to the formation of the Club are of considerable interest.

When we think of a swimming club today we automatically picture a swimming bath with all its modern facilities, but the conditions under which the sport were conducted a century ago were somewhat primitive. Durban's first swimming bath was a king size affair, being none other than the Bay of Natal itself! Ladies and youngsters could not, however, be turned loose in such a vast expanse of water, so some restrictive barrier was needed. The first enclosure was built of reeds on the edge of the bank in 1857 and being tidal, was likened to a fish trap. It was soon discarded and the next development, constructed in deeper water, consisted of a floating enclosure comprising lengths of timber which were roped or bolted together in the form of a wooden frame. There was no possibility of diving off this frame nor of making any good turns, so no impressive times have been handed down to us from this era. In 1863 swimming facilities were further advanced when the Council built two bathing places by palisading the jetties connected to the bay foreshore between the foot of the present day Field and Russell streets. It was in this environment that those who were to become the foundation members of the Club did their early swimming and it is reputed that they utilised as a change room, a hut in Queen's Park, which was then situated east of the present Albert Park.

Eventually, after much agitating by the locals, the Council decided on the construction of a proper swimming bath and the Town Baths, situated in the Market Square (now Medwood Gardens) was officially opened on 10th October, 1892. With a swimming bath of substance at last, the swimmers of Durban decided that the time had come for the formation of a club and, bearing in mind their previous (unofficial) headquarters. Queen's Park Amateur Swimming Club was born. Swimming as an organised sport was alive and well, and flourishing in Natal]

With the birth of the Club, the sport gained many adherents and grew steadily. Water polo became a popular feature, so much so, that in order to instil a greater spirit the Club decided to introduce the "house" system. A little later the Club split into two sections, Mondays featuring the "Queen's" while on Fridays the "Park" operated, and both sections joined up on Wednesdays for full club routine. An historian writing on swimming at the time of Durban's centenary recalled that "the game flourished and can well remember seeming many a tough fight, (and it was all that at times] between the Queen's Park house teams. The beauty of these club games was that it led to the early development of promising juniors like Fred Haywood, Bud Burden, Looper Godfrey and Harry Greenless.”

Being the only swimming club in existence at that time, it also fell to Queen's Park to organise Natal-Championships, and we have on record that the first Natal sprint champion over 100 yards was Willie Hamilton, who was to serve the Club and the sport for well over fifty years. Following him as Natal sprint champion in that era were his younger brother Percy, who m turn was ousted by the great Harry "Bruiser" Beck.

Despite all the developments taking place, however, several years elapsed before the swimmers finally abandoned the Bay as an area of activity, for they continued to use the hut in Queen's Park, and in the 1903/4 season the Club utilised the Bay to inaugurate the first half mile championship. Such was the success of the event that the venue remained unaltered for a few years before being moved to the more conventional swimming bath. The first winner was Alex Littlejohn, who was followed in subsequent years by Billy Brooks, 'Did' Plowright, Jackie May and Percy Dennant, all of whom were undoubtedly among the best of our long distance swimmers in those early years.

The 1904/5 season was to be one of considerable significance for it was in that season, eleven years after the establishment of Queen's Park, that the Natal Amateur Swimming Association came into existence, thanks mainly to the efforts of F. Pye-Smith and a few other Queen's stalwarts. To bring this about the two sections of Queen's Park were augmented by the formation of the Natal Government Railways and Y.M.C.A. (Durban) Club, A water polo league was introduced, now known as the "Mills Cup" competition for first division clubs, and Queen's Park entered no fewer than five teams in the league. Two years later the Leander Club was formed and entered the league, but after only one season it was disbanded and the members linked up with the Railways and Y.M.C.A. clubs, both of which had already floundered, to form the powerful Otter's Club. Seals was also established at about this time, but it was to be Queen's Park, well supported by Otters, that supplied the backbone of Natal teams for many, many years. Water polo players will be interested to know that the Mils Trophy was originally presented to the Natal Government Railways Club by the then Mechanical Engineer, the late W. Mills, for the 100 yards Club Championship and only became the league trophy after the Railway club was disbanded in 1907.

Obviously the establishment of the provincial association enabled the Club to relinquish responsibility for organizing Natal Championships, and on the first occasion one was staged under the jurisdiction of N.A.S.A. in 1904/5, a magnificent silver plated trophy was presented to the winner of the premier individual event - the 100 yards Freestyle Natal Championship. An interesting feature of the trophy is that it is embellished with a scene depicting the early days of swimming in Natal. The setting portrays the first bathing enclosure, described earlier, which was constructed of reeds on the bay’s edge and the swimmers and onlookers are clothed in the conventional dress of the periods. The first swimmer to earn the honour of having his name inscribed on the trophy in 1904 was a Queen's Park member, Mal Gordon. He retained the title in 1905, to be followed by Harry Beck, also of Queen's Park, in 1906. As a result, the trophy was deemed to have been won outright, not an uncommon custom in those days, and thereafter became the Queen's Park Challenge Trophy.

Another consequence of the formation of N.A.S.A., was that the province· as then in a position to send a Natal team to take part in the 1905 Currie Cup Tournament and South African Swimming Championships, of which only three had been staged since inauguration in 1900. Natal selected a team of nine, who doubled up as swimmers and water polo players, and of these Harry Beck, Arthur Geoghegan, Percy Hamilton, Bob Lorimer, Dave Morley, F. Pye-Smith and Gilbert Reynolds were Queen's Park representatives and virtually all made a significant contribution to the sport for a great many years thereafter. The team did not achieve much success in that first year, the best performance being Dave Morley, who came fourth in the 100 yards freestyle championships, but a start had been made and better results were to come not much later.

Despite the infancy of the sport, for we are dealing with an era when there were still a great number of people who could not even swim. Queen's Park and Natal made quite remarkable progress during the pre-World War 1 decade. Over this spell the Club produced a string of Natal champions, amongst them Mai Gordon, Harry Beck, Clive Pay, Vic Woodhead, Percy Dennant, Did Plowright, Jackie May, F. Pye-Smith and Gilbert Reynolds. The Club also won the Natal team race championship in nearly all of those ten years and, once the Mills Cup became the water polo league trophy in 1 907, Queen's Park won the cup in the next three seasons and then again in 1913/14. Meanwhile, over those ten years, a mass of Club members represented the province at the South African Swimming Championships and Currie Cup Tournament, most of them as both swimmers and water polo players.

At the first two of those Championships, Natal achieved no placings at all, but at its third appearance in 1907 it was an entirely different affair. Mai Cordon won the 100 yard championship to become the first Natalian to win a South African title and the Club's youthful Percy Dennant dead-heated with the burly Danny Weirin (W.P.) in the final of the 500 yards championship, but in the swim-off (yes, that was what they did after a tie in those days) he lost to his far more experienced opponent. Then, with the aid of four Queen's Park members. Natal convincingly won the 6 x 50 yard Team Race Championship in a new record time.(I n fact this was a prelude to a long string of successes in the event, for Natal won the relay title at every championship between 1907 and 1922 except in 191 0and 1914 and also held the S.A. record throughout this period. Of even more significance for Queen's Park was that from 1905 until 1 923 there were never less than four of its members in the provincial relay team and on more than one occasion the entire team of six was provided by Queen's Park). Reverting to the 1907 tourney, the last remaining title, the 220 yards championship, was won by a former Queen's Park lad then representing Border, Newton Robertson, who season Mike was Chairman of the Club on the occasion of its 80th Anniversary, whilst Newton's grandsons Gary, Kevin, Trevor and now Lance have all swum with distinction for Queen's Park over an almost uninterrupted spell stretching backs some fifteen years.

It should be mentioned at this juncture that the South African Championships during those days consisted of only four events, namely the 1 00 yards, 220 yards and 500 yards championships and the 6 x 50 yards or 6 x 66-2/3rds yards team race championships. The 880 yards freestyle was introduced in 1 925 but the form strokes were not recognised as championship events until 1 931 when 200 yards breaststroke and 1 50 yards backstroke were granted official status. The relay championship continued as a 6 man team event right up to 1932, before the4 x 1 00 yard pattern was adopted in the following year.

Meanwhile, the ladies were not catered for at all in the earlier years. Eventually a 50 yard championship for women was introduced in 1912 but another ten years were to elapse before steps were taken over the period 1922 to 1926to bring the women on to an equal footing with the men.

Reverting to the pre-World War 1 scene, 1908 saw the rise of a Natal swimmer who was one of the greatest exponents of the trudgeon stroke of all time, George "Looper" Godfrey. In the South African Championships that year this young Queen's Park swimmer (he subsequently joined up with Otters two seasons later) set up a new S.A. record in the 220 yard heats. Although through inexperience he was unable to repeat this form in the final, managing only a second place in the 500 yards, he succeeded in the following year in depriving the great Transvaaler, Ben Jenkins, of the triple crown by winning the 100, 200and 500 yards championships. In 1910, he was unfortunately handicapped by an abscess in his ear and managed only to retain the 500 yard title. Then came an incredible sequence of three-in-a-row hat-tricks, for he won the triple crown in1911, 1912 and 1913 and would have made it four in a row in 1914 had he not lost the 1 00 yards championship through poor judgement. By that stage he had none-the-less won the 500 yards title six years in succession and from 191 2was the S.A. record holder for 1 00, 220 and 500 yards. Such was his class that despite developments in style, training and techniques, none of his three records were broken until 1 923! He represented South Africa at the Olympic Games at Stockholm in 1912, but alas both the Americans and Australians had since mastered the Hawaiian crawl and he was outclassed.

During the 'reign' of Looper Godfrey, Natal was also enjoying some glorious moments, the most memorable being in 1909, 1911, 1912 and 1913 when Natal made a clean sweep of all the individual championship events plus the team race, and in addition filled the first three places on no less than five occasions and the first and second places on another four. These most remarkable results were brought about by the fine supportive efforts of some other Queen's Park swimmers, the best of who was R.H. Simons. He came in second to Godfrey as many as seven times and was placed third on two other occasions. He was, however, rewarded with a South African title when he won the 220 yard championship in 1910. The other Natal swimmers who finished in the placings over this period were Clive Pay, Vic Woodhead, and Harry Greenless all of Queen's Park and Charles Petsch of Otters.

The star relay swimmers, who enabled Natal to win all but one of the team races between 1907 and 1913 were Harry Beck, Vic Woodhead, Clive Pay, Boom Mackay, Dave Morley, Percy Dennant, Borp Simons and Looper Godfrey.

In those early years there was a so a 100 yards S.A. Championship for Juniors and Queen's Park boys are known to have won the title were Harold Hall (1911) Eric Bell (1912) and Tommy Wood (1915).

In the meantime, some notable successes were also being achieved in water polo. Natal won the Currie Cup for the first time in 1909 and took the honours again in 1911 and 1913 - on all occasions at a coastal venue. Once more we find, as with the swimming, the vast bulk of water polo teams being made up mainly of Queen's Park players, some of whom rendered the sport yeoman service for many a year. Without question the greatest of them all was Harry Beck, who had the distinction of playing for every Natal team from the time the province entered the tourney in 1905 until 1914 (and again in 1921/22) and who was singled out time and again as being the outstanding player in the Natal team. But several of his club mates were also "cracker-jack" players and to mention a few they were: Arthur Geoghegan (the prince of goalkeepers) 1905/1910, Boom Mackay 1908/1913,Borp Simons 1909/1912, Squiff Paul 1913/1914, F. Pye-Smith 1905/1907,Looper Godfrey 1908/1909 and Harry Greenless 1912/1914. Others from Queen's Park who represented Natal in those pre-war days were Percy Hamilton, Bob Lorimer, Ted Haywood, Dave Morley, Gilbert Reynolds, Did Plowright, Clive, Rusty and Trevor Pay, Bill Barnes, Pigeon May, Bert Munro, Harry Price and George Morgan.

Life-saving at that time was under the control of S.A.A.S.U. and here again Natal won its share of honours, winning the Championships in 1909, 1910and 1911. This recalls an exceptional achievement of the Queen's Park life-saving team which in 1913 smashed the Empire record and won the Darnall (British Empire) trophy. This competition involved various tests, which were performed against time in the home water of each competing team, and the team completing all the tests in the lowest time was the winner.

Natal had certainly been riding a wave of remarkable successes since 1909 but the halcyon days ended abruptly with the outbreak of the Great War of 1914/18. Many of the Club's members readily answered the call to the colours and sadly some paid the supreme sacrifice. A tablet erected at the old Town Baths and subsequently re-sited at the Durban North Bath commemorates the members of the Queen's Park and Otter's Swimming Clubs who gave their lives during that war:-

Barclay R.B.

Hale G.E.

Barnes E.W. (Natal)

Jones R. S.

Bell E.E. (S.A. Junior Champion)

Joseph A.

Bennett E.

Lee A.

Bulley E.R.

McCabe A.B.

Dennant P.E. (Natal)

Outran J.P.

Geoghegan A.D. (Natal)

Petsch C.F. (Natal)

Gibb A.B.

Purves W.C.

Godfrey C .N

Weir J.

In addition to the above, we have since learnt that M. Gordon, D. Morley and H. Lorimer also laid down their lives, so the ravages of the ghastly trench warfare certainly depleted the ranks and left both Natal and the Club mourning the loss of several old stalwarts. There was nevertheless a good leavening of the old swimmers who had fortunately been spared. Some still retained visible signs of what they had endured but they rallied again to the call, this time to help revive their clubs and to defend Natal's fair name in the field of sport.

A year elapsed before the resuscitated S.A.A.SU. decided to hold the first post-War S.A. Championships in Durban in 1920, Natal selected a team of 15, which included no less than ten pre-War members. In the water polo final Natal met their old rivals, Transvaal, after having disposed of Border, Eastern Province and Western Province on the way through and "In a memorable match that was a fitting climax to the most successful tourney yet staged. Natal earned a 4 - 1 victory after playing like men possessed and with Harry Greenless (Q.P. and Natal captain) - without a peer as a back at that period – literally tying the famous veteran Bob Carswell in knots" (Local newspaper report) Natal also regained the Team Race title but failed to win any of the individual championships.

At the 1921 Championships in Port Elizabeth it was virtually a repeat exercise for Natal, as the province again won the Team Race Championship and also the water polo tourney after a play-off with Transvaal„ This resulted in Natal at last succeeding in getting ahead of Transvaal in the number of Currie Cup wins and in addition Natal became the first to win the Aggregate Cup, presented that season by the Ellis-Browns of Queen's Park for the centre scoring the most number of points in the tourney.

Queen's Park continued to play a prominent part in those years immediately following the war. Amazingly, Harry Beck was still in the Natal water polo team in 1922, by which time he was the most "capped" player in the team and, but for standing down to be the manager in 1920, would have had the distinction of playing in every Natal team since the province entered the tournament in 1905. He had joined Queen's Park in its first season of existence, so he was already into his 40's.

A newspaper report written about him at that time stated: "Although the veteran of the team, he is still a force to be reckoned with, and is a most popular selection. Heady, resourceful, and never rattled, he should be a tower of strength in defence. Has a wonderful record, both as player and official, and was without a peer in a team race when at his best." Harry Becklater put many years back into the sport and the club, and filled a multitude of different posts. He maintained his interest in Queen's Park to the end, passing on eventually in 1975 at the age of about 93.

Other Queen's Park stalwarts who continued the post-War good working Natal teams were Squiff Paul, George Morgan, Vic Woodhead and W.G.,

"Pidgeon" May, while new blood in the team included Gustace Woodhead, Chicky Price, Fred Morley, Sonnie Chapman, Johnny Barnes, (who, with Vic Woodhead, all contributed to Natal's relay successes in 1920 and 1921) together with Peter Crichton, Jack May, Charlie and Alex Bulley, Johnnie Lee and Sonny Lievesley. Of these Fred Morley, Sonnie Chapman, Peter Crichton and Johnny Barnes finished in the individual placings at the various Nationals between 1921 and 1 923.

Interestingly, Looper Godfrey was still swimming at that time, despite having been badly gassed in France during the war, and at the 1923Nationals, when aged about 32, he finished second in both the 220 yards and 500 yards championships. He thus had an incredible innings and to this day must rank as one of the greatest swimmer produced by Natal.

Alas, 1921 was to be the last of Natal’s successful years and there followed a prolonged period well into the 30’s before the Natal men again became a force at National level. As it happens the Club has little information about its achievements between 1 924 and 1930 and to cover this period we have had to rely on the memories of certain old timers and on the history written at the time of the Club's Gold Jubilee. Consequently, we apologise for any errors or omissions as to dates and personalities.

We have read, however, that it was in those post-war years the death-knell of the old trudgeon stroke was finally signalled, when Sonny Lievesley of Queen's Park earned the distinction of becoming the first Natal swimmer to break the minute for 100 yards. For this feat he was presented with a suitably engraved medal by the first Natal champion, W.B. "Billy" Hamilton. Prior to this break-through it is recorded that Clive Pay, Percy Dennant and Harry Price had been amongst the first who endeavoured to fathom the intricacies of the crawl in the earlier years and they were followed by Peter Crichton and Chicky Price after the war.

Reverting to Sonny Lievesley, he won the 100 yards South Africa Junior Championship in 1923 and was also the Natal champion in that same season. In fact, he held the Natal 100 yards title for five years in succession and represented Natal in all those seasons. Other members of the Club, whom we are told represented the province in the 1920's were Spokes Curtis, George Chapman and Humphrey Abery, but no doubt there were others.

Happily the Club has fairly detailed information of all the Club's activities from 1 928/29 season for it was soon after this that the Club passed through several years of magnificent achievement, some of which are so remarkable that to record the statistics will not provide dull reading. It all started in 1931when Les Taylor and Sonny Chapman had the honour of being appointed captain and vice-captain of the Natal Water Polo Team for the Currie Cup Tournament. The following year George May's name appeared in the Club minutes for the first time when he won for Queen's Park the 220, 500 and 880 yards freestyle events as well as the 150 yards backstroke at the Natal Championships. In addition, he tied for first place in the 100 yards freestyle with another Queen's Park lad, John Taylor, who in the same season won the South African junior title for this event. The year 1934 was even better for Queen's Park and for George May in particular - at the South African Championships he won the 220 yards freestyle and 150 yards backstroke and during the course of the season he also broke the South African records for both these two events as well as the 100 yards freestyle. To crown these efforts, he was the only male swimmer chosen to represent South Africa at the British Empire Games held in London in 1934. Incidentally, George's father was W.G. "Pidgeon" May, who represented Natal in water polo in the years before and after the First World War and who was chairman of the Club for many years. Another Queen's Park swimmer to emerge in that year was Ken Yuill, who for three successive years won the 200 yards breaststroke at the South African Championships and later broke the South African record. In addition, the Club team consisting of George May, John Taylor, Ronnie May and Roger Tocknell won the 200 yards Natal team race championship in a South African record time of 1 minute 46 seconds. In diving, Roger Tocknell won the Natal Championship title and was placed second in the National event. Finally, Fred Collett and George Pollecutt were chosen to represent Natal in the Currie Cup Tournament.

During the season that followed. Queen's Park again grew in strength and we notice swimmers such as Eric Sprague (S.A. Junior Champion), Vic Rochford, Basil Levene and Ian Tirrell coming into prominence for the first time. In February 1936 Queen's Park had the unique distinction of holding all the men's National swimming records for all the strokes - a feat unlikely ever to be equalled again by one club in South Africa. For posterity we list below the names of the swimmers who accomplished this feat for the Club:-

South African Record Holders - February 1936

George May

100 yards Freestyle

 

220 yards Freestyle

 

1 50 yards Backstroke

Eric Sprague

500 yards Freestyle

 

800 yards Freestyle

Ken Yuill

200 yards Breaststroke

When recording this information it should be remembered that since its inception Queen's Park had been a club catering only for males. This was due primarily to the fact that it was not possible for the two sexes to mix on club nights at the Town Baths and it was not until the Club moved its headquarters to Durban North that it opened membership to females.

The 1936/37 season saw seven Queen's Park members in the Natal team for the South African Championships, at which George May won the 150 backstroke for the fifth year in succession, Basil Levene won the Junior Boys 100 yards freestyle and Roger Tocknell again came second in the diving. In the Natal Championships the Club filled the first three places in every individual event except two in which the third place was filled by a boy from another club. Queen's Park also won the Natal team race championship and Roger Tocknell the diving.

The Club's real moment of glory came in March, 1938 when, with eleven members in the Natal swimming and water polo teams, Queen's Park swimmers won all the men's titles at the South African Championships, (with one exception)and thereby enabled Natal to win the Ellis Brown Aggregate Trophy which it had won only once previously in 1921. It is fitting that the achievements of these swimmers should be listed and we do so with pride:-

1938 South African Championships – East London

100 yards Freestyle

1st

J.V. Rochford

220 yards Freestyle

1st

G.H. May

 

2nd

A.E. Sprague

 

3rd

J.V. Rochford

 

4th

E. Tomson

500 yards Freestyle

1st

A.E. Sprague

 

3rd

G.H May

880 yards Freestyle

1st

A.E. Sprague

150 yards Backstroke

1st

G.H. May

200 yards Breaststroke

1st

R. Selby

100 yards Junior

1st

E. Tomson

 

2nd

I. Tirrell

The last full season before the outbreak of World War 11 saw Queen's sweep the boards in the Provincial Championships for the third successive year, whilst ten members of the Club including the talented Fritz Kothe, who was elected captain of the Natal Water Polo Team, represented the province at the Nationals. On this occasion, swimming at Bloemfontein's higher altitude, our swimmers did not reach the same heights as the previous season, but nevertheless filled seven places in the various events. It is of interest to note that George May and Vic Rochford not only swam for Natal in the championships, but also represented the province in the water polo tournament. Another significant feat was achieved in 1939 when Ian Tirrell created a new British Empire backstroke record during a visit to

Before leaving the pre-World War II days, we must pay tribute to Mrs Rachel "Ma Fin" Finlayson, a sister of Fred Morley and a member of the Cygnus Club, who for years on end unselfishly spent hours on the bath side coaching promising swimmers, and Queen's Park in particular owed her a great debt of gratitude for the invaluable assistance given to our stars of the 1930's. During this era one also recalls an amazing display of club loyalty by a junior when George Pollecutt, in order not to let his Club down, peddled a push bike all the way to Pietermaritzburg to swim in a team race. This so impressed his teammates that they later presented him with an inscribed watch, which he cherished until he died a few years ago. The watch is now back with the Club and will forever remain one of its valued mementos.

Needless to say many Queen’s Park members served their country during World War II but the Club is having difficulty in compiling a roll of honour of its members. At this stage the Club has only been able to establish the loss of three lives namely. South African sprint champion Vic Rochford, who was shot down and killed whilst serving in the Air Force during the last few months of the war, Derek Charter and Jackie Cock.

That Queen's Park was able to survive and function during the war is attributed to a few loyal stalwarts and we find special mention made in post war minutes of the sterling work done by Ernie Quick, Gordon Chapman, Charlie Fox, Harry Hathway, Lew Ferguson, Derek May, Ernie Hall and Fred Coppin.

Picking up the threads after the end of hostilities was not easy, but as the Club had passed the 50 year mark during the war the first objective was to celebrate the anniversary in a proper manner and a Golden Jubilee Gala was staged at the Beach Baths on 30th March, 1946. For the occasion, the Club produced a special souvenir programme, from which much priceless information of historical value has been gathered For instance, justified recognition was given to several of the old timers who devoted many years of service to the sport, for up until that stage, and beyond, the Club's welfare and administration was almost entirely dependent upon the amount of effort put back into the sport by its swimmers and water polo players - parents did not really become heavily involved until the1 950's. Fortunately, Queen's Park has always been particularly well served in this regard and is very proud - and appreciative - of the significant contribution made to the sport by its members over the years. First and foremost the name of Gilbert Reynolds stands out as synonymous with all that is best in swimming and the ultimate development of the sport. He devoted a lifetime to the interests of swimming and through his enthusiasm, wise counsel and unselfish service he made possible the writing of page after page of successful endeavour in Natal's and Queen's Park's annals. Not only was he the first N.A.S.A. Honorary Secretary but also a member of Natal's initial Currie Cup water polo team and for years one of the mainstays of Natal's life-saving teams. In addition he was a leading back and breaststroke swimmer, being the Natal backstroke record holder during the pre-World War I years. Amongst his many fine achievements was the organising and successful staging of two S A. Championships and Currie Cup tournaments (1907 and 1911) in the old Town Bath (The Beach Bath was not built until 1912). He was elected President of S.A.A.S.U. in the 1924/25 season and again from 1934 to 1940, but his active involvement in swimming, water polo and life-saving continued at all levels virtually throughout his life. Never again will one person be likely to do so much for Natal swimming.

There have of course been a great many other members who have rendering valuable service to the Club and the Province, whilst others such as Joe Ellis Brown ( 1905/6 19"!0/12 and 1914) and W. H. Hamilton (1918/1920) also served terms as President of S.A.A.S.U. Unfortunately N.A.S.A. does not have a record of past Presidents and Secretaries, but St is known that these posts were more often than not filled by Queen's Park members in earlier days, whilst the Club has at all times provided a good number of administrators and officials at both provincial and district level. To name them all would be impossible, but listed separately is a complete list of past and present Honorary Life Members, who have been recognised by the Club for long and devoted service, normally in excess of ten years.

With the belated Jubilee festivities over, it was time to face reality and at the conclusion of the 1947/U8 season the Club noted with frankness the low standard of water polo and swimming within the Club. In the following season however, three promising Queen's Park youngsters, Mike Mortimer, B. Phillips (swimming) and Des Conopy (water polo) were selected to represent Natal at the South African Championships and with these selections Queen's Park started the long climb back to National recognition. It is interesting to note from the records of this era that amongst the efforts to hasten a revival of the Club's fortunes was a proposal by the Chairman Dr. H.A. Johnson, to employ a professional coach for the first time, was unanimous carried at the Club's Annual General Meeting m 1949, Consequently, San Tirrell was appointed as official coach to the Club on a professional basis and from this time Queen's again started the long, hard haul back to prominence in the swimming world. Over the years that followed we find provincial honours and/or Natal titles being won by the likes of Basil Wynne, Gary Whyte, Eddie Osborne, Eddie Becket, Ron Clokie, Des Collopy, Mike Mortimer, Peter Hainsworth, Doug Hill, Arthur Lith, Steve Mulholland and L. 'Dux' Coetsee. Achievements of significance during the 1950's include the Queen's Park men's 3 x 100 yards medley team of Arthur Lith, Steve Mulholland and Doug Hill establishing a new South African record in the 1951/52 season; Dux Coetsee winning the 1650 yards freestyle South African title and also gaining places in the 220 yards butterfly and 440 yards freestyle; Arthur Lith breaking Jackie Wiids' South African sprint record and thereafter improving on his own times three Saturdays in succession, and lastly the selection of Des Collopy, Dux Coetsee, Frank van Hagen and Trevor Lievesley to represent South Africa in life-saving against Australia during Durban's Centenary in 1954.

Several of the names belonging to this phase will strike a familiar chord in today's world. The offspring of Ron Clokie - David, Linda, Sandra and Caroline - were all active members of Queen's and left their mark in the Club's history. Linda Clokie earned eighteen Natal caps, which is more than any other girl in the Club has achieved (this could possibly be a record in Natal), whilst her younger sister, Sandra, was a Springbok synchronised swimmer several times over. Then "Dux" Coetsee's two sons. Brent and Darrin, have both been with Queen's for the past few seasons and Brent has been a member of Natal swimming and life-saving teams for the last three years. Des Collopy has remained active in water polo and life-saving to the present time and was still playing water polo and captaining the Natal team in the early 70's. Mike Mortimer was another to maintain his interests in the aquatic sports for many years and was President of Natal Amateur Swimming Association from 1971 to 1976. Eddie Becket,the current Deputy Chairman of the Club, served Southern Districts in administrative roles in earlier years and in more recent times as an official at bath side. Trevor Lievesley is the son of the late Sonny Lievesley who was Natal's sprint champion in the 1920's and who devoted a life time of service to swimming and life-saving at club, district and provincial level Lastly, Steve Mulholland has been making a name-for himself as editor of the Financial Mail, a post he has held with distinction for the past three years.

Browsing through the Club's old records, one's attention is continually drawn to combined functions being staged by Queen's Park and Cygnus Club, which catered only for ladies and girls. In fact, it is recorded in a history on Natal swimming that "the Cygnus Ladies A.S.C. was formed with the connivance of certain Queen's Park members". In addition, reciprocal assistance was given with coaching, but a significant link with Cygnus was forged during the Club's diamond jubilee year on the occasion of the marriage of a former Queen's Park club captain, Colin Dowell, to the renowned former Natal Champion, Miss Barbara Cornelius. Both remained very heavily committed in swimming circles, but sadly Colin passed away suddenly in 1975.

The ten year period following the last war was to see great changes in the Durban beloved by old timers. Within the rectangle of the Indian Ocean, Berea Hills, the Umgeni and Umhlatazana rivers, there were a few very well-known clubs and schools and to pass beyond those boundaries was almost considered a journey into the "interior". Pretty well everybody knew everyone else or had at least heard about them. This cosy world was being shattered by a burgeoning economy and an ever increasing influx of new comers from across the mountains and the seas. The city was expanding beyond all recognition and there was much pressure on the Local Authorities to supply better public amenities including swimming baths. This led, in the early 1950's- to the demise of the old Town Baths and Queen's, in collaboration with Cygnus, hired the Beach Baths at a cost of £5.5.0d (R1O, 50)per evening until the Town Bath was rebuilt as an open air pool. There must have been a touch of nostalgia about the passing of the old Town Bath - it was a link with Colonial days and was built as baths were in Victorian England, being covered to isolate the swimmers and spectators from the elements. From a teenager's point of view the bath had lovely cast iron uprights and roof beams which enabled the high-spirited to climb and traverse across to above the pool, then let go, and plummet into the water - the original "bomb drop". Of course, one had to avoid the attentions of the supervisor! Old timers acknowledge that the facilities were a bit "primitive." One could not, for instance, have "mixed" club nights for girls and boys because the changing booths were not private - some had half doors, others no doors at all, and they opened straight onto the bath. Men and women, therefore, used this bath at different times.

In 1954 club nights were once again being held at the Town Baths, now an open air venue, and it was the turn of the Beach Baths to have a face lift. We also note in the Chairman's report at the conclusion of that season concern being expressed over the effect that "old boys" clubs were having upon Queen's Park particularly in respect of its senior members. This trend, together with the planned construction of district municipal pools within the borough's boundary, was to have a profound influence in determining the Club's future. Hence two historic decisions were taken at the Club's Annual General Meeting on 21st May, 1956, when it was agreed, firstly to transfer the headquarters of the Club to the Durban North pool on its completion, and secondly to extend membership to girls. After the move, the Club suffered an initial setback with an upheaval membership. This was further aggravated by the passing away of Ian Tirrell, whose untimely death may well have been caused by an intake of sludge oil during a cross channel swim. A great number of parents, however, came forward, and, guided by Mrs Finlayson, the Club survived the initial trauma of the move and ended the 1958/59 season with 304 members, a number three times greater than that of the previous year.

Having taken root in its fast developing suburban home. Queen's Park nevertheless took a long time to flower in its new surroundings - something like the Flamboyant trees north of the Umgeni - but slowly it established a firmer hold, and through the sixties produced the odd swimmer or two who gained honours in Provincial School teams. Club members, who were chosen to represent Natal at the South African Championships, were even rarer and only included the following

1962/63

Terho Vainakainen and Alistair Maynard

1963/64

Alistair Maynard

1964/66

Sandra Dickie (her two children are now with Queen’s )

1968/69

David Hickey

Then in 1969 there occurred an event which was to have a profound and long lasting effect on the fortunes of Queen's Park, In the Spring of that year a young Australian, Terry Gulliver, arrived on the scene and started coaching a small band of swimmers at the Durban North Municipal Bath. He was ambitious and a go-getter but he had a brash approach which later caused several eruptions amongst the swimming hierarchy and Corporation officials. However, he possessed an undoubted flair for coaching swimming and motivating youngsters, and these attributes were soon recognised by a number of parents in the neighbourhood. Within a relatively short space of time he had built up a large squad of enthusiastic and dedicated young swimmers, many of whom had hitherto been unknown, but all were members of Queen's Park and soon began to make their presence felt in competition. Fortunately the Club committee had the foresight to realise that here at last was the catalyst which would enable the Club to stage a significant recovery, so, despite the unpopularity of professional coaches amongst the "powers that be" at the time, the committee decided the following season that Mr Gulliver, who already had about 60 members of the Club under his direction, should be appointed official coach to the Club.

From this point, the progress made by Queen's Park was quite phenomenal and within two seasons the Club could justifiably claim to be the premier club in Natal, and a year later the strongest in South Africa. Over this short period we saw Terry Gulliver develop such swimmers as Paul Blackbeard, John Harker, Peter le Roux, Gary and Kevin Robertson, Derek Buck, Chris Peinke, Linda Clokie, Jill Duncan, Anne Stretch, Glynnis Vaughan, Heather Biddington and Susan Monaghan, all of whom won Natal senior and junior championship titles and who also represented Natal - some for a great many years.

The string of successes achieved by the Club during this exciting era were so numerous that it would be impractical to record all the details in this historical summary; however, the progress chart shown below will give a fair indication of the Club's revival over those four seasons.

FOUR YEAR REVIEW – 1970/1973

 

1969/70

1970/71

1971/72

1972/73

Natal Inter-Club

       

Juvenile Relay League

N/A

1st

1st

1st

Danie Niehaus

 

1st

1st

1st

Winnie de Kok

 

1st

1st

1st

National Inter-Club

       

Winter Championship Aggregates:

N/A

N/A

N/A

1st

Overall

       

Seniors

       

Juniors

     

1st

Natal Championships

       

Individual titles won

2

20

33

27

Team events won

2

4

6

9

Natal Records held at end of season

       

Individual events

1

9

20

26

Club relays

1

4

 

175

S.A. Championships

       

Gold medals

     

1

Silver medals

   

1

4

Bronze medals

 

1

1

 

Finalists (4/10th places)

 

4

20

11

Relay gold medals

       

S.A. Records

       

Individual

     

1

Team

     

1

S.A. Age Group

       

Events won

2

10

18

9

S.A. Age Group Records

1

4

7

13

Q.P. Swimmers selected to represent

       

Natal

 

5

10

11

South Africa

     

2

Records really tumbled in those days, with Paul Blackbeard, the Robertson brothers, John Harker, Peter le Roux, Derek Buck, Jill Duncan and Linda Clokie all repeatedly creating new marks. Paul Blackbeard was, of course, the star and there were occasions when he broke as many as three records in one evening! The first National record that fell to the Club in Gulliver's time occurred somewhat unexpectedly when m 1972 a Queen's Park men's team consisting of Gary and Kevin Robertson, Paul Blackbeard and Chris Peinke established a South African record for the 4 x 50 metres freestyle team race, then recognised by S.A.A.S.U. and thereby repeated a feat accomplished by the Club in 1934. This was to be a prelude to other incredible team race achievements accomplished by the Club in the "sensational seventies", Then on 17th February 1973, at the Club's 80thAnniversary gala, Paul Blackbeard, who was then 14 years old, appropriately became the first Queen's Park swimmer of the new era to break a South African individual record when he won an exciting duel with club mate Peter le Roux to establish a new national 400 metre freestyle record. A couple of weeks later Paul was again in the news when he won the 200 metres freestyle event at the South African Championships in Bulawayo and thereby became the first Club member to win a national title since 1954! He also won silver medals in the 100 metres Butterfly and 400 metres Individual Medley, whilst John Harker won a brace of silver medals when he was the first South African to finish in both the 100 and 200 metres Breaststroke. Then Paul Blackbeard and Gary Robertson swam in both relay teams which gave Natal her first wins in the 400 metres and 800 metres freestyle team races for a great many years. The province was placed second in the Ells Brown Overall Aggregate after being placed third and fifth in the two previous seasons. On the strength of their results at the Championships, Paul Blackboard and John Harker were selected for the 6 man 1973 Springbok team which competed against Rhodesia and later in the South African Games. Up until this time, George May (1934) had been the only other Springbok produced by the Club in its entire history.

Just when the Club was starting to reap meaningful benefits at top levels and all seemed rosy for the future with an upsurge of talent right down to the most junior levels, Terry Gulliver announced at the end of the 1973 season that he would be returning to his home country. This was extremely disappointing news for the Club, but Gulliver was a restless and enterprising man and, with South Africa being suspended by FINA that year, he saw his next goal of taking his top swimmers into world competition as being firmly blocked. His loss both to Queen's Park and Natal was greater than many realised at the time, for there was no doubt that it was Gulliver who had been the prime cause of the revival of swimming in Natal. Before his arrival Natal was a weak swimming province, and it was only after he had brought Queen's Park to the fore that Natal again started to become a force at National level. His real strength lay more in his motivating powers than in his coaching ability, and (sadly) the atmosphere at the galas has never been the same since his departure. Who will ever forget his shrill whistles of encouragement, the enthusiasm of his swimmers and his conspicuously striped green and yellow windbreaker' He really knew how to get youngsters immensely excited about their swimming, how to make them feel proud about being competitive swimmers and how to urge them on to ever improving goals. Admittedly, he frequently gave the Natal officials a hard time and also caused a fair degree of consternation within the Club as well, for he revelled in conflict, but few will deny the immense impact his involvement had on the standard of swimming in Natal, And here it is worth noting that of his original 1969 squad, Paul Blackbeard, John Harker, Peter le Roux, Alan Furniss and Jacques Marais all became Springbok swimmers, Alison Cuttings and Alison Blackbeard both earned Springbok colours for synchronised swimming, whilst others such as Quirin Kohler, Mike Gittings, Derek Buck and Gaye Harker all gained Provincial honours and have continued their involvement in the sport to the present time.

Significantly for the Club's future, it was Terry Gulliver's persistent agitations that caused the Committee to face up to the absolute necessity of the Club building its own swimming pool and several exploratory exercises were embarked upon in early 1973. None proved viable until the committee eventual became to an arrangement with the Northlands Sports Club to construct a pool in their grounds. Within weeks thereafter construction of a six lane 25 metre pool was commenced and the project was completed in November 1973. Unfortunately it was six months too late for Terry Gulliver to derive any benefit, but for the Club it has since proved to be an invaluable asset.

On Gulliver's departure he left behind a squad of such potential talent that many of the top rated coaches in the country displayed keen interest in filling the vacuum. Consequently the Club encountered no trouble in seeking a replacement and the post of club coach was eventually filled by Frank Gray, who was then stationed at Sasolburg. He had an impressive track record at National level but an additional advantage was that his four sons were all outstanding swimmers and their presence greatly bolstered the already powerful boys' teams at various levels in the Club.

During the three years that followed the Club enjoyed vast and spectacular successes at championship level and emulated those of the golden 30's. One recalls such feats as Queen's Park winning twelve of the thirteen team events at the 1974 Natal Championships and taking thirty of the individual titles. Then at the South African Championships in Bloemfontein, Paul Blackbeard won the200m freestyle, 200m butterfly and 200m and 400m individual medley, whilst Simon Gray (then only 14 years old) took the 400m and 1 500m freestyle titles, so between them they won exactly half the total number of men's South African Championship titles! In addition, Natal won both the men's freestyle relays for the second year in succession, but of significance, the 800m team consisted entirely of Queen's Park swimmers, namely Paul Blackbeard, Simon Gray, Peter le Roux and Gary Robertson, whilst Paul, Gary and his brother Kevin were m the 4 x 100m team, which established a new South African record. Queen's Park also had the distinction of filling the first three places in the men's 1500m freestyle with Simon Gray, Peter le Roux and David Gray finishing in that order. Although Transvaal again won the Ellis Brown trophy. Natal was a much closer second and had the satisfaction of winning the men's aggregate trophy. In this regard it is of interest to note that the Queen's Park boys accounted for a massive 470 points out of the 508 scored by the Natal men's team and in addition they walked off with a total of 13 gold medals During the course of the season Paul Blackbeard established new South African records for 200m freestyle, 200m and 400m individual medley. Simon Gray added to the list with South African records over 800m and 1 500m freestyle and Peter le Roux created the surprise of the year by establishing a new South African record over 400m freestyle. These three boys earned their Springbok colours that season.

In the 1974/ 75 season that followed results were even more spectacular. Queen's Park won the inaugural Old Eds National Inter-Club swimming festival and later went on to win both the Danie Niehaus and Winnie de Kok trophies, each for the fifth year in succession. These victories were followed by winning 41 Natal titles in the Provincial Championships and making a clean sweep of all 15men's titles. But the true moment of glory came at the South African Championships which were staged in Johannesburg. Despite the adverse effects of swimming at such high altitude, Natal came from behind to win the Ellis Brown Aggregate competition for the first time in 24 years, the three previous triumphs having been at coastal venues in 1921, 1938 and 1951. This was a magnificent achievement, particularly as the venue could not have been more adverse for the Natal team, nor better for the Transvaal swimmers. History repeated itself in that, as on the three previous successful occasions, the Queen's Park lads played a very significant role in Natal’s moment of glory.

However, this tournament will always best be remembered for the outstanding accomplishments of Paul Blackbeard, who, in swimming at near the peak of his career won in convincing manner the 100m and 200m freestyle, 100m and 200m butterfly and the 200m and 400m individual medley titles. In addition, he swam in the three relay events which were all won by Natal so he ended the Championship with a massive tally of nine gold medals, a feat that no other swimmer has achieved in South African swimming history. Then Simon Gray retained both the 400m and 1500m titles and filled second place in the 200m freestyle and 200m backstroke. Another noteworthy feature of the tournament was that a Queen's Park member won a woman's title for the first time women Marylou Bailey finished first in the 100m butterfly. Once again the 4x200m freestyle team, which won in convincing fashion, was an all Queen's Park affair consisting of Simon and David Gray, Peter le Roux and Paul Blackbeard, whilst the 4x100m freestyle team lowered the South African record for the second year in succession and again included Paul Blackbeard and the two Robertson brothers. Lastly Alan Furniss John Harker and the inevitable Paul Blackbeard were in the team that won the medley relay in a new Natal record time. The province retained the Men's Aggregate Trophy and of the 597 points scored by Natal, no less than 536 were amassed by the Queen's Park men, all eight of whom were represented in one or more of the relays and in the twelve individual events. Paul Blackbeard. Simon and David Gray and Marylou Bailey earned their Springbok colours and Frank Cray was appointed coach to the team.

It was a great season for both Natal and Queen's Park, but amongst the Club's many other achievements of that year one should mention that m the very last event of the 1975 Natal Championships, the Queen's Park SOO metres relay team, consisting of Paul Blackbeard, Simon Gray, Peter le Roux and Gary Robertson, established a new South African record of 8:09,0 which was nearly 10 seconds under the previous record held by Eastern Province!

Such sensational results could not be expected to be repeated and, with competition increasing both at provincial and national level, the Club's achievements in the 1975/-76 season were less spectacular but none the less very noteworthy. The year started well with the Club again winning the junior and overall aggregate trophy at the Highveld Winter Championships, as well as the senior trophy for the first time. This was followed by victory in the Old Eds National Inter-Club swimming tournament for the second year in succession, but the long run of successes in the Dame Niehaus and Winnie de Kok competition was broken by the Westville club which had its swimmers much better prepared for this particular gala.

However, the Club again made a clean sweep of al! 15 men's events in the Natal Championships during which Simon Gray established new South African records for 200m backstroke and 1500m freestyle and the Club's medley relay team of Alan Furniss, John Harker, Simon Cray and Paul Blackbeard broke the South African inter-provincial team race record

At the 1976 S.A. Championships which were held in Durban, the Queen's Park swimmers, with a record number of 16 members in the Natal team, were again prominent but were confronted with much sterner competition, particularly from Transvaal. In fact the Durban Nationals were the most successful ever staged in South Africa's history, and during the tournament no fewer than 19 South African and 27 Natal records were broken! Simon Gray stole much of the limelight by winning the 400m freestyle, 1500m freestyle and 200m backstroke all in new South African record times. Paul Blackbeard won the 100m and 200m freestyle, filled second place in 100m butterfly and 200m individual medley and was third in 200m butterfly. He created new Natal records in all five events and a South African record for 200m freestyle. In addition, for the third year in succession he won the Harry Getz Trophy for being the highest pent scorer at the Championships and was also awarded the Alex Bulley Trophy as the "Swimmer of the Year" for 1975. John Harker substantially reduced his Natal records for both 100m and 200m breaststroke on being placed third in both these events. Alan Furniss was just touched out of winning the 100m backstroke; thirteen year-old Paula Newby-Fraser finished second in 100m butterfly in a time that created new Natal Juvenile, Junior and Open records; whilst Jo-Anne Hill! Set up new Natal records in the 100m and 200m backstroke events.

One of the many memorable aspects of the 76 Nationals was the resolve shown by the Natal swimmers in the men's relay events. The Transvaal team had been bolstered substantially that year by the Inclusion of several star swimmers who had very recently returned from swimming bursaries in America and inconsequence Transvaal was able to field potent relay teams which in theory should have won both the men's 400m medley and 400m freestyle relays. For instance, based on times already recorded in the Championship, the Transvaal medley team, made up of four current Springboks, was more than 2 seconds faster than its Natal counterpart. However, undaunted by the severe odds, the Natalians, comprising an all Queen's Park team of Alan Furniss, John Harker, Paul Blackbeard and Simon Cray literally swam the race of their lives to dead-heat an immensely exciting race, with the awesome Transvaal team in a new South African record time that was substantially below the record held previously by the powerful 1974 Springbok test team, which had included subsequent world record holder, Jonty Skinner. On the following night, the 400m freestyle team, which also consisted of 4 Queen's Park swimmers - Kevin and Gary Robertson, Paul Blackbeard and Simon Gray - won another very exciting race against Transvaal and for the third year in succession lowered the South African record. In the last of the team races on the final evening the Natal team had little trouble in winning the 800m freestyle relay, also in a new national record time, and on this occasion Paul Blackbeard, Simon Gray and Brett Davies were the Club representatives in the Natal team. Unfortunately all these magnificent efforts were insufficient to prevent Transvaal from regaining the Ellis Brown Trophy as Natal stiff lacked top-class female swimmers in those days. On the other hand, Natal won the men's aggregate trophy for the third year in succession and of the 485 points scored no less than 445 were accounted for by Queen's Park members. (The star studded Transvaal men's team scored 410 points).

So it was that at the end of the 1975/76 season, teams comprising only Queen's Park swimmers had broken South African records for the 400m medley, 400m freestyle and 800m freestyle relays within a spell of less than 14 months - a staggering and incredible feat. But equally fascinating, the Club's S.A. 400m freestyle team race record remains intact to the present day, despite the improvements m swimming standards in South Africa over the last 7 years; whilst its South African medley record was eventually only broken at last year's National Championships. It is also worth noting that when the 1975/76 season ended, Queen's Park swimmers held no less than 35 Natal individual records and 14 team race records and of these 2 were team and 5 were individual South African records. In addition, Club members were then the holders of 16 South African age group records!

Before leaving this spell one should not forget that in addition to the stars there were others rendering the Club yeomen service and we remember Halton Cheadle, Andrew and David Gray, Linda Clokie, Delia Minnaar, Marylou Bailey, Gaye Harker, Heather Jolly, Heather Biddington, Mandy Groeneweg and Philippa Murray, who all represented Natal and were prominent at inter-club level between1974 and 1976.

Queen's Park had now reached its zenith at national level for the time being, although it continued to enjoy many successes in inter-club competition. During the next season, the Club again won the Winter Championships, regained the Danie Niehaus and Winnie de Kok shields, won the Natal Championship aggregate trophy which was presented for the first time that season, and had several successes at the Nationals. In the Midmar Mile, Paul Blackbeard, Brett Davies and Peter le Roux finished In the first three places and Gaye Harker was tenth of a second behind the record breaking winner in the women's section. Despite these achievements, there were certain worrying signs, some of which had been evident for some time. For instance, the Club had failed to win the Juvenile relay league during that entire four year era; there had been a steady deterioration in Club's achievements in age group competition and membership had been falling steadily. Of the Club's two big stars, Paul Blackbeard was in full time employment and attending university as well, whilst Simon Gray left for America on a swimming bursary at Houston University An even more worrying factor was that a large number of swimmers, who formed most of the backbone of the Club, decided for personal reasons that they needed a change and, whilst remaining loyal to Queen's Park, to undergo training with Alisdair Hatfield who had set himself up as an independent coach in the neighbourhood. Meanwhile, the Club had also run into financial difficulties with the upkeep and maintenance of its swimming pool and arising from a combination of these circumstances Frank Gray and his family decided to resign from the Club at the end of the 1976/77 season.

It was obvious that the Club would suffer and it did. Several swimmers followed Mr. Gray, thus reducing the Club's depth, and for much of the next two seasons the Club played second fiddle to Westville. All was not doom and gloom, however, as during the 77/78 year the Club retained the Senior Aggregate Trophy at the South African Winter Championships at which Paul Blackbeard, Jacques Marais (2) and John Harker (1) won individual titles and the Club also won both the men's team races. Then, at the South African Championships, Paul Blackbeard was the only Natalian to win a title and to be selected for the Springbok team. Another issue of note was that Jacques Marais and Julian Taylor won the senior and junior sections of the Midmar Mile, both in record times. But the most heartening factor at that time was that the Club had the good fortune to have a band of dedicated, hardworking and able stalwarts who set about laying the foundations for the long term revival of the Club, and as the season progressed there were definite signs of the Club's growth in strength.

Part of the base-building programme entailed the appointment of Alisdair Hatfield, who was already coaching the vast bulk of the Club's competitive swimmers, as Chief Coach from the beginning of the 1978/79 season. Being well educated, extremely hardworking and approachable, he was well suited to the tasks ahead and he played a prominent part in the recovery that followed, in Alasdair’s first year as Chief Coach, Queen's Park easily won the Danie Niehaus contest but, even more encouragingly also wrested the Juvenile Relay League from Westville which had dominated this competition for the previous five seasons. Amongst the more noteworthy of the individual accomplishments that, season were Jacques Marais' South African record for 100m backstroke and the South African age group record for 200m backstroke. He also won the national titles for both these events at the South African Championships and duly earned his Springbok colours. As an aside he won the Midmar Mile for the second year in succession. Meanwhile, Paul Blackbeard earned his eighth Springbok can, being selected as captain for the fifth time, and at the National Championships he won the 100m butterfly and came second in the 200m individual medley and 100mfreestyle events. Incidentally, Natal made a clean sweep of the men's relays, in which Paul Blackbeard, Quirin Kohler, Jacques Marais and Peter le Roux made up an all Queen's Park team for the 400m freestyle relay, while Jacques, Paul and Quirin were in the medley team and Paul in the 800m freestyle team. This was also the year that Natal regained the Ellis Brown trophy and won by a greater margin than ever before. The seven Queen's Park representatives in the team scored more points and won more gold medals than any of the other clubs' representatives. In the Club's annual report at the end of the 1978/79 season it was noted with satisfaction that the prospects for the future appeared rosy but due to a shortage of star girls at the top it might take another two to three years before the Club could again truly attain the heights of previous years.

As events turned out, these predictions proved to be conservative, for in the 1979/80 season the Club experienced a massive and unexpected turn around that rocketed it into the top bracket where it has remained until the present time. It all started with the 1979 S.A, Winter Championships when the Club convincingly won the Junior Club Aggregate Cup and also - somewhat surprisingly - the Overall Aggregate Trophy by a slender margin of 24 points. In all the years that have followed Queen's Park has retained both these trophies with increasing margins and in the last two seasons won the Senior Aggregate Trophy as well. Reverting to 1979, the Club had no trouble in retaining the Danie Niehaus shield - which it has also continued to win overwhelmingly ever since - an accumulation of five consecutive victories since 1978 and eleven in the past thirteen years. It was in the 1980 Natal Championship, however, that the Club staged its greatest turnabout as it won the Paddy McDowell aggregate trophy by nearly 800 points, after having trailed Westville by as many as 500 points in the previous year. Here again, the Paddy McDowell shield has since been retained each year and by increasing margins. Other successes in inter-club competition include having won the Juvenile Relay League for the last four years in succession after several thrilling encounters with Westville and, having been the only club to win the Annual Inter-club Relay Gala since its inauguration in the 1979/80 season. Finally, at inter-club level, the Club has won the Old Eds National Inter-Club Swimming Festival for the last two years in succession. This tournament is different from any other in South Africa in that club teams consist of exactly five men and five women, each of whom swims in two individual events and four relays, but the unique feature is that the overall result is determined on the total of all times recorded and not on placings or points.

Meanwhile the Club was not neglecting its fixed assets, for during the1979/80 season new filtration and heating plant was installed and precast concrete fencing was erected around the entire property. Of greater importance a gymnasium was constructed at the pool side, thereby providing an additional essential facility for conditioning the competitive swimmers in the Club.

During the whole of this recent revival period Natal swimming has also been riding the crest of a wave. The province has won very convincingly the Ellis Brown Aggregate Trophy at the South African Championships for the last four seasons and has won every inter-provincial swimming meet since 1975, thereby at least equalling the pre 1914 days, when Natal dominated the scene with Looper Godfrey at the helm. Proudly, the Club's contributions towards Natal’s successes have been significant and some examples are:-

* Many have been the occasion in an Inter-Provincial Match Gala that the Natal men's team has been made up entirely of Queen's Park swimmers.

* Queen's Park representatives at the South African Championships over the past decade have:-

  • Won titles at every National Championship since 1973.
  • Won 32 South African individual titles representing an average of more than 3 titles per year.
  • Won 60 gold medals in relay events, thus averaging 6 gold medals per year.
  • Been represented in 182 finals, giving an average of over 18 finalists per year.
  • Comprised entire men's relay teams to win South African Championship relay title on six occasions.

* In the 1976 Nationals, Queen's Park swimmers filled one or more of the first three placings in all the twelve individual championship events.

* Since 1971 the Club has provided 120 representatives at the Nationals, thus giving an average of 10 swimmers in the Natal team per year.

Due to the frequency with which Club members have represented Natal in last decade it has not been possible to mention all their names in this review, so in recognition of these contribution a schedule of all Club members, who have been selected for official Natal teams since 1971, is set out below:-

Paul Blackbeard

41

 

Linda Clokie

18

John Marker

33

 

Anne Stretch

14

Gary Robertson

20

 

Marylou Bailey

13

Kevin Robertson

20

 

Rosalie-Anne Wicht

13

Peter le Roux

16

 

Jill Duncan

9

Simon Gray

16

 

Gaye Marker

8

Jacques Marais

15

 

Delia Minnaar

8

Alan Furniss

10

 

Paula Newby-Fraser

6

Julian Taylor

10

 

Heather Biddington

6

David Gray-

7

 

Heather Jolly

5

Brett Davies

5

 

Lyndsey Inglis

5

Andrew Cray

5

 

Leanne Fletcher-Evans

4

Quirin Kohler

4

 

Susan Monaghan

4

Derek Buck

4

 

Glynnis Vaughan

4

Anton van Niekerk

3

 

Mandy Brown

3

Brent Coetsee

3

 

Mandy Groeneweg

3

Halton Cheadle

2

 

Colette Love

2

Robert Portsmouth

2

 

Jackie Taljaard

2

Miles Malan

2

 

Susan Dickie

1

Michael Gittings

2

 

Jo-Anne Hill

1

Brendan Lyne

2

 

Philippa Murray

1

Chris Peinke

1

 

Wendy Renaud

1

Julian Davey

1

 

Alex de Gersigny

1

Frank Reitz

1

 

Corinne Meyer

1

Raymond Berson

1

 

Mandy Willemse

1

On a higher level, the Club has maintained a proud record of having are preventatives in every Springbok team since 1973 and all the Club's Springboks are detailed below Springbok Colours (Since 1893)

1934   George May

1939   George May

1973   Paul Blackbeard and John Marker (twice each]

1974   Paul Blackbeard, Simon Gray and Peter le Roux

1975   Paul Blackbeard, Simon Gray, David Cray and Marylou Bailey

1976   Paul Blackbeard, Simon Gray and David Gray

1977   Paul Blackbeard

1978   Paul Blackbeard and Alan Furniss

1979   Paul Blackbeard and Jacques Marais

1980   Jacques Marais and Rosalie-Anne Wicht

1981   Paul Blackbeard

1982   Anton van Niekerk

On the local scene, results have been equally impressive. Since 1971Club has won 352 Natal titles, which gives an average of exactly 30 per annum, but of these the most remarkable aspect has been the Club's string of successes in relay events. For instance, despite the ever increasing depth and breadth of competition in Natal, Queen's Park has won the men's 800m freestyle relay for twelve years in succession since 1972 and the men's 400m freestyle in every year since 1973, whilst on at least six occasions making a clean sweep of all seven male relay titles.

With regard to records, Queen's Park swimmers have in the last ten years held as many as seven but never less than four South African individual records and for six years in succession from 1976 held the South African team race record for 400m medley and 400m freestyle. At the present time the Club holds four national individual records and one team race record, plus eighteen South Africa Age Group records. At provincial level, the Club reached a peak of thirty-five 1individual and fourteen relay records at the end of the 1976 season and at the end of last season held twenty-three individual and sixteen team race records. Finally the Club also had the distinction of holding all sixteen Natal individual and team race records for men at the conclusion of both the 1979/80 and 1980/81 seasons.

Over the years Queen's Park has certainly been blessed with a great many outstanding swimmers and water polo players as well as an almost constant flow of supportive and loyal members who, without being stars, have also played their part in bolstering the performance of the Club, it has been a combination of the whole which has made Queen's Park great, but the achievements of the Club's greatest son, Paul Blackbeard, have been so extraordinary, that we believe they deserve special mention over and above what has already been written. Paul joined Queen's Park as an 11 year old in 1969 and from the beginning played a very prominent part in the Club's revival during the early 70's. Before he turned 14, he had broken on innumerable occasions all the Natal Juvenile records with the exception of the two breaststroke events. He later went on to rewrite the Natal record book for all the under 16 events, excepting the breaststroke and 800m freestyle, and then finally in senior competition he established Natal open records for 100, 200 and 400m freestyle, 100 and 200m butterfly, 200 and 400m individual medley, but in addition also created South African records over all these distances with the exception of 100m freestyle. In addition, there was one stage in his career when he held as many as thirteen South African Age Group records at onetime, a feat unequalled by anyone else in South African swimming history. Nearly all his records were accomplished without the aid of anti-ripple lanes and high starting blocks and, despite the ever improving standards of swimming at all levels, it has only been in more recent times that his records have started to fall. His name none-the-less still remains against several events in the record books but of even greater importance, he is still swimming for his Club and the province and he still continues to win titles. In this regard he won his first Natal Championship title in the Juvenile division in 1971 and since that time has won a massive number of 61 Natal titles and has taken his place in 37 Club relay teams to win championship events. At a national level, he has won 38 gold medals at the South African Championships spread evenly between individual and team race events. To date he has swum in the Natal senior team on 40 occasions and for South Africa no less than 9 times. Arising directly from his ability as a swimmer he has also represented South Africa at surf life-saving and still-water life-saving to become a triple Springbok. During the thirteen years Paul Blackbeard has been with Queen's Park he has accomplished many unique feats associated with swimming in this country, but throughout he has remained a good sport, absolutely dependable, well-mannered and above all else extremely loyal to his Club, in recognition of the immense honour he has brought to Queen's Park, the Club bestowed on him its most honoured award, that of honorary life membership, in 1975 and he thereby became the first member of the Club to receive such an award while still wholly involved in competitive swimming.

In reviewing the Club's recent history one is struck by the consistent and overwhelming strength of the Club's boys and men during the sensational 70’s, sensing rather sparse talent amongst the girls. With the advent of the 80’s however, there has been a pronounced and encouraging turn for the better and during the last two seasons the girls, at all levels, have mettle by winning Natal and S.A. Winter Championship relays in all three top age divisions. Some tremendously hard fought duels have brought out the best in them and at the present moment Queen's Park holds all the five 4x100m team race records for females as well as the 4 x 50m freestyle open record. At this season's National Inter-Club Swimming Festival, they made a clean sweep of the four women's relays, winning three of the events in new tournament record times.

The Club's most successful woman has been Rosalie Wicht, who joined the club as a relatively unknown swimmer from Northern Transvaal in 1979. In her first season with Queen's Park she won the 100m butterfly title at the National championships and became the Club's second girl to earn Springbok colours. She is the current holder of both the Natal and South African Age Group records for 100m butterfly, but earlier this season she achieved her ultimate goal of breaking the National 100m butterfly record, which had stood since 1 976. In so doing she became the first Queen's Park girl to break a South African record. She has also had the distinction of swimming in Natal relay teams which have set South African records for 200m and 400m freestyle and also for 400m medley, a rare feat, which incidentally was also accomplished by Paul Blackbeard and Simon Gray in the mid-70's.

Some other performances of note in recent times include a South African record for 200m individual medley being established last season by Anton van Niekerk who also won both medley events at the South African Championships, Rosalie Wicht and Lyndsey Inglis being members of the Natal medley team and Jackie Taljaard of the freestyle team, which set up new South African records over 400m within the last year. At a more junior level, Darryl Cronje very recently broke Paul Blackbeard's 100m freestyle Natal Junior record, Brendan Lyne has created new Natal Juvenile and Junior records for 200m backstroke his brother Clifford has broken a host of South African age group records in both the 10/U and 11/12 categories; Julian Taylor (backstroke). Miles Malan and Lance Robertson (butterfly) are also current age group record holders and Lyndsey Inglis has broken Natal Juvenile and South African Age Group records in backstroke as well as an individual medley age group record. Unfortunately for both Queen's Park and Natal, Lyndsey has since returned to the United Kingdom.

Another milestone in recent history occurred in 1979 when, after a few false starts in earlier Durban North years, water polo was again firmly re-established in the Club. This came about mainly as a result of the efforts of John Harker, who had at last retired from competitive swimming after a great many years’ service to both the Club and the Province, and also of Keith Krumm, a former Natal player and coach, who kindly agreed to take on the coaching function. In that first season, a team was entered in each of the second and third divisions, and somewhat surprisingly both teams came second in their respective leagues, the first team's record being particularly impressive for a side consisting mainly of rookies as it won twelve matches, drew one and lost only three. Following these successes, teams were fielded in the first reserve, second and third divisions in the subsequent season and, although the Club has not yet managed to win any of these leagues, the water polo section has none-the-less continued to make progress and the standard of play is steadily improving. The primary goal is to have a team in the Mills Cup League and with the talent gradually being developed there is no reason why this goal should not eventually be accomplished. The Club is already providing the odd player in Natal 'B', U.19 and Schools teams and this season Colin Gibson earned a place in the South African schools team. Should the Club be fortunate enough in the short term to attract a couple of well experienced players, around whom the first team could be built, promotion to the first division could then come sooner rather than later.

As this story draws to a close, we are fully aware that, in the case of Queen's especially, there have been scores of members who, without cutting many wide swathes in the record books, have nevertheless made it possible for others to do so. Their involvement over the years has been of material benefit to the Club and, although they are nameless in this review, due recognition will be given them when a detailed history of Queen's is written for the centenary in 1993.

Quo vadis? It would be foolish to expect the swimming section to enjoy a continuation of the halcyon days ad infinitum. Some star swimmers are nearing retirement, whilst others are being lured overseas, so there is bound to be a thinning of the ranks during the times ahead. Whilst this will lead to less spectacular results and a trimming of successes, one hopes that there will always be sufficient up-and-coming talent to ensure that Queen's at least remains a force in swimming, continuing to create healthy competition for others at inter-club level and also serving the province well. Water polo on the other hand should enjoy more prosperous times during the seasons to come, providing the present impetus is maintained. Not only are the Club's players improving with experience, but so too are the schools in the neighbourhood which, having only recently become involved in the sport, should provide, with the Club's assistance, a useful nursery for the future.

May we be permitted to end this chronicle by offering a few words of encouragement to those parents who spend many long hours at the turn style or the pool side? The philosophy is John Milton's, although Churchill is renowned for having repeated it during World War II. With humility and gratitude for their enormous contribution we offer to those long suffering parents -"THEY ALSO SERVE, WHO ONLY STAND AND WAIT".