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  Swimming Club


History  of the Watsonian Swimming Club        

by Dr. Roger G. Smith, WSC Captain 2003 - 04



(Formerly Watsonian Swimming and Physical Training Club and Watsonian Women’s Sports Section)




The Watsonian Swimming and Physical Training Club had its first meeting on 1st March 1933 with 144 members. Lessons were given by Freddie Lemmon to members – tickets were sold and handed to Mr Lemmon – 2/6 for a single lesson and 10/- for 5 lessons.


The School Engineer, Furnaceman and Janitor were involved in providing services for which they were given a termly honorarium.   The initial subscription was fixed at 15/- annually.




Membership increased in 1934 to 167 members which is the highest it has ever been. It was agreed to have Club swimming costumes (slips) and towels provided by the Club and washed after each evening’s swimming. Physical training was carried out in one of the gymnasia and over the years a number of staff members took the PT class for which they were given an honorarium. After the War basketball, badminton and quoits were also available. Now there is swimming only.


3. UPS and DOWNS FROM THE 1930s TO THE 2020s 

The baths were closed for a term and a half over spring and summer of 1938 for “improvements”. A refund of 5/- was made to the members. An outbreak of petty pilfering occurred in 1938. As a result a box was provided in the janitor’s office and 2 members were asked to go on the roof of the PT block to watch for possible intruders.

In 1939 the finances of the club were in a “serious state of affairs” due to falling membership and then with the outbreak of war the baths were closed until Easter 1941. They reopened for the summer term of 1941 with a subscription of 5/- (1/- for members of HM Forces).

In 1943 the Watsonian Club asked the Swimming and PT Club to continue and agreed to meet any financial deficit. A Holding Committee was set up. Members helped with the School Swimming Gala in 1944 as judges, timekeepers, doorkeepers and ushers.

Normal Club nights resumed in October 1945 with an annual subscription of 25/-. But membership numbers were low and by April 1946 the Club was in debt to the tune of £26/12/6. The Treasurer asked the members to recruit more or “if the Merchant Company heard that attendance was so low they would close down the baths as it was such a waste of coal, wages, etc.” On one night there were present Mr Lemmon, Mr Fleming (PT Instructor), the janitor, the engineer, the fireman, the Club Secretary and one member!!

Later in 1946 the baths were closed in the winter term due to an outbreak of poliomyelitis in the City.

In January 1947 there was difficulty with the washing of the towels and “slips”. One of the cleaners had done this work but she had left. None of the others agreed to the work on account of the difficulty of obtaining soap! Mr Lemmon came to the rescue and arranged for his assistant to do the job for £1 remuneration.

Also in 1947 the number of nights available in the spring term was reduced to 5 from 12 due to a coal shortage.

The first mixed social evening was held in 1972. This has become an annual event. In 1976 the Club’s finances benefitted from 3 wins in the Football Club’s 100 Draw. In 1978 a cup was presented by the Club to the School for the Junior Girls Swimming Champion at a cost of £60.

In the early 1980s the Club donated over £1000 to the Myreside Development Fund and members took their share of bar duties at the Pavilion.In 1984 there was “lively” discussion about the amalgamation of the Club and the Watsonian Women’s Sports Section (the ladies swimming club). No decision was made “with no urgency to pursue the matter”.

In 1985 the Club donated a Lifesaving Shield and annual voucher to the School.

In 1990 £750 was raised for the School Appeal. In the same year the first golf outing took place as well as the annual dinner.  In 1991 the annual subscription was raised from £1 to £6 with a 50% reduction for those over 65 years of age. 

In 1994 a trophy for Primary 6 boys was presented to the School. In 1996 £200 was given to the Floodlight Fund at the Grandstand Pitch. In the same year the Ladies Section moved to Wednesday evenings. It was agreed to have 4 sessions of 45 minutes each for the two sections – 1 for Ladies only, 1 for Men only and 2 mixed. This worked out very well. 

A Valentine’s Day Dance was held in the Pavilion with Jim Baikie’s Band in 1997 with a Hallowe’en Dance on the 30thOctober 1998.

In 2001 a proposal was made to amalgamate the two sections again but the voting was 6 For and 6 Against. However in 2003 common sense prevailed and the Watsonian Swimming Club with a new Constitution approved by the Watsonian Council was born. Since then the Club has been successfully mixed.

In 2010 the school decided to up-grade the whole PE block. This was a major change and involved the roof and surrounds of the pool to be demolished and rebuilt. The gymnasia and open air gym changing rooms plus the storage facilities below were developed into the Galleon Club which was a full swimming and PE facility with gymnasia and exercise and indoor games areas. There was a good turnout for the last night of the original pool on 26th June. As a result there was no swimming at Colinton Road for several months. The Club was fortunate to be allowed the use of the swimming pool at Stewart’s Melville one evening a week for a small fee. Wednesday evenings at Myreside continued.

The pool reopened in August 2012 and members of the Club were required to become members of the Galleon Club which has been a success. The Club still has a dedicated use of the pool on Wednesday evenings but, as members of the Galleon Club, swimming is available every day shared with non- Watsonian members of the Galleon Club.

The use of the pool was also stopped during the Covid outbreak starting in 2020, but resumed again in 2021.



One of the founder members was Dr Boyd Jamieson who was an office bearer for many years. He donated the Boyd Jamieson Crocks Cup for annual competition by members over the age of 45. He wished it to be free style over 50 years but “not to be a life or death matter but more of an amusement”. The first winner was JGM McGregor in March 1939. The cup is still competed for annually in March.

At the AGM in 1946 Freddie Lemmon raised under Any Other Business his concerns that the Captain (Dr Boyd Jamieson) was in the habit of celebrating his birthday by diving off the top board and his 80th birthday was imminent. Dr Boyd Jamieson replied that his wife would second Mr Lemmon’s motion to stop him!

Freddie Lemmon who had been an instructor since the Club’s inception in 1933 retired in 1966. A presentation was made to Freddie at a social event held at the Iona Hotel on 13th July 1966 and at an Extraordinary General Meeting held that evening Freddie was made an Honorary Life Member of the Club. He was subsequently elected Captain for the year 1973/74.

Ian Hutton was a long-standing member of the Swimming section. When he was in primary school, he moved with the school from Lauriston Place to Colinton Road and used the pool as a schoolboy. It was therefore fitting that on re-opening the pool after the redevelopment Ian was asked to be the first Watsonian to dive into the pool. 

Geoff Bulmer was another long-term member. He was elected Social Convenor and was instrumental in setting up the Annual Golf Outing and dinner, the Annual Mixed Dinner and the Ladies Dinner. 

George Murray, also a long-term member, has organized wine and whisky tasting evenings which have been a great success.


Membership numbers have been dwindling mainly from the deaths of several senior members and a poor number of younger recruits. Following a very successful open evening in the Galleon Club there has been  a reversal of the trend with younger members joining the Club.

Covid and the death of Geoff Bulmer have meant that social aspects – the Annual Dinner and the Golf Outing - have not been held. Hopefully these events can be resumed in the near future. The Ladies Dinner was resumed in 2022. The response for the 90th Birthday Lunch which was held in April 2023 was very encouraging so the Watsonian Swimming Club is in good heart after 90 years.


Roger G Smith





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