Club History

MONNOW Swimming Club History (first 30 years)

The Inaugural Meeting of the Club was held at Monmouth Swimming Pool on 7th April 1975, as a Competitive Club to work alongside of the Monmouth & District SC (M&DSC) which had been founded many years previously (before the pool was built) in a prefabricated pool situated on the Sports Ground known as the Puddle as a Learn to Swim, Personal Survival and Life Saving Club to develop the aquatic safety of the younger residents of Monmouth, who were surrounded by the hazards associated with the Wye and Monnow rivers.

The Roberts family had joined the M&DSC after moving to Monmouth in 1971, and having been members of a competitive club in West London, but with no pool in Monmouth, they also enrolled their eldest son with Maindee Olympic Club in Newport.

After the pool was built in Monmouth in 1973, it soon became obvious that some of the better members of M&DSC could progress into competitive swimming and it initially sponsored Monnow SC by paying for the pool hire costs and WASA Club Affiliation Fees, whilst those swimmers paid their own WASA Registration Fees.

The standard set initially for membership of Monnow SC was to complete one length (20m) of the pool using at least 2 strokes in times equal to or faster than 30 secs less the swimmers age (eg 21sec for a 9 year old) using frontcrawl, 23secs using backstroke or 25secs for breaststroke. For the older swimmers the standard times required were progressively 1 sec faster per length per year of age.

Alan Roberts coached these swimmers using the practices adopted at the West London (Brentford) and Maindee Olympic clubs, using swimmers in pairs spread along the side of the pool and completing 2, 3 or 4 width sets alternately, according to their age and abilities. Thus starts from the side and numerous turns enhanced the stroke skills they practiced.

The first competition that members entered was the 1975 Gwent Championships held in Newport, when 16 members of Monnow SC took part. The best result was gained by 9 year old Richard Carpenter who won a bronze medal in the backstroke and qualified for 3 other finals whilst four other members reached the 6 lane finals

Interclub competitions against up to 5 other clubs that year, included galas at Tewkesbury, Hereford, Ross, Leominster and Newport. The first home gala was held at the Monmouth (pre Leisure Centre) Pool in April 1976 by which time the swimmers had chosen brown with a gold strip each side as the club colours for their swim wear (changed in 1984 to any mid blue style).

Spectators sat on two rows of chairs along one side of the pool behind poly sheeting supported on a long rope and the competitors, coaches and officials were located along the changing room side and shallow end so the pool was very crowded whenever 4 teams took part

Membership numbers progressed to 38 during the first year, so Alan was joined by Mike Woods and a while later by Howard Noble, moving to the use of the length of the pool with ropes for stroke skills and aerobic development adopted in more formal coaching practices of larger clubs.

The first notable team performances occurred when Monnow won the Monmouthshire County Sports Team Trophy in 1977 and 1978, beating teams representing the other 3 Towns from Abergavenny , Caldicot and Chepstow

Club membership remained in the 30/40s during the next few years, but expanded to 60+ in the early 80’s as water time was extended to 4 nights per week and the annual competition programme grew to 8 home galas and 18 away galas including the Sun Valley (renamed the Wyvern) League which Monnow won in 1985

 The coaching team was enhanced to cover this programme by the recruitment of other parents with teaching and coaching skills, notably John Bain and Jenny Boyd, who remained with the club for nearly 25 years and took the club into the top 10 Welsh Clubs in the early 2000s.

Under their guidance the Club’s water time extended to 5 nights a week plus Saturdays, initially using the 6 lane Monmouth Boys School Pool adjacent to their gym and squash courts, before moving to the new Sports Complex across the river in February 1999.

A small Masters Section had also been established during 1991 using two of the lanes at the town pool to help subsidise the extra 1½ hours added to the Monnow senior squad programme on Tuesdays and this soon encouraged the club’s participation in the Welsh Masters at Bangor that year and followed up by the GB Long Course Masters in the Empire Pool in 1993 and the World Masters at Sheffield in 1996 taking the Monnow Club’s name into World Swimming circles.

The club’s Age Group coaching programme and successes then attracted junior membership from a wider area in the years before and after the move to the new Monmouth School Sports Complex pool. This prompted the establishment of MSDC (Monmouthshire Swimming Development Centre) in 1996.

In 1997 a combined team called MONACCS (MONmouth, Abergavenny, Caldicot and Chepstow Swimmers) took part in the SPEEDO League Western which won promotion from Division 4 to Division 1 in 3 successive years before dropping out because of high travel costs and coaching & membership retirements.

As public membership of the Monmouth School Sport Complex had grown, the school arranged for Haberdashers Monmouth School for Girls to take over the regular evening bookings to make their pool more available for their own members and Learn to Swim lessons, but still maintain their link with the club through Sunday evening and gala bookings providing better spectator facilities and more space for competitors and officials.

Notable individual achievements included the selection of Caroline Bain to represent East Wales in Bellinzona and providing 3 members of the 11 swimmer Welsh Team at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester These included Karla Hancocks (butterfly finalist) Mackenzie Howe (freestyle individual and both relays) and Nick Gibbon (IPC freestyle). Another British Swimming success was Tom Stone who won the National 12 year boys 100m and 200m backstroke in 2003. In the meantime several other members were selected for inclusion in Welsh National Age Group Development Squads

The club was also honoured during this era by having two Welsh ASA Presidents with Alan Roberts elected during the Welsh ASA AGM in 1998 and Sheilah Roberts in 2002.