LEARNING TO swim in the ‘baby pool’. Glorious galas and wet hair on a winter’s night. Chicken soup from the machine, chips from Danny’s on the way home….

Memories, full of warmth and happiness, have poured in following a call from Govanhill Baths Community Trust.

The Trust is building up its archive ahead of the Baths’ re-opening next year and is keen to hear from anyone with stories to tell and photographs and memorabilia, such as trophies and medals, to share.

Archivist Paula Larkin explains: “We want to include as much of the history of the Baths as possible, especially from people who swam here in competition or for leisure.

Glasgow Times:

“We can record interviews, people can deposit medals or trophies, or photographs of treasured possessions.

“Since we first asked, we have had so many great stories coming back to us.”

She adds: “One concerned a little boy who got a swimming medal, but his father missed it because he was helping to fight a huge fire in Maryhill. His dad was taken to hospital but as soon as he recovered, he went back to fight the fire.

“Another elderly lady recalled seeing Nancy Riach at the Baths when she came for a showcase event.”

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Nancy Riach was the Motherwell-born swimmer who excelled at all strokes, once described as “the finest swimmer of the British Empire.”

In 1945, she held 28 Scottish and British records. Sadly, she contracted polio and died aged just 20, after one of her races at the European Swimming Championships.

In 2014, Govanhill Baths marked the centenary of its foundation stone being laid. A magnificent Edwardian public bathhouse, it was home to three swimming pools, hot baths and a steamie.

Govanhill Baths Community Trust (GBCT) was born out of a community action group - Save Our Pool Southside Against Closure (SAC) - which began occupying the Baths in March 2001 when it was threatened with closure.

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The occupation - believed to be the longest occupation of a public building in British history – lasted for five months.

GBCT was formed in 2004 and since then has been campaigning to reopen the Baths under the slogan United We Will Swim Again. A fundraising campaign collected more than £6.7m to re-open the building as a community-led health and wellbeing centre in 2021.

The archive was established to preserve the fascinating history of the building and the people who have used it over the decades.

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“Most of the early materials are fixtures and fittings left by the city council, like informational signs for the Turkish baths, and the beautiful cast iron boiler taps,” says Paula.

“We have some black and white photographs of children being taught how to swim with a rope tied under their arms – certainly not a method used today- and we found blocks of pink carbolic soap in an old cupboard in the basement.”

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Joseph Welch, former secretary of The Govanhill Amateur Swimming Club, donated the hand written, leather-spined minute book for the period 1935 to 1968, which holds pride of place in the collection.

The archive also features materials from the Save Our Pool campaign, including placards and banners, t-shirts, a protest song book and videos of the picket and the 1000-strong march against closure.

“What has been obvious since we put out the call is that people came from all over to visit the Baths, not just from the local streets and areas,” says Paula.

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“It was part of people’s lives, and they were very fond of it.”

Did you swim at Govanhill Baths? Were you a member of an amateur swimming club?

Do you remember the steamie? Get in touch with Paula on 07731 712482 or email archive@govanhillbaths.com.