Swimming – “The Birth of the Scottish Amateur Swimming Association”

From its inception in 1884, the A.S.C.G. had agreed to work towards the establishment of a National swimming association and in the ensuing three years it worked hard to widen the sports appeal.
By 1887, sufficient development had taken place outside Glasgow to necessitate the need for a National Governing body and the A.S.C.G. took the initiative and in May 1887, convened a special meeting of the affiliated clubs to decide upon the best way to proceed. Two issues were foremost:

(i) the need for a truly National organisation
(ii) the acceptance by all interested parties, both within and outside Scotland, of an unambiguous amateur code.

To seek nationwide support, the A.S.C.G. Executive sent a circular to all Scottish swimming clubs inviting them to send up to three representatives to Holten’s Hotel, Glasgow on June 28th “with the object of instituting a National Association”.

On the “amateur” question, the Executive opened discussions with the Amateur Swimming Association (A.S.A.).
The meeting was the largest and most representative ever held in Scotland and the following clubs sent delegates:

Glasgow: Arlington, Caxton, Dolphin, Eastern, Leander, Northern, Queen’s Park, Southern, South Side, Western, West of Scotland.
Edinburgh: Burntisland, Forth, Portobello, Brandon, Heart of Midlothian, Lorne.
Dundee: Officials from the newly constituted Dundee Swimming Association representing: Belmont, Northern, Triton, Lochee, Wallace, Wallace Juveniles.
Provincial Clubs: Carnegie, Irvine.
The following clubs wrote, but were not present: Bon-Accord, Dee (Aberdeen), Clyde, Bellahouston, Pollokshields (Glasgow).
The A.S.A. had also been invited and it was represented by Archibald Sinclair, the doyen of English swimming administration.

Hugh McCulloch, President of West of Scotland S.C. and the A.S.C.G., was elected Chairman and there was unanimous agreement that a National Association should be formed and the title chosen was the “Scottish Amateur Swimming Association”.

Most of the meeting was taken up with discussions about representation and amateurism. On the former it was agreed to establish three ‘Local Centres’ or ‘County Associations’ based on Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee and each was required to pay the parent association an annual subscription of 5s. for every club affiliated to it. In return each Centre was represented on the S.A.S.A. Council by one member for every three clubs affiliated to it. It was also agreed that the Association’s day-to-day affairs should be dealt with by a small Executive Committee consisting of the President, Secretary, Treasurer and several Council members.

The “amateur” question looked like causing considerable dissention. Delegates were in agreement about the definition of an “amateur”, but they could not agree about the date of its implementation. Some of the clubs wanted the code implemented from the formation of the Association, but it was eventually decided to stand by the existing S.A.G.B. and A.S.C.G. rule that swimmers who had not competed for a money prize, etc. since 1 January 1885 should retain their Amateur status.
Archibald Sinclair was delighted with this decision and within a month the A.S.A. had agreed to recognise the S.A.S.A. as the governing body for amateur swimming in Scotland.

The task of drawing up a constitution was delegated to A.S.C.G. members. By December 20, a draft Constitution and Rules had been written, circulated and examined by all clubs.
0n 28 January 1888, at the Bible Institute, St Andrews Square, Edinburgh, the S.A.S.A. was constituted and sixty delegates representing over 20 clubs met to appoint Office Bearers, elect a Committee of Management, establish Local Centres and confirm the Constitution and Rules.

The Association set itself the task of controlling, organising, and promoting all aspects of Scottish swimming. It aimed:

  1. To promote and encourage the knowledge of the art of swimming.
  2. To control and regulate “amateur” Championships.
  3. To promote the uniformity of rules for the control and regulation of amateur swimming and the management of race meetings.
  4. To enforce the observation of the Laws and Rules of the S.A.S.A. and to deal with any infringement thereof.

The Association’s early officials were tireless legislators. They brought order to a number of diffuse practices, by writing down formal Codes of Rules and Regulations for competition. Some of these were copied from the A.S.C.G., but many were new. They were also extremely capable organisers and planned National Calendars, which included International and Inter-City representative fixtures, trials and National Championships. They also helped to plan the Calendars of affiliated clubs and coordinate fixtures with the National Calendar.
For representative fixtures, they negotiated with a variety of agencies to secure suitable venues and financial arrangements and co-ordinated travel and accommodation arrangements. To ensure complete objectivity, they also took responsibility for selecting representative teams. At the same time, they recorded and published results, compiled lists of National Champions and Record Holders, administered Cup draws and selected Officials.

Like the A.S.C.G., the new National body also spent a considerable amount of time and energy promoting swimming and at a local level it delegated various aspects of development to its District Associations. In the West, the Western Counties Amateur Swimming Association (W.C.A.S.A.) provided a great deal of grass roots support and it offered advice and assistance to new clubs and occasionally gave financial assistance.

In May 1907, the Glasgow Blind Asylum asked the W.C.A.S.A. to supply two instructors to teach a group of non-swimmers and they were supplied by clubs using the Townhead Baths and in March 1909, it was successful in persuading the Bath-Master at Townhead Baths to allow the Glasgow Hairdressers’ A.S.C. to use a Water Polo ball in the small swimming pond.
In May 1910, it donated some money to the Bellahouston Academy Gala Fund and it also helped clubs to acquire the services of experienced teachers and the use of expensive equipment and facilities.

The S.A.S.A. Executive built upon the valuable work of local Associations by adopting several important long term National measures. In particular, it introduced a scheme which gave clubs the opportunity to stage individual Scottish Championship events and any club granted permission to include a National Championship event in its Gala Programme was guaranteed a capacity crowd and a boost to its funds.

The Executive also established “Baths Committees” at both National and Local levels to deal with all matters relating to the construction of Public Baths. The National Committee laid down guidelines for the design of baths, drawing particular attention to the dimensions of swimming pools and the need for adequate spectator accommodation and associated facilities and it was the duty of Local Committees to bring these recommendations to the attention of Town Councils. In 1911, the following memorandum was sent to James Donaldson, a member of Partick Town Council from the Secretary of the W.C.A.S.A. Executive Committee:

“I understand there is a proposal to erect baths in the Burgh of Partick, and as Convener of the Baths Committee of the Western Counties Amateur Swimming Association I have been asked to write to you stating that in the event of a swimming pool being constructed, it be made the usual standard size, viz:-

“Exact length 25 yards, width about 13 yards and the depths 6ft 6in to 7ft at the deep end and 3ft 6in at the shallow end. If a swimming pond was constructed on the above scale it would meet with the entire approval of all swimmers.”

Without the impressive legislative, organisational or promotional skills and guidance of the S.A.S.A.’s officials, Scottish swimming would not have reached the heights that were achieved during either this or later periods in time.