During the 1930’s and with the excitement (and politically charged) event of the Berlin Olympics, focus was on the fitness of people throughout Europe. Being healthy and active was very much promoted throughout the 1930’s. During 1938 in the UK, the National Fitness Campaign was launched by a newly formed “National Fitness Council”. Perhaps fueled by Nazi film propaganda of crowds of healthy people outdoors undertaking mass exercise, the campaign throughout the UK grew quickly and serious quantities of public money were thrown into town projects. A combination of Gyms, hostels, playing fields and camps were created in almost every small town in Britain, but it was the level of public interest in swimming pools that gained the most attention. During the 3 years prior to 1939, the National Fitness Council approved local authority plans to invest almost £3 million on swimming baths alone! Now, what’s all this to do with Blantyre?
On 12th July 1939, at an evening meeting the Fifth Lanark District Council agreed by six votes to four against, to accept a 95% grant for the construction of a Blantyre Open Air Swimming pool. The pool was to be opened in Low Blantyre Blantyre Public Park and was estimated at costing around £6,000. (about £332k today). The local authority council took away the action to approve the spend which was to come direct from the National Fitness Council. The decision may also have been made in order to provide a safe environment for kids to play around water. The timing of this award follows directly on from several tragic drownings in the nearby Clyde and the creation of such a pool would have seemed an attractive proposal.
However, what’s clear is that Blantyre never ended up with a mid 20th Century public swimming pool. As with every construction plan of 1939, the outbreak of war, just a month and a half later, put a stop to ALL local authority spending. The project was shelved as people and spending concentrated on the war effort.
During the post war years, attitudes had changed. A newly formed Public Health Service catered for people ailments and actively promoted how to be healthy. A tired, depressed population needed recreation. It would appear that the subject of a pool in the Public Park was revisited again in the 1950s with the creation of the small pond near the swings, to compliment an already existing large, but shallow boating pond (which contrary to what you may think, was never intended for swimming!). It took until the early 1980’s and the arrival of the Sports Centre before Blantyre got it’s own proper swimming pool. It leaves me thinking what would have happened if the outdoor pool HAD been constructed. Would parents have let their children swim in water which surely would have been partially polluted? Would we have had an automatic ice rink in the Winter?