‘It is great to see centre expanding’

The first manager of East Riding Leisure Francis Scaife Kenneth Williams.
The first manager of East Riding Leisure Francis Scaife Kenneth Williams.

Kenneth Williams can fondly remember the day the East Riding Leisure Francis Scaife opened its doors for the first time 50 years ago in June 1965.

For the former Royal Marine Commando was the swimming pool’s manager for two years until he became manager of a big swimming pool in Essex.

“On the opening day there were about 300 people, mainly youngsters, waiting to get into the pool so we ran 20-minute sessions for 30 at a time,” recalls Mr Williams who, at the age of 88, still tries to fit in a swim most days swimming up to eight lengths.

The pool was officially opened by Lady Halifax.

“There was a really big demand to use the pool,” says Mr Williams who hails from South Wales.

After he came out of the Armed Services in 1951 he tried his hand at a number of jobs including being a bus driver and a clerk with British Railways before becoming a pool attendant at a swimming pool in Neath.

The opportunity then came to move to Nottingham.

He took the necessary qualifications to become a swimming teacher and obtained the life saving award.

“Then this job came up in Pocklington and I put in for it and got it.

“I had never been to Pocklington before – the nearest I got was being at Catterick during the war,” he said.

Mr Williams joined the Army as a boy soldier in the Ordnance Corps when he was just 15 years old and transferred to the Royal Marines when he was 17.

His grandfather had also been a Commando and his grandson later went into the Royal Marines.

He said he was all ready to go with the D-Day landings in 1944 but was stopped from doing so when they realised he was just 16.

“The first time I saw a shot fired in anger was in the Korean War,” recalls Mr Williams who was shot in the knee during that war.

After he retired from his job in Essex in 1984 he stayed in the area but after his wife died in 1995 his son, Russell, persuaded him to move nearer to him and return to Pocklington.

“I like it here in Yorkshire,” he said.

He remembers that when the Pocklington pool opened children were able to pay £3 which enabled them to swim for a year.

“So they were always waiting for the doors to open,” he said.

“They were a lovely crowd, great people,” he said while remembering with a chuckle that after their timed session “some would run round to the back and try to go in again.”

He also founded the Dolphin Swimming Club which attracted around 30 members.

“Many people used to come on a regular basis. I was also responsible for teaching primary school children to swim.

“In those first years the pool grew from strength to strength with some 250 children having being taught to swim,” said Mr Williams who has another younger son who went to Pocklington School but is now living in Australia.

When he started there he thinks it was about 3d or 6d (in old money) for a swim whereas now he pays £25 a month but that does allow him access to the other facilities that have been added such as the gym.

One of his happiest memories is when he taught a lady to swim when she was 65 years old and she went on to learn life saving and got a bronze medal.

He cannot recall any bad memories except when the pool first opened there were teething problems with the heating and the filtration.

“They were experimental filters and me and my son would often end up sleeping down there overnight to clear the system ready for the next day,” he said.

Mr Williams, who is a member of the Buffaloes and a Freemason, reckons people should swim and is pleased that the centre is still running after all these years when so many other swimming pools have closed down for one reason or another.

Now, as well as the gym being added the centre also includes a sports hall and squash courts.

“It is great to see it expanding and continuing to offer such facilities.

“Swimming is a really good exercise. It is wonderful in exercising every muscle,” he added.

The centre is holding a special Open Weekend on 11 and 12 July, which will be the highlight of its 50th anniversary year.