The open-air Moorview Baths, in Skipton, was a hive of activity in its hey-day. Roger Ingham writes about his own memories of those halcyon days.

The picture of Skipton’s former open-air swimming pool up Shortbank Road in a recent edition of the Craven Herald, certainly evoked poignant memories for those people old enough to recall that revered sporting venue.

And, most notably Skipton’s “Mr Sport” Roger Ingham who provided the photograph below of the halcyon times when the annual open-air championships swimming gala attracted massive crowds.

The picture is of the 1952 gala when Roger made his debut in the novice’s races which was thirty yards across the pool.

And, it was a definitive case of “sink or swim” for the depth was way above head-height.

Unplaced on that occasion, Roger finished third the following year and won a jar of Brylcreem!

The winner, he informs us, was Dave McCartan, who eventually – as a railway worker – emigrated to Australia and figured on the televised “Great Railways of the world” programme, and was featured panning for gold in his back garden.

Meanwhile, the premier races at the gala were the championship events, straight up the pool, and where Roger recounts himself in 1957 – the last time this popular open-air gala was held.

He recalls winning his first sporting medals of any sort, when he finished runner-up to John Rosenthal in the 50 yards Skipton and district school’s championship.

He was narrowly beaten again by the same rival in the 75 yards Skipton ASC junior championship.

A rope being spread across the pool in order to determine the finishing line of these two events, and also for the senior men’s and senior ladies 100 yards championship.

Roger adds that the necessity to keep on a straight line could be vital in these races, for “some spectators near the finish of our 75 yards’ event had me in the lead close home, but he apparently veered slightly off course and was beaten right on the touch.”

“After Rosenthal and myself, my brother David, finished third in both our races; fourth was Grenny Barrett, who would feature on a far different stage many years later as a member of the popular Country and Western pop group, Custer’s Last Band, and fifth was Grenny’s twin brother, Gordon, who won the boys’ high board diving.

The two principle events on the card at this much revered sporting occasion being held for the final time, were the men’s 100 yards and ladies 100 yards championships.

They were respectively won by Jim “Bull” Skelton and Margaret Stott. “Bull” Skelton, a powerfully built film star lookalike, earned his nickname due to his forceful forays as a water polo player where he also excelled.

Other winners before the grand finale plug was regrettably pulled, included Johnny O’Brien and Keith Summersgill, who coincidentally were the last two employees of Harry Bean whose butcher’s shop preceded the Hi Din Haw Chinese restaurant which was recently featured in the Craven Herald history and readers’ columns.

O’Brien winning the men’s high board diving championship for the fifth successive time, and Summersgill – better known in subsequent years for his rugby and running prowess – won the 50 yards Skipton district scouts championship.

And, winner of the novices race in this 1957 grand finale open air gala was Malcolm Jarvis who years later – as head of police in Nottingham, famously evicted Notts Forest Manager, Brian Clough from the City Ground.

A water polo match was a traditional grand finale show-closer, and on this poignant occasion, Skipton beat arch-rivals Otley 1-0 through a wonder-wallop shot from full-back, Jack Shaw, whose - then unborn granddaughter, Emma - would proceed to be North of England shot put champion.

Obviously then, something in the family genes!

Water polo rules include “no feet on the pool basement”, which was hardly likely in this pool for the depth was 18 feet.

Moorview Baths, up Shortbank Road, didn’t have the luxury of heated water, being understood to have been fed from a stream from Rankin’s Well.

It still had everything needed for the swimmer, diving boards, changing rooms and somewhere for spectators to watch, and there were plenty of them on gala days. When Moorview Baths closed, swimming moved to the new Aireville Pool.