Founder and long time coach of Camp Hill Edwardians Swimming
Gerry Thain founder and long time
coach of Camp Hill Edwardians Swimming Club who died in January 2013.
Gerry arrived in Kings Heath in 1956 to take up the position
teaching P.E. with some English and a little French at the newly opened King
Edward VI Camp Hill Boys Grammar School built on the former Cartlands
estate off Vicarage Rd.
Gerrys aquatic passion soon became evident taking the
school youngsters to local swimming pools to improve their swimming and life
saving skills. Starting a club for boys only at first, and then opening the
club to girls as well because of pressure from the boys parents eager for their
daughters to join in.
The small club grew from strength to strength under the guidance
of Gerry and his wife, Mary, and very soon swimmers were travelling from far
and wide to become part of the Camp Hill family. Despite having no children of
their own Gerry and Mary found themselves surrounded by a family greater than
they could ever imagine.
Gerry managed to get a 25m swimming pool built on the school
site in 1972 and there were training sessions each weekday evenings, Saturday
mornings and 2 early morning sessions for the elite swimmers.
In the 1980s Camp Hill Edwardians swimming rose to the top
qualifying for the National Speedo League final eight times in nine years and
finishing third in 1982.
By now Gerry was becoming recognised nationally as an
outstanding coach and stepped on to the international stage managing the
British teams at several events including the World and European Championships.
Perhaps the highlight of his career came later that decade when he was chosen
to manage the G.B. team at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul and in 1989 was
awarded the prestigious Harold Fern award for the most outstanding contribution
to swimming at national and international level.
Club members reveal, however that while this modest man found
such awards very humbling this did not change his ever grounded nature and he
continued to quietly coach his family of swimmers at his treasured school pool
in Kings Heath.
Further recognition followed and in 2001 the International
Olympic Committee recognised Gerry for his remarkable contribution as a
volunteer to the development of sport and Olympism, and to the promotion of
friendship and solidarity among peoples and presented him with the I.O.C.
Gerry and the Queen in 2003.
He would not have realised it then, but an even greater mark of
respect for his career was due to follow in 2003. He was honoured by the Queen
and awarded an M.B.E. for services to swimming.
Gerry receiving BBC Midlands
unsung hero award in 2008.
These accolades including a further honour in 2008 of the BBC
Midlands Unsung Hero award, were a source of great pride for him and the club,
but Gerry despite over 50 years of service in the swimming world was still
quoted as saying I got a lot more out of it than I put in.
A short piece of film shot by the BBC on the eve of the Unsung
Hero award can be viewed on
Gerry coached 3 Olympians, Martin Edwards 1972, Graham
Brookhouse 1988 &1992, and Georgina Lee 2000 & 2004.
Georgina Lee (with Commonwealth
medals) and Gerry
Georgina also won Gold Silver & Bronze at the 2002
Commonwealth Games and a Bronze medal at the European Championships in 2001.
The club has stood out most prominently in recent times for its
thriving masters team who currently boast more than one British, European
and world record holder. Gerry's boundless commitment saw him travel to all
corners of the globe to support his swimmers and even in his mid 80s he jetted
off to Italy with his world masters athletes.
Sadly Gerry who was 86 years old, past away on the
4th January 2013. The club has continued to thrive with over 250
members run by enthusiastic volunteers following Gerry's example.