A FOND FAREWELL TO A GREAT BARRACUDA
Published: Tuesday, December 6, 2016
It was with great sadness that we heard that our longstanding former President, Harry Forrest, had passed away on the 24th November 2016 at the age of 91.
Harry’s involvement with Leyland Barracudas began in 1974 when there was a public meeting at the then newly built leisure centre. The Centre Manager was seeking volunteers who might be interested in starting up a swimming club. Harry, along with Brian Hunter and myself were amongst those who volunteered. Brian has worked tirelessly over the years for the club in many roles and, like Harry, continued his involvement way beyond that of his son Robert. I was the first Chief Coach and continued this role for 14 years until I stepped back to devote time to my family.
With the town never having had a swimming pool before the club started with only one swimming member who had any former competitive experience and that was Harry’s son Geoff. As the first club captain Geoff’s commitment to training and competition provided a valuable platform on which to build.
As a local Police Sergeant Harry knew everyone in town, which came in very handy over the years. He was appointed as the first Chairman of the club and then subsequently took on the role of President. He was always around doing what needed to be done, throwing his hand to most things. But with no financial support from the local council Harry’s contacts in the community and his enthusiasm for the club saw him coaxing physical and financial support out of businesses and individuals across the borough. When we first started looking for funding for club trophies Harry was there using his influence. When we moved to trying to find sponsorship for each event so we could buy better trophies, again Harry was there. Whatever the club needed Harry usually knew someone who could help and made it his business to get their support.
In 1979 when the club decided to invite former Olympic Gold Medallist, David Wilkie, to do a ‘Swimalong with Wilkie’ event, Harry was a key member of the organising committee. The swim along was an opportunity for swimmers to meet David Wilkie as part of a sponsored swim event which the club were using to try to raise the funds to buy anti-wave lane ropes. At the time this was quite groundbreaking, as no other club in North Lancashire had any. Through the then President, Trevor Hemmings, Harry secured all sorts of guests as attractions to support the event. We had Formula 3 racing cars and their drivers, footballers from Preston North End and numerous other sports personalities and side attractions. The event was a great success and sufficient funds were secured to purchase the lane ropes you have today.
Harry was also a calm, considered Chairman and President. He was always in the background making sure the club ran smoothly. Listening to those who had a concern and facilitating things to a satisfactory outcome. His involvement continued long after Geoff stopped swimming. He still turned up for training sessions to make sure things were running smoothly, and was always quick to bring along prizes for the raffle so the club could keep generating funds. Whatever was needed Harry either was ‘the man that can’ or he knew him!
Starting with just two hours pool time a week, it took two or three years before the club had developed swimmers to the stage where they could enter swimming leagues and whilst some committee members were a little sceptical about going down this route, Harry was a keen supporter of the development. Once again his commitment to fund raising came to the fore as the club got its first team wear. As the club continued to progress they fought for more pool time and began to reap the rewards, winning the North Lancashire League, gaining promotion from the second division of what was then the Speedo League (now the Arena League), winning the Micro League and gathering many age group medallists along the way. This led to an ambitious venture of October half term training camps in Europe incorporating a competitive gala against the local club into the bargain. As you can imagine this required some additional fundraising and as always Harry was at the forefront, and though he didn’t travel with the club he always came along to see the swimmers depart on their journey and was usually around when they arrived back home.
Harry was a well respected member of the local community, both in his work as a Police Officer and latterly when he worked for the Probation Service. He was the proud recipient of the British Empire Medal, presented to him by the Queen for bravery in the line of duty. Away from work he was a keen golfer and played well into his 80’s; and an accomplished Whist player, again something he enjoyed well into his later years.
Harry had community service at his core and served this club for all of its 42 years, steering us through good times and challenging ones, always calm and determined. Those of us who knew him and served with him will remember him with great fondness. Those who never knew him but represent the Forrest house will hopefully take pride in what he achieved for this club. For other members current and future, we hope you will treasure and protect the legacy that Harry helped to build. It is because of what others have done before us that we are here today. Those of you who volunteer and keep the club going are custodians for this and future generations so let’s follow Harry’s lead, remembering the real reason we do what we do - the swimmers.