Navy veteran, 90, becomes oldest to learn to swim in Edinburgh

Jimmy Johnston has been taking lessons for six weeks with the help of daughter Roslyn. Picture: Greg Macvean
Jimmy Johnston has been taking lessons for six weeks with the help of daughter Roslyn. Picture: Greg Macvean
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HE’S living proof that you’re never too old to fulfil your life’s ambitions.

On his last birthday, Jimmy Johnston turned 90 – but he’s still making a splash . . . literally.

Pic Greg Macvean - 13/12/2016 - 90 year old Jimmy Johnston who is taking swimming lessons at Portobello Swimming Centre.  Also pictured with his is his daughter Roslyn Johnston

Pic Greg Macvean - 13/12/2016 - 90 year old Jimmy Johnston who is taking swimming lessons at Portobello Swimming Centre. Also pictured with his is his daughter Roslyn Johnston

The great-grandad has amazed his friends and family by finally learning to swim.

Jimmy has been visiting Portobello Swim Centre with his daughter Roslyn for the past couple of months – and has mastered the front and back crawl in time for Christmas.

Bosses at Edinburgh Leisure are certain he’s the oldest person they’ve ever taught to perform in the pool.

Jimmy, who was brought up in Lasswade, Midlothian, used a wheelchair and has undergone six operations on his back, but refused to let that stop him from learning the new skill.

Despite having six operations on his back he’s still managed to learn

ROSLYN JOHNSTON

He said: “I’ve always wanted to learn to swim but I never got the chance when I was younger.

“Before I started swimming in Portobello I lost all my 
confidence, but everyone at 
the pool has helped me get it back.

“I hope my story will encourage other people to learn to swim.

“All of my children are trying to keep me going for as long as they can by keeping me fit, and I’m trying my best.”

Despite his previous lack of swimming ability, father of six Jimmy served time in the Navy.

He went on to become a farmer and ran a post office.

His family have kept him active since his wife Mina died five years ago.

Roslyn, who works at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, said: “One day we walked past Portobello Swimming Centre and my dad started telling me stories about it from his childhood.

“We went inside and the staff were so helpful.

“We’ve been back every week since then. He has done so well.

“My mum couldn’t swim either so together they used to enjoy other hobbies such as the sequence dancing.

“Despite having six operations on his back he’s still managed to learn.

“He’s a fantastic man and I hope his story will encourage others.”

Laura Fallen, swimming coordinator at Edinburgh Leisure, said Jimmy’s story proved anyone could learn to swim at any age.

She said: “To my knowledge Jimmy is the oldest person we have taught to swim.

“At first he would come to the pool with his daughter and she would pull him up and down on a float.

“When we spoke to him about swimming lessons, he decided to give it a go and now he can swim unaided.

“The reason Jimmy has done so well is because he has made time to practise in between lessons – he’s been dedicated.

“We get people coming to the pool in their thirties and forties that think they are too old to swim, but what Jimmy has achieved proves that it doesn’t matter how old you are.

“Anyone can learn to swim.”

courtney.cameron@jpress.co.uk