Britain’s longest-serving lifeguard retires

Robbie MacGregor's life-saving skills have made him a regular fixture at city pools since 1972. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Robbie MacGregor's life-saving skills have made him a regular fixture at city pools since 1972. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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BRITAIN’S longest-serving lifeguard is throwing in the towel after more than 40 years of saving lives in the Capital.

Robbie MacGregor started keeping a watchful eye over Edinburgh’s Royal Commonwealth Pool in 1972, undertaking countless rescues of swimmers in difficulties.

The 64-year-old moved to Warrender Swim Centre, near his home in Morningside, three years ago while the RCP underwent a £37 million ­refurbishment.

Now he has decided to step down from the lifeguard chair to let the “next generation” take over.

He said: “I have really enjoyed working as a lifeguard all these years but I think 40 years is enough now.

“It’s hard because really it is my life – but it’s time.

“I loved my job because of the people and it will be the people I miss.”

While he has saved more people than he can remember, there are a few major rescues which Robbie said will live with him forever.

He said: “One of the funnier rescues was in the Commonwealth Pool in the 80s.

“There were these three Irishmen who had all had some refreshments that day and decided to jump off the dive boards not realising they would land in water five metres deep.

“The first one went in and started to struggle and then his mate went in after him and grabbed on to the first one and the two of them started going under together.

“To make matters even worse, the third one jumped in and grabbed on to them too so all three were sinking.

“I had to just dive and get them to the side one by one. They certainly got a shock.”

Another rescue that stands out was in 1991. Epileptic schoolteacher Mary Wilkinson nearly drowned after suffering a fit while swimming.

Her heart stopped and Robbie had to “bring her back from the dead” using cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). She was so grateful that, ten years to the day, she presented him with a cake which read, “Tenth Anniversary of You Saving My Life, Robbie”.

Better swimming teaching means Robbie’s rescues have become fewer in recent years.

He said: “The major thing I have noticed throughout the years is that I need to rescue fewer people and I really think that’s because people are much better swimmers now.

“I think the teaching programmes are really doing their job and it makes my life a lot easier. There a lot more aides now to help with rescues. Back when I first started, you only had the big catch poles or you had to get in yourself.”

While working at the Commmie Pool, Robbie enjoyed watching the 1986 Commonwealth Games and was on hand to lifeguard for some penguins which visited for a BBC documentary in 1983.

“I have had a great run of it,” he said.