History repeats for first swimmer at Commie in 1970

Stuart Drysdale with his goggles outside the revamped pool
Stuart Drysdale with his goggles outside the revamped pool
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HE had no idea history was being made when he stepped through the doors more than 40 years ago.

But Stuart Drysdale won’t make the same mistake twice.

When the Royal Commonwealth Pool finally reopens after its three-year, £37 million revamp, the 59-year-old will be first in the queue – just like he was back in 1970.

An official opening ceremony took place at the new-look “Commie” yesterday, with Scottish Olympic champion David Wilkie back at the pool where he used to train.

By then, however, Stuart, from Brunstane, had in fact made his first splash in the pool when members of the care group he attends enjoyed an hour-long session on Monday.

Today, he’ll be back to retrace his footsteps and once again become the first paying punter through the turnstiles as it reopens to the public.

This time he’ll be well aware of the occasion’s importance.

Stuart said: “Last time I was only 17 and I wasn’t really bothered about being the first one in – it was just another day and I went in there with my friend.

“I remember that the pool seemed big, really big – the same to swim in as anywhere else but it seemed sort of luxurious. I remember thinking, ‘what am I doing here?’.

“Now that I know about it and what’s been done at the pool, I think it’s great – it’s just fantastic.”

Stuart, who grew up in the south side of the city, became a regular at the pool, but the former debt collector and keen footballer was forced to stop swimming temporarily after suffering a blood clot in his brain in 1990.

He now receives care at the Pefferbank Day Centre, which was invited to the pool for Monday’s dip.

Recalling his health setback, he said: “I remember I was on the bus with a few friends and everyone was laughing and joking. I’d only had maybe one or two drinks earlier that day.

“Then suddenly I just stopped – stopped altogether. My mates were saying ‘Stu, Stu, are you all right?’, then I just hit the ground and they had to call the ambulance. I was out completely.”

Carer Kath Manners said despite not realising the importance of being the pool’s first customer at the time, Stuart was proud of his feat.

Ms Manners, 54, who has worked with Stuart since 2001, said: “Whenever we passed the pool before on the number 30 bus, Stuart would always say, ‘do you know I was the first person in there when it opened back in 1970?’.

“So when we heard that the pool was going to reopen, we e-mailed to tell them we had this person in the group and the pool manager got back to me and it was all arranged.”

Liz Atkinson, leisure manager at the Commonwealth Pool, said: “All of the staff at the Royal Commonwealth Pool are looking forward to welcoming our customers back through the doors of their much-loved venue again.

“Stuart will play a very important part on that special occasion.”