Major Bell swimming gala makes a splash in its 61st year

Swimmers from Parish School, who won the girls' trophy for large schools.
Swimmers from Parish School, who won the girls' trophy for large schools.

A swimming gala that is one of the most enduring school sports competitions in the country did Gainsborough proud again on Saturday night.

West Lindsey Leisure Centre staged the annual swimming gala of the Gainsborough and District Primary Schools’ Sports Association, which was held for the 61st time.

With a terrific turnout of 11 schools, including first-time entrants Ingham, and a packed house of more than 120 spectators, the event proved that it is going from strength to strength.

After a fantastic evening of high-quality swimming, the main trophy, the coveted Major Bell, which is now 100 years old, was won by Saxilby, who beat Parish by four points.

A total of 43 races were held, with Saxilby also landing the boys’ trophy for large schools, and Parish sharing the girls’ equivalent for large schools with Whites Wood Academy.

Delighted Parish swimmer Emily Beattie said: “We were amazing. We did so well to win the trophy. Everybody was cheering and clapping.”

The other boys’ trophies for medium-sized schools and small schools were won by Lea and Ingham respectively, while the other girls’ trophies were won by Sturton (medium-sized schools) and Marton (small schools).

Split into the three different size-groups, the schools contested races in individual 50m races and 75m relay races, showing fine technique in front crawl, backstroke and breaststroke. It was then on to the championship races, which saw the best six children from the school-size races compete to be crowned the fastest.

The gala finished with a cannon relay race in which three boys and three girls from each school had to each swim a length.

The evening’s entertainment also featured a demonstration by 15-year-old county swimmer Lydia Smith, an ex-Parish pupil who took part in this very gala several years ago and now competes for Gainsborough Dolphins. She swam the 50m breaststroke in a brilliant 33 seconds and the 50m backstroke in 31 seconds and was wished good luck as she prepares for an international gala in Scotland in March.