British Swimming Coaches Association
The Birmingham Mail
Tributes paid during the
"Celebration of Life"
A TRIBUTE TO FG THAIN
Gerry Thain joined the staff of
King Edward VI Camp Hill School for Boys in 1956, on the very day that
the school moved to these new buildings. It was all so new, that for a
time the Headmaster’s office was on this stage. Those tall poplar
trees you see across the playground, around the lower pitches, were
newly planted saplings. Over the following decades, the poplars, the
school and Gerry Thain grew in stature together.
FG Thain was appointed: ‘to
assist with the teaching of French, to share the work in Physical
Education, and to take charge of swimming instruction’.
I know nothing of Gerry teaching
French. By the time I joined the staff in 1971, he was: a valued
member of the English department, Head of PE and Games, and had most
definitely ‘Taken charge of swimming instruction’, to the extent that
they were digging up the old tennis courts to make way for the School
Pool, which was finally opened in 1972.
John Cleak, whose 33 years at
Camp Hill coincided with Gerry’s 31, remembers those early years in
the 1950s, how Gerry, before he had reached the higher echelons of
swimming officialdom, still had time for his own sporting activities:
fives, hockey, football, squash, tennis - but swimming was already his
Sunday mornings he used to go to
King’s Heath Baths with four colleagues, with the thought that he
might teach them Life Saving. There, to Gerry’s embarrassment, the
others ‘larked about’, diving, bombing, swimming lengths underwater.
If they had been younger, they would no doubt have spent the rest of
the sessions doing all drills on butterfly. Only one of that group
ever gained his Life Saving Award, although, in consolation, John
Cleak is among those privileged few who have sighted Gerry Thain
Regarding Life Saving Awards,
Gerry’s early success with the pupils was much more encouraging. In
the 1958 school magazine, among all the successful gala results, Gerry
notes: “34 boys achieved Life Saving awards, next year we want 50”.
Was it 50? The 1959 magazine reads: “…The total of 74 Life Saving
awards is a new school record”, and then, typical Mr Thain: “Next
year, it could be better.” Always better. Always looking for
improvement, that was Gerry. If you were admiring some top club
swimmer racing through the water, Gerry might quietly say: Yes, but
look at their right hand entry. That little finger is still wrong!
With old boys keen to continue
their swimming, the club went Open, and soon Camp Hill Edwardians was
regularly reaching the national club finals, with Gerry also making
his mark on the national swimming scene.
About this time, Mr Thain, or
‘Four Teams! Go!’ as he was sometimes called, successfully undertook a
three year external Master’s Degree in Education. And all this in
addition to his ‘stewardship’ of the school pitches, arranging
fixtures for all inter-school games, his club and school swimming
matches, his ASA commitments at home and abroad, to say nothing of a
full teaching timetable, and his loving care of a succession of cats.
When I think of Gerry, three
words spring to mind: Cool, Calm and Collected.
Cool: Not Gerry, but the Pool!
Gerry wanted water at a good training temperature, water with a bit of
a bite. It seemed to me the pool was always cool!
Calm: Yes, Gerry was not a man to
flap. On the biggest of hectic occasions, he was a calm person, with a
Collected: Amazing! The People
Gerry ‘collected’ to the cause; be it one of his ‘Top-Men’ taking a
junior school games team to some cold, wet, winter venue, or you in
the swimming club, so many willing helpers! That was one of his gifts,
inspiring others to get involved.
I thank God for so many, good
memories of Gerry Thain, and I’m sure you do too.
Gerry and Mary had no children
and very few near relatives, but I was reminded of that verse in Psalm
68: “God sets the solitary in families”.
And what a family Camp Hill
Edwardians is: loyal through the years, and here today. Gerry earned,
and repaid that loyalty one hundred fold, by giving himself for each
of his ‘children’.
As members of another ‘family’,
King Edward VI Camp Hill School for Boys, we too would join in adding
our tribute to Gerry Thain – a dedicated teacher, esteemed colleague,
apologise if I have missed anything! If I have please email
firstname.lastname@example.org and I will
post it. Many thanks, Steve