Gerry Thain Tributes...  Received via Email

Gerry Thain MBE (FGT) 1926 - 2013

Gentleman, Inspirational Coach, Legend.

Donations to Gerry’s favourite charity “Medecin Sans Frontieres” are most welcome and can be made online here...


BBC WM Interview with Mike Le Resche: MP3 version Click Here... Version for iDevices in M4a format: Click Here...

BBC WM SPotY TV sequence 2008 - Click Here...             BBC WM Radio Interview - Click here...


Tributes received via Facebook                                Tributes received via Email




It was with great sadness that I learned of Gerry’s passing. Gerry taught me PE and swimming when I first started at Camp Hill in 1964. I well remember how smartly he used to dress in immaculate white plimsolls which enabled him to move almost silently around the school buildings. For reasons now possibly lost in the mists of time all the younger boys at school called him “Daddy” Thain. Among his colleagues on the staff were some who would administer private beatings to boys they caught in the act of some misdemeanour, but Gerry’s was a far nobler spirit and he stood out as a man whose integrity, firmness of purpose and warmth was usually more than enough to correct the wayward. Gerry taught me to swim, trained me as a sprinter and always treated me with the avuncular kindness everyone else has commented on.

In later years I knew him as a colleague. I joined the teaching staff at KE Five Ways in 1976 and would frequently pitch my swimming team against his in the annual rivalries. Camp Hill almost always won, but on the odd occasion that we triumphed against his team he would give me that enigmatic smile of his and make us both a cup of coffee in his office.

I remember him with great affection.

Andy Terry



I remember Gerry from the fifties when I was swimming for a school in the same foundation (King Edwards Five Ways) and how during those years the K E Camphill School came to dominate the Greater  Birmingham Grammar Schools Gala. Years later I saw him on TV poolside at Seoul Olympics (I think) and then in the 90's at a swim meet in Bristol where my daughter was competing. He seemed unchanged from my youthful recollection as still the same enthusiastic leader. I was sorry to see from your website of his death this January, I doubt we shall see many able to maintain the commitment of over sixty years that Gerry gave to this sport and the youth of Birmingham.

Richard P Mair



We would like to send our deepest condolences to all the friends and family of Gerry Thain.  A man who was clearly respected in so many ways.  Please accept our heartfelt sympathies during this difficult time

Fox Hollies Swimming Club



I only knew Gerry Thain as a pupil at Camp Hill from PE lessons and the weekly visits to local swimming baths. I’m sure that he would have remembered me, not for being a good swimmer but for being one of his failures as, despite years of tuition, by the time I left I could just about swim. I don’t think that put him off as he went on to greater things in the swimming world.

I was one of the many that helped raise funds for the pool back in the late 60s and early 70s, buying the pens and helping out at many of the fundraising events held at the school. One event that springs to mind was when the model railway club had set up their layouts in the gym and Gerry was most concerned that we should not damage the floor insisting on a thick tarpaulin to cover the polished wood. There may have been a little damage at the edges but I think we got away with it.

After many years of fund raising the pool was finally build but by that time I had left the school. On a visit to the school several years later I met him and he did remember me and invited me to swim in the then recently opened pool.

I last visited Camp Hill in March 2012 for the Old Edwardians dinner and by chance found out that he was over at the pool with his beloved swimming club, but by the time I went over there he had gone home. I would have loved to have met up with him for what would have been the last time. He is one of the few teachers at Camp Hill that I remember well so, despite his lack of success in teaching me to swim, he has left a lasting impression in my memory. Farewell Gerry and long may your memory and inspiration last.

Keith Wevill (Camp Hill 1964 – 1971)



Gerry was my only coach, for over 40 years. Every length I've ever swum (which wasn't probably enough) he's been there in some way. From day 1 at Monument Road, through watching my then Olympic hero Martin Edwards training at the brand new pool (I still remember Gerry shouting 'Take your Marks...Ice Cream' instead of 'GO' for some bizarre reason), to his unbelievable resilience and international support for Masters;  he's taught me so much about swimming and myself, values that I'm proud to pass on to my children and the swimmers I help to coach. We're all grieving now, but we've been the lucky ones, to have been on the receiving end of a 'GOOD' and, as we matured, a handshake and a hug. The world is a better place for FGT, in spite of his terrible writing.  We'll never forget you, Gerry, thank you so much for everything.

Alan Cooper



It’s taken me some time but I have finally (with many tears) been able to write a little something about the man whom I have an unwavering amount of respect, loyalty and love for.

Over the 20 years I have known Mr Thain he has taken on many roles in my life: always my inspirational coach, intent on making me a fly swimmer, interested in my times even though I am never the fastest at a gala. A very honest and nurturing boss when I was told to take on and run the junior side of the club (and told I must now call him Gerry). A friend and grandfather figure in every other aspect of my life, of which he was always interested (especially my many injuries and ailments which he disapproved of amusingly). 

Over the last 5 years especially, he has taught me so much about coaching, being a team manager and how to treat the swimmers and their families, and he really was one of the kindest and most selfless people I have ever known.  The world of swimming, alas the world of sport, is truly saddened without Gerry as a coach, let’s hope some of us can step up and try to keep his way of coaching alive.  The world itself is at a loss without this truly amazing man.  

Gerry I miss you, I love you and I will do my best to try and make you proud.

Heather Tierney



Reading the tributes that have been written has made me realise that I just don't have the words to write down what an amazing man Gerry was, but I am going to try. In my eyes, 'The boss' was special, a real inspiration, he had the patience of a saint and a great sense of humour (a lot of the time at my expense!) and best of all a friend.

10 years a go I met Gerry at the Wycombe open meet, and he invited me to join his club when I moved to Birmingham. Little did I know that my CH journey had started.

He took me under his wing as a very young masters swimmer and an inexperienced coach. He invited me to be part of the CH family and for this I am truly grateful. He has made me 'Jane Talker' and I couldn't thank him enough.

Everyday I think about you. Everyday I miss you. Thank you Gerry x

Jane Stalker


Gerry you were such an amazing coach, mentor and an inspiration to people all over the world for many years. All those years ago when you started Camphill Edwardians Swimming Club and had the vision of what the club could achieve and the many swimmers and parents who would be adopted by you as the Camphill Edwardians family is simply amazing, also the great work you have done for British Swimming is truly outstanding, thank you for having faith in me and giving me a chance to start coaching working with amazing swimmers and coach's and also for welcoming Charlotte, Tracy and myself to become part of the Camphill Edwardians family, we will miss you very much and you will always be in our thoughts and I know every time we are at the pool you will be watching over all of us. God Bless

Kevin, Tracy and Charlotte Bailey




I am another person who swam for Camp Hill in the 1960’s. Gerry was a slightly scary individual to the younger boys but he was the reason behind the success of that team, both school and club. In the late 60’s there was also the water polo team! Fond memories of a tremendous coach and character.

Bill Lewis



I was very sad to learn this weekend that Gerry Thain had passed away. As someone else has said, I am sure he would not want us to lament him, but more to remember with gratitude the influence he had on swimming in general, on swimming in the West Midlands, and on individuals who came into contact with him.

On a personal level my first memory of Gerry was when I was swimming in Nottingham in the early 60’s and my coach continually referring to “Mester Thain” – then in his role at Midland District. I came into regular contact with him during my time at Midland District events and on the District Executive Committee. I last saw him at Sheffield at the National Masters Championships at the end of October last year.

Gerry had a quiet, yet forceful influence on our sport, the effect of which will long survive him. It is humbling to read the comments that have been posted about Gerry and the influence that he had on so many individuals. This demonstrates the true legacy of our sport – the positive effect that we have on the lives of individuals. 

In my current role as President, on behalf of the members of the ASA, I express our condolences to his family and close friends, and give thanks for his unique contribution to swimming. From a personal perspective I am grateful to have known him.

Josie Grange - ASA President 2013



It is with great sadness that I learnt today that Gerry Thain had passed away peacefully. He will I am sure be missed by the many swimmers who passed through his club and were inspired by his quiet and effective coaching. However his influence was much wider than this in swimming through his work both nationally and Internationally he will be greatly missed by so many in the sport he loved. 

Gerry was passionate beyond words on swimming and often spoke up for the swimmers in perhaps a way others could not I can recall many moments in my time working in swimming as a volunteer in Birmingham when others stood firm against change and Gerry would speak up for providing more opportunity for the athletes. Gerry would often speak up when he felt that administrators had forgotten the swimmers and lost their way in their rules and regulations and his wise words were influential in making people listen to a man with a passion for the sport. 

He has left an enormous legacy more than many and will be remembered for a long time in the sport he worked so hard for during his lifetime and the people he influenced

David Sparkes - Chief Executive British Swimming



Just a message for a fantastic man, I spent a great deal of time on the National team with Gerry and he never stopped supporting me as a swimmer and was always a support and a gentleman. He has had a great life and has inspired countless people over his time. You will be missed Gerry by a great deal of people. God Bless,

Mike Fibbens



Only those who trained/raced for him will truly know what swimming has lost, the man is irreplaceable, he taught my son David so much and the discipline of life. "In freestyle as in life keep your head down and your eyes wide open" words never forgotten after 20 years or more. Rest in Peace Gerry.

PS David still races-Masters-so tell Hoare/Baker/Hindson and Lee plus a few others to get back in the water, they have me back on the poolside here after 15 years !!

Graham and David Woodhall - Nova Scotia, Canada.


Gerry, you were always the perfect gentleman, a man who knew all and dobbed little! Love you lots and feel proud to have known you.  X x x x x x x x x

Gaynor Stanley



So sorry to hear the sad news regarding Gerry. I started swimming at Moseley Road baths around 1971 and have played polo ever since- Gerry has been a pretty much constant feature during the last 42 years. I will miss my banter with him on a Monday night! Deepest sympathy to all.

Mark Coles



Boldmere Swimming Club wish to send their condolences to everyone at Camp Hill Edwardian Swimming Club that knew and loved Gerry. The messages on your website from his friends are very moving, and are a window on how you all loved and respected him. For me, he was unsurpassed as a coach in Birmingham and a gentleman in every sense of the word. I will miss our conversations at the Warwickshire County Championships. 

Shirley Wigley (referee and Chairperson, Boldmere Swimming Club)



As I'm sat here in tears, I'm remembering an inspirational man who never gave up on anything or anybody. Gerry was a huge part of my life, taught me so much - not just about swimming, but about growing up, morals, skills & life in general. He's touched the hearts of so many people, and nobody had a bad word to say about him. My only regret was not keeping in touch as much as I should have done. But I do hope he knows how thankful I am for everything he did for me, how much I appreciate him believing in me, and how much I loved him. Gerry Thain, you helped to make me the person I am today. You're amazing, i hope you can see this now & understand how much of a true gem you really were. I'm sorry for not getting chance to see you, but I love you, and know you're in a better place now. Thank you for everything. x

Danni Bourne



So sorry to hear about Gerry - he has been a great inspiration to numerous swimmers over his many years in the sport and always proud of their achievements whether they have been within the sport or in their personal lives. 

All through the years that I have known him - from swimmer to swimming mom - children have always known where they stood with him - a word, a look was all they needed and he has always had their respect - thoroughly deserved.  If ever a training video is done about "How to be the 'Perfect' Coach" then they could do no better than to have used Gerry. Kind regards and thanks

Helen, Tony, Yvette and Stuart Baker



He was a true sporting gent we had many a tussle with the camp hill team in the nineties Gerry was always positive and friendly, I cannot recall any occasion where he was anything but supportive, I learned a great deal from him, will remember him with respect

Brian Phelps ex Perry Beeches



I knew Gerry for more than 30 years in my capacity as an official and coach.  I always found him to be a perfect gentleman, who was one of the quietest men on the poolside, but you were always aware of his presence.  The sport is now missing one of its greatest ambassadors.  We will all miss his presence and quiet dignity.

Dave Marsh (Referee & Head Coach Perry Beeches SSS)



Another light has gone out. We're going to miss you Gerry. Friend, neighbour, connoisseur of alcoholic beverages, animal lover, mentor, confidant, financial and retirement adviser, judge and moral commentator on the wrongs of society. Oh and not forgetting the definitive swimming Principal and Coach. Hoping we'll meet up again at some point, but not yet! 

Paul and Jan Millington



It was 1960 when I first met Gerry delivering his newspapers to his house in Portman Road kings Heath, I recognised him as the man who coached swimmers at Kings Heath baths. He would always give advice to anyone who asked about swimming training. 

I got to know Gerry the person during my Camp Hill Polo days at the school pool and again over the last 10 years swimming masters for Camp Hill.
Gerry never changed for me , he always offered sound constructive advice you respected with a smile.  He will be sadly missed by all who knew him.
May the Sun always shine on your face with the wind on your back. It was a pleasure knowing you.

Bernard Wills



It has taken me a few days to organise my thoughts and write a tribute that is fitting to one of the most wonderful, selfless men I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. 

Mr Thain reminded me of how much i loved swimming when I joined Camp Hill after being forced to leave another club due to personal difficulties. He encouraged me to push myself to the limits of my ability and took the time to understand what my strengths were as a swimmer (unfortunately that meant 10 x 200m fly sets for me, but I remember them fondly!). 

Mr Thain knew each member of his swimming family well and inspired generations of young Camp Hillians to always do their very best. This attitude is something that I know all of us will have taken forward in our adult lives and even though we may no longer swim, we are all better people because of the discipline, perseverance and determination that Mr Thain taught us. 

The world of swimming lost a truly wonderful coach when Mr Thain passed, but his star will forever shine brightly within the memories of those who knew and loved him. RIP Mr Thain, you were one in a million x 

Louisa Ball


I very much look forward to joining the fray again in the pool though I expect it will be quite different without Gerry around - other than in spirit, which I expect will be with us every session. 

So nice to read the comments online from all those that knew Gerry for so much longer than I did. Despite the short period for which I knew Gerry I certainly felt that there was "something" about him. Looking forward to seeing you all again soon

Jojo Neff



We have just heard the sad news that Gerry has passed away and it is regretful that we have not seen him for a number of years; although we are comforted by the many tributes we have read today. Gerry was without doubt a great inspiration to us all and so many people are saddened by this news. A great man with a dry sense of humour that had a tremendous impact on our early lives and indeed the discipline he instilled on us has definitely influenced our achievements later in life. Thank you for being in our lives Gerry; maybe about time we got back in the pool. 

David & Tracey Beavan


Having had the pleasure of knowing Gerry for the past 40 years in my capacity of Chairman of Triple S Swimming Club and later Warwickshire County Swimming Secretary I found him the most honest and genuine person.  I had the privilege of working with Gerry at Club, County and Midland Districts level, his vast knowledge of swimming was a great help to a person like myself when I was quite new to the sport and he always had a smile and a welcoming handshake whenever we met and even at the recent Diddy League meetings at which I was officiating he was his usual genuine self.  A truly inspirational man within the swimming world and he will be greatly missed.  I consider myself fortunate to have known Gerry.

Malcolm Hughes, Ex Chairman of Triple S Swimming Club and Ex Swimming Secretary, Warwickshire. 



I was thinking, “what was it about Gerry that we all loved so much“? Was it, his quiet, unassuming manner? Was it that thin smile and nod of acknowledgement interspersed with the occasional but heart-felt, “Good”? Was it his unflappability, he'd seen it all before and always gave measured and meaningful comment. He actively shunned the lime-light yet we as Camp hill Edwardians achieved so much under his sole leadership. As you can see I'm struggling to put into words why he was so enigmatic. I think he had great empathy with us all and never held any grudges. I'm sure at times some, including myself, tested his patients to the limit but I think he saw good in everyone. There by, above all else he earned our respect and admiration.

Mr Thain, Gerry – it has been an absolute honour to know you and be part of your gang. I'm sure we will all miss you very much but hopefully, rejoice in our own individual memories of life at Camp hill under your guidance and leadership. Many thanks.

Paul Tainty



I arrived at Camp Hill from Colmore Road junior school, where Mary [warm, kind & lovely] taught, in 1962. She warned Gerry to "expect" me: I had managed to be caned 3 times at Colmore Road in less than 2 terms! I could swim about 1 length but neither my lack of ability nor my disciplinary record was much of an obstacle to Gerry. We trained before school, at lunch times, after school & all over the city whether the heating was working or not! Moseley Road Baths heating wasn't working one winter & we couldn't see from one end of the pool to the other for the steam from our bodies; Gerry having a voice like a foghorn probably helped here!  
Gerry was tough but there was always that twinkle & that dry humour. I particularly remember forming into multiple teams for "width relays" at the end of tough training sessions [in with the public] at Kings Heath Baths: such a lot of fun with Gerry trying to catch us out as often as he could by varying the rhythm & steps of "on your marks, get set,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,GO. A favourite was just GO with his backed turned when nobody was ready!

Of course, like many others, I spent my school career raising money for the pool that was built after I left Camp Hill in 1969.It is hard to imagine how much work Gerry put in to realise that dream. It is even more difficult to picture how a man could sustain such an extraordinary effort throughout his life.

I saw Gerry for the first time for about 40 years a couple of months ago. I am glad that I did, regret not seeing him more & appreciate the sacrifices he [& Mary] made for us all.

John Lilley



I first knew Gerry in 1960 ish when Camp Hill used to swim against St Pauls at Cheltenham. He was such a gentlemen

Jeremy Burbidge



I apologise if I have missed anything! If I have please email and I will post it. Many thanks, Steve



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