Star treatment for pool hero Trevor

Trevor Harrop outside North Lanarkshire Heritage Centre which was built on the site of Motherwell Baths.
Trevor Harrop outside North Lanarkshire Heritage Centre which was built on the site of Motherwell Baths.
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IN 1948 Trevor Harrop was one of seven members of Motherwell Amateur Swimming and Water Polo Club to represent Great Britain at the London Olympics.

He was back in London this summer as a guest of the British Olympic Association and during a trip to Motherwell, spoke to the Times & Speaker about the two experiences 64 years apart.

Trevor never harboured any ambitions to be an Olympic swimmer and at first swimming was just a way to keep clean as the family’s Parkhead Street tenement didn’t have a bathroom.

He said: “I started swimming when I was 10 or 11 after our mother sent me and my brother to buy season tickets for the baths in High Road.

“I won the Kerr Cup at 13 and that was as far as my ambitions extended, but one thing led to another and, having swum for the house at Dalziel High School, then the school and the club, eventually I found myself representing my country.”

Only a last-minute change to the squad allowed then 21-year-old Trevor to compete in the 100m freestyle in London as previously he had been snubbed by the selectors.

He said: “The selection team had a provisional collection of participants and I was invited to Loughborough, but wasn’t picked for the squad.

“An English fellow was chosen, but his times weren’t as good as mine. Then at the English Championships in Scarborough at the beginning of July I finished in the top three and he didn’t, so I was in.

“At that time it was a big deal for us, but no one else cared, particularly the dean at the dental school, where I was studying, who wouldn’t even give me two weeks off for the duration of the Games. I had to settle for one week.”

Nowadays athletes have a disciplined regime and have all their needs catered for when representing Team GB, but Trevor said that back in the 1940s there was no support for the athletes.

He said: “Unlike today there was hardly any organisation and there was a lot of stupid stuff - for instance, they didn’t give me any shoes, yet insisted on the correct way to wear a beret.

“I received a letter from the team manager telling me how to get to London, but I never so much as met a coach once I got there and it was up to the individual athletes to find out when their races were.

“It’s amazing the Games happened at all, but coming off the war there was so little time that I don’t blame anyone and they tried their best.

“I had an idea I wouldn’t make the final. I had read about the Americans and they were a solid team, and Wally Ris and Alan Ford ended up taking the gold and silver for them.

“I know what my time was, but in the context of the race I am not sure how I got on because, as I say, there was no one about to advise me.”

After the Games Trevor retired from active competition and a year later returned to Canada, where he was born, to begin his career as a dentist. This year’s Olympics were the first he has attended since.

He said: “I was delighted to accept the invitation from the BOA and it was wonderful meeting some of my peers whom I hadn’t seen for 64 years. It was just unfortunate I was the only one of the Motherwell contingent who made it.

“One thing that surprised me was the women who are swimming far faster than we ever did, but then we were rank amateurs.

“Had I been trying to compete today I wouldn’t have had a chance. Possibly if I was doing it full-time like today’s athletes, I could have proved good enough, but I don’t think I’d want to.

“I also saw Andy Murray in the tennis and the women’s basketball match between Britain and Canada, but when asked whom I was supporting I diplomatically said both teams!

“It was a good game and that’s all that matters.

“Sport is about keeping people healthy and the Olympics are about promoting peace between nations. Really, that’s all that counts.”