Swimming champ receives latest award

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One of Scotland’s most prolific swimming champions who learnt to swim at Stonehaven Open Air Pool and pursued a successful swimming career with over 1,000 aquatic awards has won his latest award, at the age of 83.

Ken McKay was taken to the Stonehaven pool when it opened in 1934 at the age of five with his Stonehaven mother Violet Williamson.

The 83-year-old is now proud to announce his latest award - Winner of the Sports Award as part of the 2012 McCarthy & Stone National Retirement Awards.

Mr McKay, who now lives in Hamilton, spent every summer at the Stonehaven pool where he learnt to swim and dive, and pre-war he recalls visits to the pool by the USA Olympic champion Peter Des Jardin and a Scotland v Belgium swimming event.

The swimming champion, who grew up on Allardice Street, has won six world titles, 40 British ones and 168 Scottish titles. Growing up in Stonehaven he recalls spending nights during the Second World War hiding under the stairs of his Stonehaven home during air raids and recalls the bomb crater created at the golf club.

Mr McKay trained hard at Stonehaven Open Air Pool and made the Olympic trials in 1948.

Mr McKay’s says his achievements are nothing compared to his wife Eleanor’s, who has swam in three Olympic Games and took home three Commonwealth titles. Eleanor won the 2000m breaststroke bronze medal in the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, and no Scottish female swimmer has won an Olympic medal since.

After marrying Eleanor in 1954, Mr McKay introduced his wife at the Stonehaven Pool Gala, where 1,500 spectators turned up to see Eleanor’s swimming display and Ken’s diving.

The couple attended a special reception for sports champions at Buckingham Palace in 1992, a 1948 Olympics reunion hosted by Princess Anne, and this year, his wife was invited to the Olympic opening ceremony, to a lunch with Princess Anne and the Mayor.

At the age of 83 Mr McKay still enjoys a swim in the pool but after he had to be dragged from the water and resuscitated following a cardiac episode in the pool in 2008, he was ordered to give up competitive swimming.

Former RAF jet pilot Mr McKay had to abandon his plans to tackle the over 80 Scottish record. He had arranged with the Scottish ASA to attempt the 50, 100, 200, 400 and 800m records all in the one race, and was confident on breaking all five records. At the time he said that his 50m freestyle time, for example, was 37 seconds, and the Scottish 80+ record was 61.5 seconds.

However after receiving mouth to mouth resuscitation at the side of Hamilton Water Palace, which he was informed by the hospital meant he only stood a 1 in 100 chance of survival, the former PE teacher recovered after a week in hospital.

At the time, Mr McKay said he would give up competitive swimming but would need to be physically dragged out of the pool again to give up swimming for pleasure.

The 83-year-old has a caravan in Stonehaven and enjoys visiting the town. When asked if he still goes swimming, he said with a grin on his face: “I enjoy going for a gentle swim but don’t do anything too strenuous.

“By the time I’ve chatted up the young ladies on reception, got changed, spoke to the lifeguards and people I know, I finally get in and then realise it’s time for me to get back out again!”

Mr McKay says his body has served him well over the years and said: “You can’t change growing old, but you can delay growing up!”.