|The Rushden Echo and Argus, 1st July 1955, transcribed by Jim Hollis
Part of the ‘Spotlight on Rushden’ series
He’s first in the swim every day in season
Puffing at his pipe as he looks through his window on the Rushden swimming pool is Thomas the Philosopher. “Now take this question of noise,” he says. “People are surrounded by noise at work, then in the evening they must have the TV or radio on.
“You need quiet now and then, I believe in it I have ten-minutes nap after dinner every day, and I feel all the better for it.”
Thomas’s full name is Mr. Thomas William Elliott, superintendent at Rushden Baths, and when he talks to you he never stops looking out of the window.
c1960 at the Baths where he taught local children to swim
It isn’t that he wants to be rude. “You see, I’m responsible, and if anyone gets into difficulties it’s my job to spot them.” he says.
Often, over the cries and the splashing of the swimmers he will hear a child’s voice with a note of urgency in it, and down the steps he’ll go to see that all is well.
Meanwhile he talks on in philosophical vein.
“Take road accidents now. In every class and every walk of life you get selfish people. They’re going to have everything their own way, even on the highway.
“But don’t forget what the Bible says the wicked shall flourish, but only for a time!”
Mr. Elliott knows all there is to know about the Rushden bath, for he has held the job ever since May 4, 1929, when the bath was opened.
That is, except for a year and nine months as a Naval sick bay attendant during the war, service which he added to four years in the first world war.
“Wartime days were our busiest at the baths,” he recalls. “We used to have evacuees and soldiers here then, and swimmers numbered anything from 900 to 1,200 a day.”
A feature of the baths now is the large number of school-children attending. Not only the Higham and Rushden schools but rural schools at Irchester, Harrold, Riseley, Wymington, Raunds, Kimbolton, Podington, Keysoe, Sharnbrook and Great Staughton travel to Rushden for swimming.
Sometimes several buses which have brought in country children are lined up outside. Then at night adults arrive so many on warm evenings that Mr. Elliott has to declare hourly sessions to give everyone a chance.
“What we need now is a covered bath for winter.” he says. “Apart from other advantages, that would give really promising swimmers a chance to practise all the year round.
“It is said that all baths are run at a loss, but we must certainly save on the health service, both from the point of view of improvement in health and the lives saved every year because people have learned to swim a few strokes.
“Because we have a bath, 75 per cent of Rushden young people can swim now.”
And Mr. Elliott practices what he preaches, for he is a swimmer himself. Each morning in summer when he arrives at the bath, his first action is always the same.
He changes and goes for a swim before the day’s work begins.