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News > Branch News > Fred Parkes - an inspiration

Fred Parkes - an inspiration

23 Feb 2024
Written by Paul Barlow
Branch News

In September 1967 I enrolled at Campbell College. Some word of my being a strong swimmer must have preceded me as Fred Parkes, the school swimming coach, soon requested I give him a demonstration in the Ormiston pool. The new indoor pool at the main school was near completion but had not yet opened. I must have made an impression as Mr Parkes selected me for the school team.

When the indoor pool opened later the same year, I trained frequently and before moving up to the senior school I captained the Ormiston swimming team in a gala against the other junior house, Netherleigh. My strategy identified our swimmers who could win in strokes, not necessarily their favoured ones, but those calculated to win against specific strong opposing swimmers in certain strokes. Our aggregate wins led to our team victory.

Swimming was my favourite sport and I spent much free time in the pool training lane, often chatting after swimming sessions with Bill Graham, the school barber, who was based in the pool building. During my two years on the school team I was only narrowly beaten at backstroke by the Irish champion. At freestyle I often paired at 100 metres with former Olympian Andrew Hunter, who represented Ireland at the 1972 Olympics. Andy always won, but I sometimes beat him over the first 50 metres. What surprised me is that Fred Parkes never selected me for my strongest discipline, the breaststroke, as I have never been beaten at breaststroke. I also played water polo for the school and in June 1969, shortly after my 16th birthday, was awarded school swimming colours.

Fred Parkes was a former Ulster and Irish swimming champion, winning 15 swimming medals. His daughter Julie (one of only 38 young ladies who attended Campbell) competed in the Commonwealth Games in 1978 and 1982 as well as the LA Olympics in 1984. For a few terms Mr Parkes was also my mathematics teacher. Previous teachers didn't communicate mathematics, particularly algebra, as effectively as Mr Parkes and for the brief time he taught me, his personal enthusiasm caught my attention and improved my maths, 

I recently noticed Julie Brown took over as President of the Old Campbellian Society on 5th February 2024 and I wish her well in her new post.

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