The Brentford and Chiswick Swimming Club president has told of her sadness as the much-loved club prepares to close.

Selfless couple Norma and Michael Cheetham have taught thousands of children to stay afloat but are being forced to shut down the club after 40 years due to a lack of volunteers offering their spare time to teach beginners in the water.
  
Mrs Cheetham, who has been associated with the charity since its launch, has taught swimming skills to everyone from children aged five to pensioners aged 85.

"I think the thing I will miss the most will be the first time a child can take off their arm bands, that moment is just wonderful," she said.

The club started life as two separate organisations - the Brentford Swimming Club, which was founded in 1896, and Clifden Swimming Club, which was originally part of Ealing Swimming Club.

The two clubs merged on January 1, 1970, and operated from Brentford Baths in Clifden Road until its closure in 1990 before moving to Brentford Fountain Leisure Centre in Chiswick High Road. But the move saw the club shrink in size from 350 to just under 200 members.

"It's terribly sad," said Norma, 66, of Tarkwood Road, Isleworth. "We just can't find the voluntary help we need, most of us running it are in our 60s now. We hoped that some of the parents of children we teach would step up and then we would have put them on a teaching course, but unfortunately all the help we have been getting is quite unreliable."

The club, which is a non profit making charity, will be donating all their savings to the RNLI.

"I am really pleased to be able to give this money to the lifeboats," Norma said. "All the officials, teachers and helpers gave their time free of charge, this is all we have left after paying for pool hire, affiliation to the Amateur Swimming Association and other running costs."

Thousands of people have learnt to swim since the club opened, including Norma's husband Michael.

"I actually taught Mike to swim 26 years ago and now he has been teaching others for the past 25," she said. "I'm sure that all the current and past members would second me in a vote of thanks to all the people who have given service to the B&C over the last 39 years, a list that is too large to print here."

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