Club History

Author - Alec Mcleod-Bain (updated Nov 2012 by Irene Brownlee)

The "Heart of Midlothian" was immortalised in a novel by Sir Walter Scott, there is a Scottish Premier League Football Club of that name, and there is US, the Swimming Club that bears the famous name.

Founded in 1885 in the South side of the City, the Club is one of the oldest in the East of Scotland. Unfortunately we have no historical records relating to the Club's early years, but research has shown that at that time the Club was based at the Infirmary Street Baths. Research also shows that in 1925 the Club moved to the North side of the city to Glenogle Baths and this became our "home" for over 70 years, after which we moved to a modern 25 metre pool at Drumbrae.

Despite the lack of Minute books etc., research and various items of memorabilia give us some information, e.g. there were both Ladies and Gents Sections with 1 hour sessions each per week. We also learn that the Club closed down during both World Wars but, prior to the Second War in 1939, the Club's activities included Graceful Swimming, (the forerunner to Synchronised Swimming), Graceful Diving and Water Polo.

On re-opening in 1947 it took 2-3 years to build up the membership again and, as mixed training was not permitted, there were separate nights for each Section. Despite this, by 1950, a great achievement had been accomplished in that Club members held all 4 District Breast Stroke Championships available at that time, i.e. Senior and Junior at both Ladies and Gents Titles. Life Saving was taught for a number of years and the relevant members became most proficient and were very successful in both District and Scottish events.

The 1960s saw the first member to be selected for Scotland in the post-war years, and the later introduction of Age Group Championships saw many of the younger members gaining District and Scottish recognition by winning their Group Events.

As well as having a well-deserved reputation for being a "friendly, family Club", Heart of Midlothian Amateur Swimming Club was also a forward thinking "Competitive Club" and this was emphasised when it became one of the first Clubs in Scotland to appoint a Professional Head Coach in 1977. Successive Head Coaches have ensured that Hearts were always to the fore.

When Glenogle Baths was Hearts' home pool, all training sessions took place there, 6 days per week, but with increased membership, continuing rising standards in training and the need for specialised coaching, the Club now uses training facilities at a number of different Edinburgh Leisure and school pools across Edinburgh.

During the 1990's the then Head Coach, Ally Whike, did a magnificent job which resulted in the Club producing numerous Scottish Champions, Record Holders, etc., and it was capped with the selection of Kirsty Orr, at the age of 15, to become the first ever Club member to represent Great Britain. The event was the 1997 European Youth Olympics, after which Kirsty went on to gain further GB and Scottish honours. Kirsty subsequently became a key member of the Hearts coaching team.

Ally was a former member of the Club whose parents enrolled him as a 4 year old. He is currently Performance Director with Scottish Swimming and has continued the family connection with Hearts as his daughter is now a swimming member.

In the 2002 Commonwealth Games at Manchester, the Club was delighted that two Hearts members were selected for the Scottish Team, namely Kirsty Balfour and Gregor Tait. Although both were at that time training within the City of Edinburgh Swimming set-up, this again was another "First" as this was the first time Club Members had participated in these prestigious Games. While Kirsty raced to an excellent 7th. place in the 100 Breast Final, Gregor went even better and collected a Silver Medal for a brilliant swim in the 200 Backstroke.

These same two swimmers went on to represent Great Britain at the Olympic Games in Athens, 2004 and also at the Beijing Olympics in 2008. In 2004 Gregor Tait came 7th in the final of the 200 Back. He was also part of the Team GB relay team who made it to the final of the Mens 4 x 100 medley relay and finished 8th. In Beijing in 2008 he came 12th overall in the 100 Back and 8th in the 200.

In Athens, Kirsty Balfour swam 2.28.92 and was 5th in the semi-final of the 200 Breast - narrowly missing out on a place in the final. Kirsty was also part of the Womens 4 x 100 medley relay team who came 6th. In Beijing, she came 15th overall in the 100 Breast and 20th in the 200. In a fantastic swimming career, Kirsty also won Silver at the 2006 Commonwealth Games, Silver at the 2007 World Championships and Gold at the 2005 European Championships. As a matter of interest, Kirsty joined Hearts when she was 12 years of age and only 6 years later she was competing in one of the world's greatest sporting events - surely a great indication of the standard of coaching at all levels of the Club.

Another notable former Hearts swimmer was Kris Gilchrist, who competed in the Olympics in 2008 in Breast Stroke and narrowly missed out on a place in the London 2012 team. Kris also represented Scotland at the Commonwealth Games in 2006 winning bronze as part of the 4 x 100 medley relay team and in 2010 coming 5th in the 200 Breast. Kris won Gold at the World Swimming Championships in 2008 in the 200 Breast, and Bronze medals in the 200 and 4 x 100 medley relay at the European Championships in 2005

Continuing the good work, Phil Potter was appointed Hearts Head Coach in 2000 and helped develop Club swimmer Louise Pate, who was picked as one of the 69 athletes to represent Scotland at the 2004 Commonwealth Youth Games in Bendigo, Australia. Louise won a Bronze Commonwealth Youth Games medal swimming the Fly leg of the Scottish Women's 4 x 100 Medley Relay team as well as coming 5th in each of the finals in her 3 individual Fly events.

Louise was Scottish Senior Champion and is still the current Scottish record holder for short and long course 100 Fly. She went on to represent Team GB at the European Championships in 2007 and Scotland at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, coming 5th in the 4 x 100 medley relay.

Well done to all of these swimmers, we are immensely proud of them!

Hearts continues to thrive. In 2010 we celebrated our 125th anniversary with a range of events, including a celebration dinner. In 2012, we were awarded SwimMark Plus, the first club in Scotland to achieve this accreditation in Scotland. We were also runners up in the Team Awards of the Clubsports awards in recognition of the work we do with the Edinburgh Forresters/St. Augustines Community Sports Hub. We have a thriving Swim School and Masters section and we offer a structured pathway at every level to enable all of our swimmers to achieve their potential in the sport of swimming.

There are currently a whole host of youngsters at Hearts pushing to be the next stars of Scottish and British swimming and while not everyone can, or will, match the achievements of our Olympians, if you wish to join a friendly, progressive, top of the range, competitive swimming Club then 'Hearts" is the ideal choice for you.