Keith Bewley – BSCA Obituary

Posted on January 17, 2017

Keith-Bewley.jpg#asset:1262In Britain today we awoke to a dark, miserable day in more than one way as we began to contemplate swimming life without a shining light of the British Coaching community.

Yesterday we were informed of the sudden and sad passing of Keith Bewley who for over 4 decades had been a coach to swimmers and mentor to his colleagues, but more than that he did it all with a love of life and forever a smile on his face. He was liked by all.

Following a successful swim career himself winning Silver & Bronze in the 1966 Commonwealth Games in Kingston, Jamaica, he went on to Coach on the GB Olympic Team in Moscow and Commonwealth Games of 1982, 1986 & 1990.

Whilst many of those more  recent to our sport will know Keith for his excellent work in Cardiff and before that as the National Head Coach in Ireland, it was his 27 years in Wigan where he won his reputation.

From coaching Olympian Margie Kelly in an 18 yard pool in Bootle, he progressed to build the empire of Wigan Wasps, where he coached not only Kelly but Gaynor Stanley, June Croft, the Osgerby twins and Steve Poulter, amongst many others.

Keith was one of the generation of professional swimming coaches being established in Great Britain of the 1970’s and 1980’s. He was known for his straight talking but also for his openness and willingness to share his views, experiences and knowledge.

Terry Denison MBE, coach to Olympic Gold medallist Adrian Moorehouse, said the following of Keith, “There will be so many stories about Keith. He was always fun to be with. I first spent time with him in Moscow 1980 where we shared a room in the Olympic Village. We often shared clinics. In the following years when Keith had those great swimmers at Wigan - like Steve Poulter, Anne and Janet Osgerby, Gaynor Stanley and so many others. I will remember him as one of those warm characters who made everyone feel welcome and was always fun to be with.”

It is that last comment that has been so resonant of the myriad of fond comments made about Keith on social media following the news of his death. He was a respected coach and swimming man, yes, but he was respected and above all “liked” just for being Keith Bewley.

He brought humour and smiles to that boredom that can ensue when chasing the hard miles of a closed skill sport like swimming. He was part of a community of coaches at the time, who given the chance to let their hair down, they most certainly did, but it didn’t affect their work. Some stories are legend (and shall remain so) but there are also the stories of light humour and cheekiness. The Derby Baths in Blackpool were for many years the hub of swimming competitions in Britain, where queues could be seen waiting outside to gain entry to Senior National events, National Age Groups and the famous ASA North West District Festival of Swimming. The entry point for swimmers and coaches was manned by a Concierge, suited in full regalia, initially checking all documentation rigorously before allowing entry. As the week wore on this became more lax and competitions sprung up with one to see who could gain entry with the most obscure item. Whilst it appeared that either a library ticket or a bookmark had won the day, Bewley well & truly trumped that with a slice of toast, fresh from the breakfast table. It had the pool deck in uproar.

When I first moved to the North-West of England to coach in Oldham I attended an evening workshop where Keith, Barry Prime, then at Stockport and Clive Rushton from Salford, all spoke. It was enlightening. I introduced myself to Keith and within minutes it was if we were old friends. He was engaging, funny but above all I found him helpful. At the time I was having to deal with a lot of internal political issues and he encouraged me not to weaken, to stick to my guns, to go for what I believed in. I did and won the day and his congratulations when success sprang from that for me, were heartfelt – it meant a lot to me, and his passing has struck me as it clearly has all those who had the good fortune to know him.

Keith was a strong & avid supporter of the BSCA. He encouraged coaches to join and be part of the coaching community. “If we don’t do it no one will do it for us,” he once said to me. So it is fitting that the current BSCA Chairman Jon Rudd, gives these highly appropriate words to close with.

He said, "Keith Bewley was one of the most successful and admired coaches ever to set foot on a pool deck in Great Britain. His achievements as a coach stand as a benchmark for any aspiring British coach, at both National and International levels. However, it is clear that he was so much more than mere medals and records suggest. His athletes truly believed in him and they became friends and admirers of him for life - the man, not just the coach. He will be sorely missed by the British swimming coaching community and our thoughts and condolences are with Hayley, Adam and family and to those that he influenced and guided over many wonderful years".

We encourage readers to view this excellent piece on the achievements of Keith Bewley by Craig Lord of SwimVortex

Brian McGuinness

Exec Director BSCA

On behalf of the BSCA

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