Renowned St Albans swimming teacher dies at 97

A SWIMMING teacher who taught generations of children in the district has died.

Lena Neale, 97, passed away on July 13. She had been living in a care home in Bedford but had spent most of her life in St Albans.

During her life she taught swimming, diving and lifesaving for four decades beginning in the 1950s at the pool in the Watersplash Hotel, London Colney, and at Cottonmill pool in the city.

With outdoor pools and no heating, all lessons initially took place during the summer term. But when Westminster Lodge opened, Mrs Neale was one of the first swimming teachers to work there and deliver year-round sessions.

Schools like Margaret Wix, St Julian’s and Townsend eventually got their own pools where Mrs Neale also delivered sessions.

A founder member of St Albans Swimming Club, the St Albans branch of the Royal Life Saving Society and St Albans Diving Club, Mrs Neale was committed to swimming throughout her life.

Even in her 70s she was the life-saver for the over 50s swimming sessions at Westminster Lodge.

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When not poolside, Mrs Neale was dedicated to her three children and her husband Charles. Her daughter Rosemary said she was devoted to her six grandchildren and four great grandchildren.

She said: “She was quite a remarkable woman and as one of her friends described her, she was ‘Mrs Swimming’ in St Albans for many years. She was probably the first feminist I have known – although she would never have called herself one – as she created a wonderful home for us while fulfilling her own career and acting as secretary/bookkeeper for my father’s business at the same time.”

Rosemary paid tribute to her mum whom she said was “loving, kind and had a wonderful sense of humour.”

She added: “She was of a generation who were never afraid of hard work, never borrowed money – they did without if they couldn’t afford it – and had a strict moral code. Her motto was: honesty is always the best policy.”

Mrs Neale’s funeral was held at Garston Crematorium last Tuesday, July 31.