Littlethorpe’s legendary swimming teacher celebrates 90th birthday
Jul 18, 2023
Sylvia Grice at her birthday party with grandchildren (from left) Amy Mackenzie, Henry Grice-Holt and Laura Mackenzie

Family and friends gathered in Littlethorpe at the weekend to celebrate the 90th birthday of one of the Ripon area’s most inspirational women.

Over 50 years, Sylvia Grice taught an estimated 250,000 people to swim, including Olympic diving champion Jack Laugher, who won gold and silver medals at the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro and bronze at Tokyo 2020.

Her lifelong devotion to teaching a much-needed skill in a city with three rivers and a canal, earned her an MBE in the 2010 New Year’s Honours and Freedom of the City of Ripon in 2019, but that’s just part of her remarkable story.

Sylvia Grice, pictured with Jack Laugher after his medal-winning success at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016.

Daughter Helen Mackenzie, herself an accomplished swimmer and swimming teacher, told the Stray Ferret:

“Mum suffered a broken leg when she was three and was in hospital in traction up until the age of eight, but she didn’t let that hold her back.

“She learnt to swim when she was 15 and married my dad, Jim, the love of her life, when she was 20.

“When my sister Alison and I came along she regularly took us to swim at Ripon’s Spa Baths and caught the eye of the manager Fred Windsor.

“He encouraged her to become a qualified swimming teacher and over the years she went through all of the grades to become an Amateur Swimming Association tutor and then a Fellow of the Institute of Swimming Teachers.”

Sylvia used her qualifications to help people of all ages and abilities, from toddlers having their first visit to the pool to her mother-in-law Florrie, who learnt to swim when she was 58.

She taught people to swim at Ripon Grammar School and at Ashville College in Harrogate, where she set up Triton Swimmers and away from her busy teaching schedule, found time to run the Spa Gardens cafe, be an active member of Ripon Lions and raise money for numerous charitable causes.


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