DERYK SNELLING walked out of Spring Bank secondary school, Darwen, exactly 70 years ago into an uncertain post-war world where jobs were scarce and where prospects were less than promising.

Deryk was bright but no intellectual; they were all at the other end of town at Darwen Grammar School. But what he did have was an aptitude for swimming.

He was a key member of the many of the school’s sports teams.

“I remember one Saturday, not long after the war ended, going on a coach to play football and netball at Clitheroe Royal Grammar School. Very posh,” he said.

“We were all excited as we’d never been further than Blackburn. The boys lost 4-3 and the girls lost 11-1.

“We’d have hammered ‘em at swimming.”

It was swimming that was his passion and he was in line for the British team at the 1952 Olympic Games which got him a deferment from National Service. But allthough he was British butterfly champion he wasn’t selected.

“There was a lot of snobbishness in those days,” recalled Mavis Taylor (nee Aspden) who has followed his career closely since they were friends at Spring Bank.

Deryk looked back to those days and admitted: “They thought that whoever was selected for Great Britain would win anyway, so it didn’t really matter. It didn’t quite work out like that.”

Deryk, who lived down Blackburn Road, did his National Service with the Lancashire Fusiliers and became a boxing champion to add to his swimming prowess.

He established one of England’s top swimming teams in Southampton but in the mid-60s, disappointed with English swimming, he went off to Canada to see what he could learn for Britain.

He became the country’s top coach, winning Olympic and world medals with his teams, and he didn’t leave for 30 years till he was persuaded to return and become National Performance Director for the British squad in 1996.

For the next four successful years he coached some of the world’s top swimmers.

Deryk is now 85 and he and his wife Laura – a Darwen lass – are living back in Canada. His brother Michael lives in Feniscowles, Blackburn, and his old school pal Mavis still lives in Darwen.

“We had some great times at Spring Bank,” she smiled. “He was captain of Anchor House boys and I was captain of Anchor girls.

“Highlight of the week was the Friday night sports at Darwen Baths. Everybody was there from the schools and the factories – but nobody could beat Deryk.

“I am very proud to have known him all those years ago. I have followed his career ever since we left school. He was a big, strong lad and we were good pals.”