“Big” Jim Davison
It is with great sadness and regret that I inform you of the passing of Jim Davison, a much loved figure for generations of GAW swimmers and parents.
In his two spells coaching at Gateshead and Whickham, Jim transcended that role with his larger than life personality and passion for the sport. The word “loved” is possibly overused when it comes to coaches, but this really does accurately describe Jimmy for the hundreds of children he coached for over three decades.
Ushering in the new era of the Professional Coach, Jimmy was often paid in Mars Bars and bacon sandwiches! One Mars bar per PB and a bacon sandwich wrapped up on the morning of a gala! Jim’s selflessness meant that he was content to play an important role in countless swimmers reaching their goals, before they moved on to other squads.
Often coaching athletes between the ages of 10 and 13, Jim had that ideal mix of technical knowledge and overriding enthusiasm required to both keep those swimmers in the sport and also to progress them towards fulfilling their potential. He would happily list the number of regional and national champions in whose swimming development he’d played a vital role. Jim took enormous and well-earned pride in this, but also in the successes and achievements of countless other swimmers that he had coached. Jimmy will be missed not just by those involved with GAW, but also across the region. There isn’t a gala I attend to this day without being asked by other coaches or officials as to Jim’s well-being.
Jimmy lived the role of a coach but was also much loved in the wider community, continuing his love of swimming with his daily visits to Blaydon Pool. Well into his 70s and battling illness, Jim would lament that he’d “only” got in 100 lengths that day! He continued his coaching in public sessions at Blaydon, and would happily encourage (or bark at!) any and all of the swimmers he shared the pool with. His larger than life, enthusiastic persona meant that he was respected and loved in equal measure by all that were lucky enough to have known him, and he leaves behind many, many friends.
Martin Connelly also remembers how fundamental Jim was in helping to save the club during his first period as club chairman. Martin managed to persuade Jim to come back to coach again after he had retired, and feels strongly that “pulling him out of the pool at Blaydon, to get him to coach for his second stint, was one of the best things I did.”
In all honesty, Jim would hate all the fanfare, and hard as it is to believe for those that witnessed him poolside, Jimmy was actually quite a shy and unassuming character. He had to have his arm twisted to attend his own retirement party and didn’t want to have any fuss when N&D recognised his achievements at his last County Championships. Though he would happily remind you, at least on a fortnightly basis, that he was the N&D champion, 60 years ago, when swimming in a river!
That said, I believe it is important that we all recognise Jimmy for his contributions both to Gateshead and Whickham ASC, swimming in the region, and also to the wider community. He enriched so many lives, was very much loved and respected, and will be sorely missed by all that knew him. Our heartfelt sympathies go to his family at this time.
Paul Armstrong and the GAW family