Tribute to Jack Donaldson: Dunfermline swimmer, water polo player and Commonwealth Games judge who died aged 88

on Friday, 06 August 2021.

The Fife Courier

He helped put Scottish water polo on the map and ‘lit a spark’ under some of the country’s best players.

Thanks in no small part to a childhood house move near Dunfermline’s Carnegie Baths.

Jack Donaldson was born on February 19, 1933.

The son of railway inspector Wemyss Donaldson and his wife Susan (nee Adams) his infancy was spent in Edinburgh but at age two – in 1935 – he moved to Fife where he lived for the rest of his life.

Carnegie Baths

Living in Campbell Street, a young Jack would take advantage of the family’s tenement flat being near to Carnegie Baths.

The Commercial Primary School pupil would begin a life-long love affair with indoor watersports.

Later attending Dunfermline High School where he was the dux in geography, he would also represent the school in cricket and rugby.

National Service

From 1951 until 53 it was Jack’s turn for National Service with time spent in the Royal Air Force.

Stationed at Bishopbriggs and then at Norton Hall in Lincolnshire, even being conscripted couldn’t stop him finding a swimming pool.

While stationed in the outskirts of Glasgow he competed for former Scottish Cup winners, Dennistoun Baths Club.

Working in the equipment, provision and accounting section – known as EPAS – he got a taste for accountancy and his future career.

When his time in the RAF was over Jack opted for a salary over university, becoming a stock-taker in  the Crombie Armaments depot before moving to the burgh’s chamberlain office in East Port, as a trainee accountant.

Courting at the Kinema

Despite a busy timetable working and swimming, Jack still had time for a night out at the Kinema Ballroom.

And it was here he met his wife Margaret McCutcheon.

Enjoying each other’s company they would attend swim meets together while courting.

The couple were then married in August 1958, at Erskine Church in Dunfermline before walking to their reception at the Co-op tea rooms in Randolph Street.

Their honeymoon in London and then in Southport while not the most glamorous of starts, must have set them up for a win as Jack and Margaret celebrated their golden wedding anniversary in 2008.

Starting a family

The couple’s first home was a small flat in Chalmers Street where, in December 1959, they welcomed their first son Alan.

Newly married and with a baby, Jack attended evening classes to achieve a professional qualification, earning his chartered accountant status in 1963.

 

By the time second son, John, was born in January 1964, the family had moved to Inchkeith Drive in Abbeyview.

Career progression

Jack eventually progressed to become director offFinance for Dunfermline District Council when previous director Eric Maxwell retired in 1986.

He was part of the team tasked with preparing the reorganisation and migration of local council services under the Fife Council banner.

In 1991 Jack retired aged 58.

Water Polo pioneer

Jack spent a large part of his life devoted to swimming and water polo.

If he could no longer play, he was organising. When he was too old to organise, he watched.

 

As an accomplished backstroke swimmer, he began his polo career as a junior goalkeeper with Carnegie SC.

Returning from service he rejoined Carnegie as a much better player, being part of a team that won the East District league on three occasions.

Commonwealth Games

As his playing days came to a close and with sons Alan and John now also swimming for  Carnegie he was more involved in swimming club administration, serving as president for a spell.

He would also officiate at club, district and national galas.

In the 1970 Edinburgh Commonwealth Games Jack was also selected as a judge.

Legacy

Seeing a need for something more for the young people ready for a change of focus, Jack set up the junior water polo team of Dunfermline and Glenrothes. This included sons Alan and John.

Then, under his guidance players at senior level with Dunfermline ASC won the Scottish 1st Division title gaining promotion to the Premier League.

Dunfermline Water Polo Club

In 1979 Carnegie Baths closed for major refurbishment.

On reopening Jack helped found Dunfermline Water Polo Club (DWPC).

He served a secretary and then president of the club, as well as coaching the juniors and refereeing.

In 1992 he was honoured with Life Membership.

 
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