Northern Ireland

Fivemiletown College: Dame Mary Peters returns for refurbishment of pool built by pupils

The pool is used by primary schools and the community in Fivemiletown
Image caption The pool is used by primary schools and the community in Fivemiletown

A swimming pool originally built by pupils at a County Tyrone school 40 years ago has been given the official seal of approval by an Olympian.

The pool at Fivemiletown College was the vision of the headmaster at the time, Dr John Burrell, who wanted to ensure there was somewhere people could learn to swim after a young boy drowned in a local lake.

"I said nobody else should drown and it was also part of my plan to make it into a community school as well," he added.

"The vision was to have a facility, the start of a community school if you like, where the school buildings are used, not just left at half three or four o'clock."

On Wednesday, Dame Mary Peters, who opened the facility four years after claiming an Olympic gold medal in Munich, returned to unveil it again following recent refurbishments to upgrade the facilities.

She described the pool as a "very valuable asset for Fivemiletown" and hoped that more people would come and learn to swim there.

The refurbishment inside and outside includes new anti slip tiles and additional sports facilities for the school and local community.

It was originally built as an outdoor pool by sixth form pupils in a pre-apprenticeship class, with the help of staff and even the school bus drivers.

Image copyright Fivemiletown College
Image caption The pool was built with the help of pupils in the 1970s
Image copyright Fivemiletown College
Image caption It was originally built by sixth form pupils in a pre-apprenticeship class, with the help of staff and even school bus drivers

Dr Burrell said: "We had a professional digger to dig out the ground and they (the pupils) built it over two or three years."

The pool was constructed using hollow core concrete blocks and reinforced steel rods, and was officially opened by Dame Mary in 1976.

She returned when a roof was built over the pool to enclose it in 1995 so that it could be used all year round.

Image copyright Fivemiletown College
Image caption Dame Mary Peters was at the opening of the swimming pool in 1976
Image caption The Olympic gold medallist returned for the reopening of the facility

The pool has stood the test of time and Dr Burrell's vision for a community facility has been realised.

The youth annexe and sports facilities are used after school until 22:00 GMT, at weekends and during school holidays.

There are big plans for the future to develop a sensory pool, disabled facilities and an indoor arena.