The Arlington Baths champion in the 1924 Olympics

The Arlington Baths is proud to say that it can count at least one Olympian among its past members!

John S Thomson, a lifelong member of the Arlington Baths,  swam for Great Britain in the 1924 Olympic Games.

Senior application from John S Thomson. (Glasgow City Archives TD965/22)

John S Thomson – who was known as Jock, according to a note in the Arlington Baths archives – became a senior (adult) member of the Baths in 1923 with the number 105; his application shows that he had been a junior member for seven years before then.

At this time he was living in West Princes Street which is close to the Baths, and was working as an engineer at David Rowan and Company, which made engines and boilers for ships. He is thought to have been born on 18 February 1903, so at this time be would be 20 years old.

Local champion

As a junior member he was already a champion swimmer, with these competitions and wins under his belt:

  • 1920 – Scottish Junior Championship.
  • 1922 – 100 and 200 yards Western Counties Championships. Scottish record – 300 yards, 3 mins 51 seconds.
  • 1923 – 220 yards Scottish Championship. 100, 220, and 440 yards Western Counties Championship.
  • 1923 Western Counties Cup for water polo. Member of the Arlington Baths team.
Arlington Baths Club Water Polo Team. Western Counties Champions 1924. A. B Downie, W . Gibb, W. B. Dalrymple, H. A Dalrymple, J.S. Thomson, W. McK. Downie, J.W. Brace. (President), A W Mackinlay (Photo owned by the Arlington Baths Club)

In 1922 he was a member of the Arlington Baths Junior team in the Scottish Amateur Lifesaving Championship

Scottish Amateur Lifesaving Championship team 1922. G. Hymans, W. McK. Downie, Mr James Purdie, H. Dalrymple and J. S. Thomson. (Photo owned by the Arlington Baths Club)

1924 Olympic Games

The 1924 Olympics were held in Paris. Among the competitors were runners Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddell, whose stories were told in the film Chariots of Fire.

Johnny Weissmuller, who later became a film star in the role of Tarzan, was competing for the American swim team.  He won, and set new Olympic records, in the 100 metres and the 400 metres freestyle.

Here’s the British swimming and diving team, with John S Thomson second in from the right on the back row.

Photo from the British Olympic Association Official Report of the VIIIth Olympiad 1924, pg 241. (Copy held in the Arlington Baths Club Archive: Storage box 1)

He was a member of the Great Britain team for the 800 metres relay race. They came second in the fourth heat, and second in the Semi-final.

In the Final, Thomson raced against Weismuller but in the end the British team came fifth, with every team struggling against the dominance of the USA.

Race report in the British Olympic Association Official Report of the VIIIth Olympiad 1924, pg 249. (Copy held in the Arlington Baths Club Archive: Storage box 1)

One notable success for British swimmers in the 1924 Olympics was the victory of Lucy Morton who won the women’s 200-metre breaststroke race, becoming the first British woman to win an Olympic gold medal for swimming in an individual event.

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Beyond the Olympics 

Outwith the Paris Olympics, John S Thomson also had further successes in Scottish swimming in 1924.

He held the Scottish Records for the 220 yards and 300 yards, and the Scottish championship for 220 yards. On top of that, he held the Western Counties Championships for 100 and 220 yards.

These achievements, later triumphs and other success of members of the Club were listed in the 1931 Gala Programme.

Arlington Baths Club 1931 Gala Programme (Glasgow City Archives TD965/121)

Thomson swam with the Arlington teams that were victorious in the Scottish Championships in 1925, 1926, 1927 and 1930, and in the Western Counties Team Championships in 1925 and 1926.

He also secured the 100 yards Western Counties Championship in 1925, and the 100 yards Scottish Championship in 1927.

And he was once again a representative for British swimming in 1927, this time at the European Championships in Bologna in Italy.

Excerpt from Arlington Baths Club membership list 1927 showing this text [membership number] 105. Thomson, John S., [date admitted] 23, 2 D Belmont Crescent, W.2. and [membership number] 164, Thomson, Robt. B.[date admitted] 22, 2 V Belmont Crescent, W.2. Also between them is handwritten 506, Tillie, John J, 29, 16 Fernleigh Road
Excerpt from Arlington Baths Club membership list 1927 (Glasgow City Archives TD965/82)

John S Thomson continued to be an active member of the Arlington Baths. He was now living at Belmont Crescent, along with other members of his family, including Mrs Annie Thomson (his mother?), Annie Thomson (his sister?) and Robert B Thomson (his brother?).

Robert had joined the Baths as a senior member in 1922, according to the 1927 membership list. Annie’s name is also in the Ladies’ membership lists of 1930-31, with the number 109. In 1934-5 she has the number 266 but her address was now Rowallan Gardens.

Record of John S Thomson’s Life Membership

In the 1935 Club Gala, John was  a member of the Arlington Baths team for the scratch race and the 5-a-side water polo tournament against teams from other Glasgow pools, including the Dennistoun, Victoria, Western, and Pollokshields baths.

He became a Life Member of the Baths in 1943 with the number 207. He was still living at Belmont Crescent in 1949 but by 1958 he had moved to Westburn Crescent in Bearsden.

Photo of John S Thomson. (Arlington Baths Club Archive: storage box 1)

The Arlington Baths archive holds this photo of John S Thomson which we think dates from the late 1950s or 1960s but unfortunately we’ve not yet managed to date it.

We don’t we know why it was in our archive cupboard, and we don’t know any more about John or his life over these years.

Can you fill in the gaps?

We’d love to learn more about our member who swam in the Olympics!


Researchers: Lindsay and Lucy

3 thoughts on “The Arlington Baths champion in the 1924 Olympics

  1. I have a 7 gents and 10 ladies Arlington Baths Polo Club swimming contest programmes in my collection (1922 – 1939) The 7 gents programmes all mention J. C. Thomson, earliest is 1922


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