Tributes paid to swimming coach from Northampton who inspired Olympic gold medalist

Former Olympic gold medallist swimmer Duncan Goodhew
Former Olympic gold medallist swimmer Duncan Goodhew

A swimming coach who tutored hundreds of children in Northampton, as well as Olympic legend Duncan Goodhew, has died.

Paddy Garratt, aged 77, moved to Northampton as an 11-year-old in the late 1950s when his parents took up the running of the Saddler’s Arms in Bridge Street.

He took after his father, a boxer and swimmer, in his sporting prowess and became Northamptonshire county swimming champion at the 200 yards breaststroke in his teens.

But he found his calling to be out of the water and started swimming teaching in Northampton.

Several years later, after two years in the marines, with his military career cut short because of an ankle injury, he left Northampton in the 1960s with his first wife and took up a swimming coach position at Henley Swimming Club, Bristol.

But it was at Millfield School in Somerset that he had his greatest influence, becoming the only full-time swimming coach in the country outside of the Amateur Swimming Association.

He took a painfully shy 12-year-old, Duncan Goodhew, and pushed him to focus all his energy on his swimming.

Mr Garratt even predicted from day one that Goodhew, who was to be the 1980 Olympic champion in the 100m breaststroke, would be a world star.

Speaking about Mr Garratt to the Times Education Supplement last year, Goodhew said: “{After my interview with the Millfield headteacher] he sent me to the swimming pool to show this guy, Paddy Garratt, my swimming.

“I swam while he watched. Afterwards [the headteacher] said: “Will he swim for the school?”

“And Paddy said: ‘Yup. He’ll swim for the school. He’ll swim for the county, the district and the country. And he’ll probably go beyond that.’

“I spent the next year - before I started dreaming of the Olympics - wondering: ‘What on earth could be beyond that?’”

He added: “You have people who contribute at big times in your life, and people who seed success. The secret in life is having someone say: ‘You can do it.’

“Paddy Garratt seeded my success.”

Finishing up at York City Baths Club, Mr Garratt spent about half a century helping hundreds of swimmers hone their talents.

He died last month and leaves three sons, his second wife, Caroline, and their daughter.

Duncan Goodhew was among many mourners at his funeral.

Mrs Garratt said: “He loved his swimming, but not only that, he loved his swimmers.”