A Blue Plaque in memory and celebration of the life of an accomplished swimmer and lifeguard who entered the World Record Books has been unveiled at the National Lido of Wales, Lido Ponty.
Jenny Eileen James, of Pontypridd, learned to swim at the original lido at Ynysangharad War Memorial Park at a very young age. She went on to become a swimming coach and lifeguard at the lido, which originally opened in 1927, and is credited for saving over 100 lives during her career.
But her biggest achievement, at the age of 24, came in 1951 when she became the first Welsh person to swim the English Channel, from Calais to Dover, in a time of 13 hours and 55 minutes.
Sadly, Jenny James passed away in 2014, at the age of 87, a year before the re-opening of the National Lido of Wales, Lido Ponty.
A Blue Plaque in memory and honour of the late Jenny James has been unveiled by Rhondda Cynon Taf Mayor, Councillor Steve Powderhill, and Jenny’s niece Samantha Davies.
Also in attendance at the National Lido of Wales, Lido Ponty, were family members and friends, along with Council Deputy Leader, Councillor Maureen Webber, and Councillor Ann Crimmings, Cabinet Member for Environment, Leisure and Heritage Services.
Mayor, Councillor Steve Powderhill, who was a friend of Jenny James, described her as a ‘Welsh icon’ and an inspiration to future generations, while Deputy Leader, Councillor Maureen Webber, said her “legacy will live on at the lido she loved so much.”
Rhondda Cynon Taf Council Deputy Leader, Councillor Maureen Webber, said: “It is fitting that the unveiling of a Blue Plaque in memory and celebration of the life of the late Jenny James, a woman who earned her place in World Record Books, takes place at the National Lido of Wales, Lido Ponty.
“Swimming the English Channel is no mean feat, and Jenny’s achievement is still remembered to this day. In fact Jenny’s original swimming goggles, a selection of medals, her engraved wristwatch and various newspapers cuttings of the day are on permanent display in the Public Exhibition Area at the National Lido of Wales, Lido Ponty.
“I am delighted that so many people are here today to remember this remarkable woman as a Blue Plaque is unveiled at a place she loved so much.
“The name Jenny James is iconic in Wales and she will forever be associated with her swimming prowess, all of which began right here at the National Lido of Wales, Lido Ponty. With this Blue Plaque, she will forever be remembered by the staff and the thousands of people who visit each year.”
Coed Y Lan Primary School Choir, of Pontypridd, also performed during the Blue Plaque event, some pupils the same age as Jenny was when she first started swimming at the original lido.
Mayor, Councillor Steve Powderhill, said: “This is a very special day for all those people who knew Jenny personally, me included.
”I am delighted that the youth of today came along to honour this lady, a lady who leaves us with a lasting legacy for future generations.
“Rhondda Cynon Taf Council is proud of its Blue Plaque Heritage Trail, celebrating the lives and achievements of so many of our famous people. Jenny James is a welcome addition to this.
“It is hoped that her story will go on to encourage more people to take up swimming and come along and join us at the National Lido of Wales, Lido Ponty, for relaxation, leisure, or training.”
Samantha Davies, niece of the late Jenny James, said: “She would have been so proud of this occasion. My aunty swam in waters all over the UK. She met so many famous people and Royalty during her lifetime – she even swan in the River Nile in Egypt.
“But the unveiling of her Blue Plaque is something so special to us all as we remember her with great love and affection.”
Jenny James was well-loved and a popular lifeguard during her time working at the lido in her home town. But she gained global recognition at the age of 24 when she became the first Welsh person to swim the English Channel.
She began her historic Channel Crossing at 7am in France on Thursday, August 16, completing the challenge and, reaching the shore in Dover at 9.30pm the same day.
Upon her return home, Jenny James was granted the Freedom of Pontypridd and was given free admission to every swimming pool in Wales for the rest of her life.
The original ‘Ponty Baths’ in which she learned to swim, coached and became a lifeguard, remained open until 1991, eventually closing after it fell into disrepair.
But it re-opened 24 years later following a major £6.3m restoration project funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government, Heritage Lottery Fund, Cadw and Rhondda Cynon Taf Council.
It re-opened in 2015 and has attracted thousands of visitors each year from all over the country and overseas. It has even hosted a Royal Visit the following year, welcoming HRH The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall.
Since opening in 2015, the National Lido of Wales, Lido Ponty, has welcomed over 230,000 visitors.
Plan Ahead This Summer: Book your swim online at the National Lido of Wales, Lido Ponty (URL link)
The National Lido of Wales, Lido Ponty, is now open seven days a week. Swim sessions can be booked online up to seven days in advance. Limited tickets are also released at 9am each day at the Lido Ponty Reception Desk, on a first-come, first-served basis. Please note: Bookings cannot be made over the telephone.
The National Lido of Wales, Lido Ponty, has full disabled access, including entry into the main pool. Admission is £2 per adult and FREE for children under the age of 16.
As well as the opportunity for lane swimming and more relaxed swims, there is a Splash Pool for the little ones and also a host of water activities on offer throughout the 2018 season.
Situated in the picturesque Ynysangharad War Memorial Park, Pontypridd, the National Lido of Wales, Lido Ponty, is Wales’ premier outdoor family water attraction.
The National Lido of Wales, Lido Ponty, is open daily until September 3. Book your swim session online at www.lidoponty.co.uk
Like the Lido Ponty page on Facebook and follow @LidoPonty on Twitter for all your latest news and regular updates.
Posted on Monday 23rd July 2018