The name of Austin Rawlinson is prominently remembered by the Lifestyles sports centre in Speke which is named after him. An Olympic swimmer in his youth he continued to support the sport as an administrator, still writing a column for the Liverpool Echo into his nineties.
He was born at 8 Moss Street L19 in Garston on 7th November, the son of builder Joseph Henry and his wife Mary. While he was still a youngster the family moved the short distance to 6 Heald Street L19 and one can only wonder if the move prompted his subsequent career choice. Looking across the road from his home he would have seen the imposing façade of Garston Police Station and he was to spend his working life in the Liverpool City Police.
At an early age he became a member of the Garston Swimming Club, an outstanding club which boasted many champions, under the guidance of notable coach Bill Howcroft. Also a member of the club was a childhood friend of Austin Rawlinson, Hilda James, who would go onto swim for Great Britain at the Olympic Games. When Austin was just 10 years-old, at the 1913 Garston Schools gala, he won the freestyle, backstroke and breaststroke titles. Deciding to concentrate on the backstroke he won the first of 7 Northern Counties titles in 1921, the same year coming third in the 150 yards backstroke at the ASA Championships. The next year he won the ASA title and held it until 1927. In this period he broke the British record three times and represented Great Britain at the 1924 Paris Olympics (finishing 5th) and the 1927 European Championships at Bologna.
Having joined the police, he was a member of the Liverpool City Police water-polo team which reached the national championships in 1931. He served as a police officer until retiring in 1951 as a detective superintendent, giving much of his spare time to supporting British swimming. President of the Northern Counties Association, he was coach to the British team at the 1958 World Championships and manager of the team at the 1960 Rome Olympics. In 1961 he was awarded the MBE for services to swimming and in 1965 the swimming baths at Speke was named after him. In 1968 he became President of the Amateur Swimming Association and in 1994 was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame.
Austin Rawlinson married Edna Adair in 1927, the couple living at ‘Arrochar’ on Greenhill Road L19 (near its junction with Brodie Avenue) and later 283 Brodie Avenue L19. He died on 25th November 2000 aged 98.
The Rawlinson family home at the time of Austin's birth in 1902
On the left the house in which Austin Rawlinson lived from the early 1900's until his marriage in 1927. On the right the view of Heald Street Police Station from the house.
The Rawlinson home from the late 1940s.
There is a short Wikipedia entry but a bit more detail on the Olympedia website. There is a brief biography on the swimming.org website. Austin Rawlinson is mentioned frequently in Ian Hugh McAllister's biography of Hilda James (Lost Olympics: The Hilda James Story emp3 books 2013) and appendix 1 recounts the author's interview with Rawlinson as part of his research.
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