Neil Montgomery, 41, is the manager of Thamesdown Hydrotherapy Pool, off Cricklade Road. He recently urged potential future Paralympians to join the hundreds of people with disabilities and injuries who visit every week. Neil lives in Old Walcot with his swimming teacher wife Joanne, 37, and children Danielle, eight, and Nicole, four.
NEIL Montgomery is one of those people who radiates positivity.
When he applied a couple of years ago for manager of the pool, he also applied to become a train driver, which would have fulfilled a boyhood dream.
His thoughts on not making it to the driver’s seat? “It was hard but it gives me confidence they get the best people for the job. That’s what you want when you’re a passenger.”
Now he couldn’t be happier, and last year even achieved his train driving ambition at one of the Swindon and Cricklade Railway’s experience days.
Neil was born at Princess Margaret Hospital .
His father worked at Pressed Steel and his mother was a nurse.
He was educated at Dorcan Comprehensive – now Dorcan Academy – and New College, where he obtained the physical education qualification that saw him taken on as an activity assistant and lifeguard at the Link Centre in 1990. He reluctantly admits to having saved people in difficulties more than once.
Later he was a gym instructor at the centre.
“Many people are scared in a way about walking into a gym,” he said. “They have perceptions about it – that it will be full of fit people with big muscles, that everyone will look at them – but then they realise it isn’t like that, and the people there are just like them.
“When people make progress, that’s a really good feeling.”
He has firm beliefs about fitness and the public sector’s role in promoting it.
“My personal view, having worked in the leisure industry, is that it’s an industry which can help everybody,” he said.
“The fitter you are, the stronger you are and the healthier you are.
“This is where the Government is missing a trick because the healthier you are the less likely you are to need the NHS, and that will leave more money to be spent on illnesses that are unavoidable.”
After 20 years at the Link, Neil was in need of a new challenge, and the hydrotherapy pool needed a new manager as respected stalwart Paul Charlwood was retiring after 31 years.
The pool offers soothing warm water therapy to people with disabilities and other health and movement issues. It is run as a charity and overseen by a committee of volunteers.
“I enjoyed the Link,” he said, “but at the pool, when I see people use it and the enjoyment they get from it, that gives me a great feeling inside. There’s a real sense of community – there’s no prejudice.
“We have clients who have been referred by their GPs, perhaps because they are recovering from a back or hip operation. They see how accepted everybody is, and they come away with a good feeling.”
Neil believes the Paralympics have broken down barriers. “I think Britain has changed,” he said. “Let’s hope it stays that way.”
Of the pool, he said: “This is a fantastic facility.
“My chairman, Peter Jones, told me we were Swindon’s best kept secret.
“I just want to tell everybody that I’m no good at keeping secrets.”