TRIBUTES have been paid to the “larger than life” former Thamesdown Hydrotherapy Pool manager Paul Charlwood.

Friends dubbed him a gentleman and a caring listener, always happy to help others.

Known to many as Mr Hydrotherapy, the manager of the Jefferies Avenue pool until his retirement in 2010 died on Sunday, December 30, aged 68.

Jan Platt, his colleague and friend for 40 years, said: “Paul was a larger than life person. Very caring and a great person to work with.

“I will remember him as a great friend in and out of work. I still can’t believe that he’s no longer here.”

Jean Clifford, a volunteer with a disabled group, called Paul "a big man, with a big heart". 

"He was a great, likeable man with a big heart and will be missed. Even after giving up his job, he could often be seen promoting the pool," she added.

Tree surgeon Paul’s life changed in 1979, shortly after he started the job at the pool.

In 2004, on the 25th anniversary of the hydrotherapy pool, he told the Advertiser: “When I took the job I had been working as a tree feller and I thought I’d just be doing life - guard duties. I had never worked with anyone who was disabled or had special needs.

“Then one day, two weeks after I started, a woman asked me to look after her handicapped daughter while she popped into the toilet.

“The little girl climbed up into my lap, settled down and fell asleep.That moment changed everything and it was then I decided I wanted to work with special needs.”

He received a Pride of Swindon Award in 2001 for his work at the pool.

Always a caring listener, in his retirement he was a patient and calm presence for friends who needed to talk through their problems. “He was a gentleman and a rock for a lot of people,” said Jan.

Paul met his wife, Barbara, at the Thamesdown Hydrotherapy Pool. In August 2010 he retired from the pool to care for Barbara, then battling a second bout of cancer. She died a month later, aged just 46.

Jan said: “It was a devastating thing for Paul.”

Two years after Barbara’s death, Paul backed a Prospect Hospice fundraising appeal. His wife had been cared for by nurses at the Wroughton charity’s day unit. He told the Advertiser in 2012. “The team was wonderful and the care she received so much to us both.”