LONG DISTANCE: Margaret Greisbach has been part of Vikings Swimming Club for more than 60 years, since coming to Australia from England.
LONG DISTANCE: Margaret Greisbach has been part of Vikings Swimming Club for more than 60 years, since coming to Australia from England. Rob Williams

The English Viking

RECENTLY appointed Vikings Swimming Club patron Margaret Greisbach has been in and around water all her life, and she would not have it any other way.

English-born, Greisbach moved to Australia with her family around 60 years ago and her first port of call was to join a swimming club.

More than half a century later, she considers Vikings her family.

"The Chandlers and the Langlands, as long as they're running (Vikings) they'll have me here,” Greisbach said of the two families most heavily involved with keeping the club afloat in recent years.

Club president Lloyd Langlands has fond memories of learning to swim at the old Jim Gardner Pool at Limestone Park.

It was the Vikings base before their move to Bundamba Pool, where they swim out of today.

When Langlands started with the club 49 years ago, Greisbach was already a well-known figure with Vikings families.

"Margaret has been around for a long time, I remember even when I started swimming at 10 years-old she was also around,” Langlands said.

When long-time club patron Digger Murphy passed away last year, there was only one person at Vikings who seemed the right fit for the honourary role.

"When one of the original Vikings Digger Murphy passed away, we went through the year without a patron,” Langlands said.

"The AGM was coming up and I talked to a few people and we said, well, (Greisbach has) been around for a long time...”

Greisbach said she "got the shock of her life” when the decision was made to make her patron.

Her cheeky response; a simple, "Oh I beg your pardon!” summed up Greisbach's relationship with club president Lloyd Langlands after almost 50 years of swimming together.

Margaret Greisbach has been annointed as Ipswich Vikings Swimming Club patron. With club president Lloyd Langlands
Vikings club president Lloyd Langlands and patron Margaret Greisbach have spent almost 50 years together at the swimming club. Rob Williams

But where did her love for the water begin?

At an indoor swim facility in England; but only after continual tormenting from her brother.

"My brother, he would drive me crazy,” Greisbach said recalling her early years in England.

"We were at an indoor pool - because they don't have outdoor pools in England - and I was standing there on the side.

"My brother would always swim up to me from under the water, and then grab me and pull me in.

"He would say, 'Ok now swim' and so that's what I had to do.”

Thankfully, Greisbach chose to employ a far less traumatic blueprint when she ran learn to swim classes with the club.

What started as a temporary appointment led to more than 40 years of teaching Ipswich kids to swim.

"We lost our learn to swim gentleman, and people were asking what we were going to do about our learn to swim classes,” Greisbach said.

"I said I'd take it on until the end of the season... and that's where it started.”

The former cub scout instructor freely admits she gets along better with younger people than "the oldies”.

She drew a great sense of pride out of watching kids grow and develop as swimmers under her tutelage.

"It kept me young and happy, I was quite contented with my life teaching kids to swim,” Greisbach said.

"There's been a lot of kids come through the club that have grown up. One family is still here, but most have left and are not swimming with us at the moment which is sad.”

The Vikings currently do not have a learn to swim instructor - and if not for regulation changes, Greisbach may well still be out there after school hours with the kickboards.

"I really enjoyed doing it, but it got to a stage where I had to give it up because of the insurance and certificate requirements,” she said.

"At my age and at that time, I wasn't going to go through that process and so we lost our learn to swim classes.

"But for the years I did it, I really enjoyed being with the kids.”

Greisbach has yet to get back in the water this season, which she credits to the inclement weather.

But once the skies clear, she will be out there with the rest of the families doing what a Viking does best.

"I'll swim again this season; after that we'll wait and see,” Greisbach said.