A club was formed in Cumbria in the early 1970s by a group of divers from Carlisle and Penrith including Gordon Allen, George Davis and Frank James. After a short time the two groups split in 1978 and the Carlisle contingent formed a separate branch, leaving Penrith Divers to progress along their own lines with the Scottish Sub-Aqua Club. The new branch flourished with members developing existing skills and learning new ones.
By the 1990s Penrith Divers had grown to 48 members and travelled all over Scotland. They visited many great sites on both east and west coasts, travelling as far as Little Loch Broom in the Ullapool area.
Older members recall that ‘diving was not a sport for the faint hearted’ in these early years. No such luxuries as drysuits, thermals and extra body layers. Training was done in the Lakes in all weathers, as it still is, but as well as the luxuries mentioned there have been big improvements in BCDs and tank attachments.
Among that hardier breed was Gordon Burton, an early recruit, Ken Sayers, who became a regional instructor, and Chris Wilson, who still actively supports the club although he no longer dives. Gordon has carried out all of the jobs associated with running a diving club and has played a major role in training new recruits over the years and looking after the club’s equipment including the compressor and air tanks. His commitment to Penrith Divers included turning up early every Sunday morning to sweep the pool where the club meets, a task which is still undertaken both there and periodically at other pools in the area by current club members.
Gordon’s contribution to the branch was recognised in 1999 when he was made an honorary life member and received a gold and silver inscribed plate from chairperson Tina Butler. At the presentation, Gordon was recognised among other things as a ‘hyperdiver’ who had over two decades, clocked up 2,500 dives, recovered 2,000 bottles, pot water, bottles and several loos. Many of Gordon’s finds are now on display in local museums.
But what of the modern day Penrith Divers? The club now numbers around a dozen regular divers and a similar number of snorkellers. Club meetings and lectures are held regularly at a range of venues near Penrith while the weekly pool sessions take place on Sundays at the local pool. The pool sessions are often followed by a lake dive in Ullswater in the winter - it’s only 15 minutes away - and further afield in the summer months at Crummock, Wastwater or Capernwray.
Only being a small group now there is a worry sometimes about the future of the club and this worry was somewhat increased in 2019 when a faction again broke away to form a new branch in the area. However, the club continues to welcome new members and it is great to see them progress from nervous new starters to confident divers. Thanks to all the instructors who work hard to develop the skills of new members and prepare them for open water as well as to all club members who together contribute to creating the Penrith Divers family.
Penrith Divers is maintaining the traditions established by those hard-working early members which sees a group of very dedicated individuals working hard with enthusiastic members and trainees to keep the spirit of marine adventure alive and well in Cumbria.
In 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic and associated government restrictions further highlighted some of the problems that had been seen to come from being part of a Scottish organisation while based in England. The club made the decision to change the governing body to the Sub Aqua Association which follows the world recognised CMAS training scheme and has clubs all over the United Kingdom.