Bathurst remembers the legacy of pool manager 'Mr Manning'

FAREWELL: The late John and Nina Manning at the official opening of the new Bathurst Aquatic Centre in 2007. Photo: CHRIS SEABROOK
FAREWELL: The late John and Nina Manning at the official opening of the new Bathurst Aquatic Centre in 2007. Photo: CHRIS SEABROOK

FAIR, strict and strong.

That’s how John Manning will be remembered by many after the former manager of the Bathurst Pool died at his home surrounded by family last Thursday.

He was 90.

“Mr Manning”, as he was known to children across the city, was named a Living Legend in the city’s bicentenary year for his contribution to sport, community, education and seniors.

But for anyone who grew up in Bathurst, he will best be remembered as the manager of the Bathurst Pool for more than three decades who ran the complex with an iron fist.

His daughter Cheryl Buckley said her dad was known for “laps”, which he used to pull kids into line if they broke the rules. His “laps” were later worn like a badge of honour by local children.

Perhaps a less well-known fact about Mr Manning is in his 32 years at the pool he saved the lives of at least nine children who would have otherwise drowned.

Ian Schofield, now 63, was about four when he was pulled lifeless out of the water by Mr Manning.

While Mr Schofield doesn’t remember a lot of what happened that day, his elder sister, Carolyne Muldoon, who was 10, recalls with clarity running over to find Mr Manning doing CPR on a young Mr Schofield as he lay on the ground.

She has no doubt Mr Manning saved her brother’s life.

Mrs Buckley, who is one of Mr Manning’s three daughters, said she is incredibly proud of her father’s legacy and the impact he has had on many generations.

She said she and her sisters Patsy and Kerry shared their father with the community growing up, but wouldn’t change a thing.

She described her father as “a legend” who had time for everyone, but especially kids who were down and out, and said he and her mum Nina made sure everyone was looked after at the pool.

“I remember every Saturday Mum would make a big Tupperware box of sandwiches and drop them off at the pool on a Saturday because they knew there would be kids down there without food,” she said.

She said her family never left the pool until every child was picked up, and recalls regularly dropping kids home or to the golf club if their parents hadn’t turned up to get them.

“He was very caring, and family always came first. If someone needed him, he would be there,” she said of her father.

Mrs Buckley said many people might not realise her father was also a carpenter before working at the pool and, in retirement, continued to make furniture and toys.

Mr Manning’s funeral will be held on Friday at 11am at St Michael and St John’s Cathedral, followed by interment at Bathurst Cemetery.