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News > Past Student News > In Conversation with Allyson Birch ('66) and Norma Tucker ('66)

In Conversation with Allyson Birch ('66) and Norma Tucker ('66)

With the upcoming Olympic Games in Paris and the Queensland Government planning the Olympic Games in Brisbane 2032 we take a trip down memory lane with one of our star swimmers.

Norma Tucker (’66) recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Allyson Birch nee Mabb (’66) to speak about Allyson’s incredible swimming career.

Photos of Allyson during her swimming careerAllyson was selected to swim at the 1966 Empire Games in Kingston, Jamaica, and the 1970 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, Scotland. With the upcoming Olympic Games in Paris and the Queensland Government planning the Olympic Games in Brisbane 2032, we take a trip down memory lane with one of our star swimmers.

At the Jamacia Commonwealth Games Allyson swam in the 110- and 220-yards backstroke events and won a bronze medal as a member of the 4 X 110 yards medley relay team. In 1970, Allyson won three medals, including gold as a member of the 4 X 100m medley relay team, and won an individual bronze medal in the 100m and 200 m butterfly events.

In 1970, Allyson  was also selected as a member of the swim team that toured South Africa earlier that year, before apartheid restrictions began in sport. Allyson broke many records in backstroke and butterfly during her swimming career.

Allyson was also a special guest at St Margaret’s for the opening of the new Sports Precinct in 2020 and was interviewed on stage by two Year 11 students.

I thoroughly enjoyed hearing about Allyson’s swimming career of which she should be very proud.

Photos of Allyson during her swimming careerHow did you come to swim competitively?

I was taught to swim by my father at an early age. When I attended Ascot State School, my class teacher, Miss Isabel McWade, encouraged me to swim competitively. She nominated me to swim in Brisbane State School Champions and later in the State Championships. I still have a box full of medals that I won.

While I was still at primary school, I began training at the Davies Park Pool, West End, for one hour a day. I was trained by Bill Fleming, who mentored John Carew. I then moved to the Valley Pool where I had more intense training for 1 1/2 hours.

It was difficult as you had to dodge the public. It is not like today where the swimmers have a dedicated area to train and have access to sports professionals such as psychologists, dietitians, and physiotherapists. Even the swimwear was very different. We only wore nylon speedos and no goggles. It is interesting to see how technology has influenced the swimwear of today. I was very tired after training and found it difficult to study as much as I would have liked.

 The Australian Titles were the selection for the Commonwealth Games and was elated when I won and was chosen to attend both the Commonwealth Games in Kingston, Jamaica, and Edinburgh, Scotland. My love of swimming just evolved, and I was on a fast track to the Commonwealth Games.

Qld Amateur Swimming Association letter to Allyson re Captain of the Girls Team March 1970 and Invitation from Her Majesty the Queen to Reception for IXth British Commonwealth Games 21 July 1970

What interesting things happened when you went to Jamaica and Scotland?

Allyson Mabb flying to Edinburgh Games 1970It was interesting in 1966 to visit Jamaica and to see how some people lived in very poor conditions, although they appeared happy. There were groups of people along the streets dancing and singing and playing cricket. When we arrived, they were still finishing the surrounds of the pool, so it was a very laid-back experience of which I have some very happy memories. I still love to hear the sound of steel drums.

At the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, we attended a reception in the garden of the Palace of Holyrood House to be hosted by the Queen and we spoke with the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Charles (King Charles 11), and Princess Anne. I found it a very interesting city and toured the Castle, and the surrounding areas.

Did you find it difficult being captain of the women’s team?

Norma Tucker ('66) and Allyson Birch ('66)I enjoyed my responsibilities and the fun time with the other girls. After the completion of the swimming events, I visited London and Paris with some of the other girls and their mothers.

How do you store your medals?

I have my Commonwealth Medals in a frame on the wall.

JAMACIA Bronze 4 X 110 yds Medley Relay



4 X100 mts Medley Relay
(Commonwealth record time)
Individual 100m butterfly
Individual 200m butterfly


Do you still swim?

I swam in the 1984 master’s and came third in 50 mts freestyle, and I swim every day in my pool at home.

Norma Tucker (’66)

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