Joy makes a big splash after 45 years on poolside guard

Joy Cunningham. Picture: SWNS
Joy Cunningham. Picture: SWNS
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A lifeguard at Sheffield’s Ponds Forge sports centre could be the oldest in the country, after spending 45 years and clocking up nearly 80,000 hours at the poolside.

Joy Cunningham, a 61-year-old grandmother of two, works a five-day, 37-hour week and says she hopes to carry on until she retires at 65. She joined the staff at Chapeltown baths in Sheffield at 16 and stayed for 18 years, before moving to Hillsborough and then to Ponds Forge when it opened in 1991, in time for the World Student Games.

She said: “At the interview, they said, ‘Can you start on Monday?’ but I hadn’t even left school. So I went to school in the morning and started work in the afternoon.

“I never really set out to be a lifeguard, I wanted to be a swimming teacher. When I saw an advert for a recreation assistant I thought at least I’m getting into pool work.

Mrs Cunningham, who lives in Rotherham, must do monthly swims against the clock to prove her proficiency, and every year has to swim to the bottom of the 19ft deep diving pool.

The previous longest serving lifeguard, Robbie MacGregor, threw in the towel in 2012 after 40 years.