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Here's to you, Mrs Robinson...

Byline: laura clements Reporter

JOYCE ROBINSON was so determined to help children with learning disabilities learn to swim, she booked a lane at the local pool at her own expense.

At first, no-one turned up. It was the late 1950s - a time of entrenched prejudices and denial about disability issues.

But Joyce was determined not to give up. She continued to book a swimming lane, week after week.

And now, all these years later, the fruits of her labour have been recognised as the club she founded marks its 60th anniversary.

Today, Cardiff Chameleons offers a mix of sports activities to more than 50 young people and adults, and boasts regional, national and international-level athletes.

Mrs Robinson, who was awarded an MBE in 1989 for her services to people with a learning disability, died in 1994.

Volunteers have since enabled the club to carry on thriving to the point where it offers two swim sessions each week as well as a weekly green bowls session.

Cardiff Chameleons were the first group in Britain to register for the Special Olympics in 1979.

By 2017, 10 bowlers, nine swimmers and one tennis player from the club represented the Welsh team at the Special Olympics National Games in Sheffield.

Elaine Draw, treasurer, said: "As a club we are proud to have had the honour of knowing Joyce.

"A willing band of volunteers have enabled the club to be so successful. "It is our greatest tribute to Joyce to continue the work she began 60 years ago."

In setting up the club - the first of its kind in the country - Joyce had to overcome negative attitudes including from medical experts.

Slowly membership grew and Mrs Robinson successfully arranged free weekly swimming times at the local pool, together with the extra help of a further instructor provided by the council.


She settled on the name "Cardiff Chameleons" after noticing her pupils had adapted well to the water (despite the many sceptics) much like the chameleon that changes its colour to suit its surroundings. After years of fundraising, and together with Ely Hospital, the club opened its own swimming pool in 1973. The club held three sessions a week there until its age and the reorganization of the hospital led to its closure in 1996. Although primarily a swimming club, the club has progressed and expanded over the years, and the green bowls group was established in the early '90s. Today, the club offers members the chance to train and compete in gymnastics, athletics and cycling. The club's anniversary celebrations

include special events throughout the year - such as a bowls competition held in March, a celebration dinner on June 15 and the annual swimming gala on August 6. There will also be a special summer afternoon tea in July, which will be held at Howells School in Llandaff with a '60s theme in a nod to the landmark year. The Cardiff Chameleons train at Pentwyn Leisure Centre on Mondays, 8-8.45pm, and at Eastern Leisure Centre on Tuesday, 8.30-9.15pm. Green bowls sessions are held at Cardiff Bowling Club, Sophia Gardens between 4pm and 6pm.

Joyce Robinson MBE

Cardiff Chameleons' annual swimming gala

The Cardiff Chameleons

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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jun 14, 2019
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