An inspirational city swimming instructor and charity fundraiser has lost her long battle against cancer.
Shirley Bourge was a familiar face around Cardiff’s swimming pools, teaching people of all ages and levels to swim for almost 30 years.
The much-loved teacher from Old St Mellons, Cardiff, fought breast cancer for over 10 years, following her diagnosis in 1998. But just one month after she was officially signed off from Velindre cancer services she developed a bad cough, and in March last year tragically discovered she had terminal mesothelioma cancer, a form of lung cancer caused from asbestos exposure.
Determined to stay positive, Adamsdown-born Shirley, who had previously won the Echo’s Community Champion award and more recently the Echo’s Bouquet of the Week for her tireless work for charity, continued to devote her time to good causes.
The 66-year-old grandmother, who would have been 67 next month, led the way in fundraising for the Llandough Lung Cancer Care Unit. Hundreds of her colleagues and ex-students came to show their support at events such as sponsored swims to raise cash for the charity.
Shirley passed away at the Marie Curie hospice in Penarth last Friday.
Executive member for sport, culture and leisure, councillor Nigel Howells said: “Shirley was an extraordinary lady. She devoted a great amount of time over the years to teaching people of all ages not only how to swim, an invaluable skill which will stay with them throughout their lives but also taught many others how to teach.
“Her outstanding contribution to the swimming development programme in Cardiff also greatly increased the numbers of those wanting to participate in the sport and engage in physical activity.
“Shirley will be sadly missed but her legacy will continue to benefit the residents of Cardiff for the future.”
Shirley was also a long-time friend of swimming instructor Lavern Ritch, who was killed in a street stabbing in New Jersey almost four years ago. She supported the family’s charity, the Lavern Ritch Memorial Fund, holding sponsored swims. She also taught Lavern’s sister Karla Ritch, to swim and years later taught her to be a swimming instructor.
Karla said: “She was a great influence on myself and Lavern – always having a magical touch, always going the extra mile. She will be deeply missed but not forgotten.”
The 31-year-old from Thornhill, Cardiff, added: “She told me to be a swimming teacher and Lavern himself. Shirley passed me in my exams. I have been teaching for coming on 15 years now.”
Shirley’s swimming achievements
– Taught lifesaving classes
– Started a disability swimming club at Eastern Leisure Centre which has since gone from strength to strength.
– She was an Amateur Swimming Association (ASA) senior swimming tutor, tutoring many of the current teachers working in Cardiff.
– She taught a wide variety of swimming clubs, such as Shirley’s Stamina Class or the Welsh Whales – both British Paralympian Ellie Simmonds MBE and Olympic swimmer David Davies participated in Shirley’s clubs in their early years.
– In 1998 she started at the Swim Development Team, delivering the swimming programme to the whole of Cardiff. Two years later, the ASA awarded Cardiff council their prestigious Aquamark for outstanding development and delivery.
Did you know Shirley? Did she teach you to swim? Leave your tributes in the comments below