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Parliament Hill Lido falls silent after sudden death of hero lifeguard

Glyn Roberts was known locally as 'Mr Lido' after 25 years of saving lives and helping people in difficulty on the Heath

05 January, 2017 — By Dan Carrier

Glyn Roberts pictured on Christmas Day at the ponds

THE Parliament Hill Lido fell silent and the waters were still this week after it was closed as a mark of respect to a hero lifeguard who died suddenly on New Year’s Day.

Glyn Roberts had worked on Hampstead Heath for 25 years and rescued numerous people who had got into difficulties at the Lido and the bathing ponds.

The 48-year-old worked on New Year’s Day to let regulars start 2017 with a dip in the chilly waters – he had also given up his Christmas morning to help with the annual Men’s Pond swim – and then returned home to spend time with his family.

Later that night, he complained of chest pains and was taken to the Whittington Hospital in Archway, where he passed away.

Heath managers the City of London closed the pool on January 2 when news of the tragedy reached them, while floral tributes and cards from swimmers and colleagues have been laid at its gates. A book of condolences has now been opened at the pool.

Heath superintendent Bob Warnock told the New Journal: “We are deeply saddened by the sudden loss of Glyn. He was part of the fabric of Hampstead Heath. Our condolences are with Glyn’s family.”

He was known as ‘Mr Lido’, the caring soul who saved lives on the Heath

FROM first-class life-saving skills to an encyclopaedic knowledge of the history of Hampstead Heath, Glyn Roberts was known as “Mr Lido”, a man who despite always having a project on the go never lacked time for others.

For 25 years as a lifeguard at the Parliament Hill pool, he saved lives in the water and on the Heath, resuscitating people who suffered heart attacks.

It’s no wonder, then, as so many owe their lives and safety to him, that his sudden death at the age of 48 on New Year’s Day has left so many feeling devastated.

On Christmas Day, as usual, he had been the life and soul of the annual December 25 swim at the Heath men’s pond, appearing in last week’s New Journal after uncovering a 101-year-old Hampstead Heath swim medal.

Lido manager Paul Jeal said: “He was my right-hand man. He was a passionate and much-loved person who touched the lives of many, many people.”

Glyn had suffered chest pains on Sunday and later died at the Whittington Hospital. He has left behind a treasure trove of memories shared by friends, colleagues and swimmers, having joined the Heath staff in 1992.

Heath manager Paul Maskell said: “For Glyn, nothing was ever too much trouble. The Lido was in his DNA. He was affable, always well meaning. He was someone who simply loved life – and it was a life full of kind acts.”

Glyn, from Archway, went to Holloway School. He lived in Hilldrop Crescent, where he was chairman of the Tenants’ and Residents’ Association. His voluntary work included campaigning to protect green spaces and the installation of a games area for children in his neighbourhood.

As a member of the Royal Life Saving Society, he provided training for Heath staff and ran water awareness lessons for hundreds of children each summer.

Glyn Roberts

Friends had already begun discussing what they would do to mark his 50th birthday next year: he was known for celebrating others’ birthdays, sourcing childhood photographs and using it as an excuse to play one of his frequent practical jokes, which would often end with a colleague in the Lido pool.

His sense of fun made the Lido a happy place. One of his resuscitation training dummies, known as Annie, would often appear from behind a door dressed in a lifeguard uniform and sporting wig to startle the uninitiated.

His caring attitude was legendary. He lobbied the City of London to buy all-terrain buggies so people with disabilities could explore the Heath.

The New Journal reported how, in 2007, after completing a 10-mile run, he chased a mugger from the Heath down to Kentish Town, despite having a knife pulled on him. Finally, exhausted, the mugger surrendered.

He had chosen the wrong person to try to outrun as Glyn completed 15 marathons, including London, New York, Berlin and Amsterdam, each time raising thousands of pounds for charities. Best-selling author John Healy, a close friend, recalled how one day Glyn was more than an hour late for an appointment.

“The answer was typical. On his way, he’d seen an old lady struggling with a blocked drain, so he’d rolled his sleeves up and fixed the problem,” said Mr Healy.

Glyn Roberts with Paul Jeal

Glyn Roberts with Paul Jeal

In the 1990s, Glyn completed “the Knowledge” and still occasionally worked as a black cab driver to maintain his licence. His passions included vintage motorbikes and cars; he restored a Mini Cooper and was working on an MG.

Music was also important and strains of Elvis or Johnny Cash would waft out of the Lido office as he kept watch over the pool.

A fine photographer, he chronicled life at the Grade-II-listed Lido over the years.

A display he curated to mark the 70th anniversary of its opening graces the walls.

When major refurbishment took place in 2005, he found photos from 1938 that showed how the pool looked when it opened.

He helped get 1970s signage removed and replaced with 30s-style lettering and had a square Art Deco-style clock placed in its original spot.

He leaves his partner Victoria and family Edward, Holly and Jessica.

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