HAPPY KIDS: Peter has taught an estimated 50,000 children to swim at his centre’s over three decades.
AT 78 years of age a spritely Peter McMahon could well hang out the shackles and enjoy retirement and travel the world.
But that’s not Peter McMahon, the man who always has a smile on his face.
Peter has been a part of the culture and business community of Ipswich since his birth.
The son of former wellknown soft drink manufacturer, Frank McMahon, he has served on numerous community boards, many as chairperson, and is still an active member of Rotary.
His love of swimming sees him diving into the pool at least four times a week and when there’s a master’s competition to compete in Peter is first to nominate.
In fact, he just won yet another gold medal at the Australian Surf Lifesaving titles for the Over 75 years two-kilometre ocean swim.
At 49 years of age Peter found himself at the crossroads, he had a degree in his pocket in Commerce, but at that time no-one wanted to offer him a job.
Instead, he decided to create a position for himself and came up with the idea of starting a learn to swim school and he had his father’s abandoned drinks factory to house it.
For some years before he had been teaching kids to swim in his backyard swimming pool and it was a flourishing business, albeit a cold one in winter.
Armed with the knowledge that there were plenty of parent’s wanting to make sure their kids were pool and surf safe he went to the bank and borrowed enough money to build an above ground pool.
At first, he battled, and he even recalled a conversation with two tax department officials who came to inspect his Swim Factory.
“They asked me why I didn’t have a till and what was I doing with the cash,” Peter said.
“My wife just said to them if you buy us one, we’ll put in in, it was that tight.”
Asked how many children and adults had learnt to swim at the Swim Factory Peter was not quite sure.
“I think it would be around 100,000, but let’s just say 50,000,” he laughed.
We were on the pool deck at his Ipswich centre while we were chatting, and Peter looked over his shoulder at the many young children in the pool with the trainers.
“See that woman there, I taught her to swim, and I also taught her mother. The reality is we are now seeing the grandchildren of people we taught to swim coming here to learn,” he said.
While he now rarely takes classes, he still takes great joy from watching the kids improve.
“Learning to swim gives them great self-esteem,” he said.
“The children need to learn to swim for themselves, they cannot rely on a doting mum or overprotective father.
“Once they are in the pool its’ up to them.”
In 2015 Peter, son Jonathan and partner Tony Mammous took up an offer to open a second Swim Factory at Orion Shopping Centre.
The huge influx of residents with young children to the area guaranteed the success of that venture,
Now Peter and Tony are moving to catch up with the growth of the district and they have three new Swim Factories on the go to open in the next 12 months.
With Peter’s drive there is no doubt they will also be a success. Retirement can wait a few more years.