Norman still taking the plunge at 91

A 91-year-old great grandfather-of-two from the Vale of Glamorgan is being hailed as the UK’s oldest scuba diver.

Norman Lancefield, the remarkably fit retired mechanical engineer from Boverton near Llantwit Major, still regularly dives to a depth of 10 metres.

Despite taking up his exciting and exhilarating hobby relatively late, aged 58 in 1978, Norman has racked up hundreds of dives and completed his latest one at Babbacombe Beach in Torquay, Devon.

Norman is an active member of the Barry branch of the British Sub Aqua Club (BSAC).

He said: “It’s another world down there and I feel privileged to be able to see it. “I don’t go much on wrecks and things but I do love to see the seaweed and when I did my most recent dive there was such a variety of seaweed, some small, some big and it is a beautiful part of nature.”

Norman also watches for other sea life too and recalled a special moment during a dive off the Gower coast.

He said: “I was following my buddy closely and I was just behind him and I saw what I thought was a stone and I thought, no that’s not a stone and would you believe it, it was an octopus. Well I grabbed my buddy by the ankle and showed him and we thought, can you believe it, seeing an octopus in Wales!

“That has always stuck in my mind.”

The former bee keeper first took up the sport when he tried some snorkelling on holiday in Spain and on his return decided he would like to improve his new skill.

He said: “In those days, the BSAC ran a night class at Bryn Hafren school in Barry and I thought I might be able to practice my snorkelling. I didn’t go there to dive. But before I knew it, they had put a tank on my back and I did half a length without breathing because the big computer in my head was telling me I couldn’t!

“But I got the hang of it and I have been diving ever since.”

He has been a member of the same dive club for more than 30 years and he still attends training sessions at the same school every week.

His diving career has taken him all over the world including Mexico, Malta, Turkey and several times to the Red Sea.

Norman said: “There is the most beautiful, vast collection of different corals and fish there. You can just turn up, sit on the bottom and stay there watching everything. You don’t need to hardly move or go anywhere!”

Russ Phillips, training officer at Barry Sub-Aqua Club, said Norman was a remarkable diver and continued to pass his medicals with ease, better even than some of the younger members.

Russ said: “We have children as young as eight who learn to snorkel and then go on to learn to dive with us and Norman is a terrific inspiration to them. He is a very positive person and a great character. We are lucky to have him in our club – he must be the oldest active scuba diver in the UK.

“Many people say they would be happy to live to his age and still be so fit, let alone diving at 91.”

BSAC Chief Executive Mary Tetley said: “As far as BSAC is aware, Norman is our oldest active diving member and we’re delighted that he is still getting in the water.

“Scuba diving is accessible to all ages and Norman is proof that age is no barrier when you’re doing something you enjoy.”

Norman believes the secret to his good health and good diving lies in his family’s genes.

He said: “When the stork was flying round with me in April 1920, he was going to take me to one house and he thought better of it because they weren’t strong enough so I ended up two doors down with a family with very good genes.

“My mother’s father worked as a saddler until he was 80 and would walk 17 miles to come and see us. That will give you some idea.”

He also believes diving has helped keep his lungs in good condition and would urge youngsters to consider taking up the sport.

He said: “You don’t need to be an Olympic swimmer, I have never been a fast swimmer but I can just swim for hours if needed to.

“Diving gives you so much more than just swimming, you can go and explore somewhere completely new every time and like I said, it is another world down there.”

To find out more about Barry BSAC, go to and to contact BSAC to find out about diving in your area, go to or call free on 0500 947 202.

 About the British Sub Aqua Club (BSAC):

BSAC trains and represents 35,000 active scuba divers and snorkellers. It is the UK National Governing Body and official voice of scuba and snorkelling, working with organisations like the Health and Safety Executive, the RNLI, Marine Coastguard Association (MCA), Marine Conservation Society, HM Treasury’s Receiver of Wrecks, DEFRA and other diving organisations.

BSAC is the world’s largest diving club and has 1,000+ sociable, family-based local branches and more than 120  diving centres spread across the country and worldwide. From beginner to expert, BSAC provides extensive diver training and the resources and back-up divers need to keep skills sharp and to help them enjoy diving safely. It welcomes membership of divers trained by all other agencies.

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