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Eighty years of swimming

In the early 1920s Concord Council provided a netted area along the Parramatta River at the northern end of Cabarita Park for swimmers. It’s popularity prompted Council to embark on an ambitious project to build a swimming pool for the community during the Depression years of the 1930s.

Plans were drawn up by Alderman John Dalzell Wallace, a key supporter of the project, and Council’s engineer. Alderman Wallace turned the sod to begin the construction of the pool in March 1937 (shown below). With a grant of £1000 for the purchase of tools and materials from the State Government, work on the pool progressed quickly to make it ready by the following summer.

On 27 November 1937 the Concord-Cabarita Coronation Baths were officially opened by The Hon. H. P. Fitzsimons MLA (Minister for Health). Some 3000 people turned up on the day the pool was opened. To mark the opening there was a 200 yard race between several top swimmers. The race was won by Olympian Moss Christie.

On the following day, a Sunday, 2000 people paid to swim in the new baths. Adults were charged three pence while children could enter for one penny. Within a month over 30,000 people had tried out Concord’s latest attraction.

Now known as the Cabarita Swimming Centre, eighty years on the pool still plays an important part in the lives of local people.

Chiswick Splash


Chiswick Baths and adjoining Chambers Park were developed largely through the efforts of the local community.

The Chiswick Progress Association suggested a pool and public reserve at Blackwall Point Road in 1944. At that time the population of Chiswick was ‘scarcely 220’.

It was not until 1956 however that the Chiswick Baths were finally opened. The pool was maintained through community volunteers with financial and material support from Drummoyne Council (and later the City of Canada Bay). The original wire netting used to section the pool off from the Parramatta River was purchased from the nearby Lysaght factory.

Sixty years on the tidal pool remains a popular spot with locals.

On Sunday, 20 November 2016 from 10am to 1pm there will be a range of activities to celebrate 60 years of fun and enjoyment.

Telling their stories


The Drummoyne Amateur Swimming Club has played an important part in the recreational life of our community for over a hundred years. It has had great success in fostering swimming not only at the local level but is associated with some of Australia’s greatest sporting achievements. Its history is studded with the names of famous swimmers and coaches.

The photograph shows coach Forbes Carlile (wearing a white t-shirt)in the early 1950s coaching young swimmers at Drummoyne Swimming Pool.

Past and present members of the Drummoyne Amateur Swimming Club will be coming along to Five Dock Library on Tuesday, 15 November 2016 from 6pm to 8pm to share their memories and stories of the club. The stories will be recorded and added to the library’s oral history collection.

Anyone interested in the history of swimming is welcome to come along and share in the club’s rich history of sporting achievement.

Going for gold


The latest exhibition at Five Dock Library highlights the remarkable achievements of Olympic swimmers associated with the Drummoyne Swimming Pool.

Many of the photographs are drawn from the collection of the Drummoyne Amateur Swimming Club which earlier this year entrusted their records to the Local Studies collection for safekeeping. Swimmers include Dawn Fraser, Jon Henricks, John and Ilsa Konrads and Shane Gould along with coaches of the calibre of Harry Gallagher and Forbes Carlile.

The photographs include some stunning images taken by noted photographer Ern McQuillan who at one time lived at Abbotsford. Ern grew up in the inner western suburbs of Sydney and began taking photographs as a boy with a box brownie camera. He went on to become a well known photographer for newspapers and magazines. Today his images are held by institutions such as the National Portrait Gallery, National Library and State Library of NSW.

The photograph above by Ern McQuillan shows Olympians Jon Henricks, Murray Rose and John Devitt.

Another smaller display in Local Studies at Concord Library celebrates local Olympian Lorraine Crapp.

Both displays are on view until the end of August 2016.

Drummoyne Amateur Swimming Club

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For over one hundred years the Drummoyne Amateur Swimming Club has played an important part in the recreational life of our community.

The Drummoyne Amateur Swimming Club has had great success in fostering swimming not only at the local level but is associated with some of Australia’s greatest sporting achievements. Its history is studded with the names of famous swimmers, including Olympians Moss Christie, Dawn Fraser, Jon Henricks, John Konrads and Jan Murphy along with coaches of the calibre of Harry Gallagher and Forbes Carlile.

The longevity of the club owes much to the dedication of volunteers. During the Second World War sixteen year old Jack Hannaford combined the duties of Secretary and Treasurer when all the men were called up or in reserve forces. Such dedication was also exemplified by Bill Gallie OAM who in 1925 was Australian breaststroke champion. In 1964, aged 54, he moved from Balmain to Drummoyne and was volunteer coach and club secretary for almost twenty years.

The Drummoyne Amateur Swimming Club Records recently transferred its historical records and photographs to Local Studies for safekeeping and to ensure that their remarkable history is made available to researchers and the community.

A selection of the images will be exhibited later this year at Five Dock Library. The photograph, above, is of the Club Carnival night in 1981 at Drummoyne Swimming Pool.

Abbotsford Baths

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In the early part of the twentieth century there were many swimming pools dotted along the Parramatta River, providing recreation for the community.

The Abbotsford Swimming Baths opened in early 1908 and were described as ‘most up-to-date swimming baths’. An unusual feature of the baths was a 12 metre high diving platform.

The baths quickly became a popular venue for swimming carnivals. The Abbotsford Amateur Swimming Club was formed in December 1907, just prior to the opening of the baths, while other early swimming clubs using the facilities were the Five Dock and District Club and the Western Ladies’ Club.

By the early 1950s Abbotsford Swimming Baths had closed and the Abbotsford 12 foot Flying Squadron clubhouse was built on the site in 1954.

Golden era of swimming recalled

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The 1950s are often regarded as the golden era of Australian swimming.

Recently the National Film and Sound Archive received a donation of rare film footage of swimmers at the British Empire and Commonwealth Games at Vancouver in 1954. It includes local swimmers Lorraine Crapp (now Lorraine Thurlow) and Jon Henricks.

The local Concord community contributed to a fund to send swimmers Jon Hendricks and Lorraine Crapp and oarsman David Anderson to the Vancouver Games. Lorraine Crapp, who was just 15 years old at the time, won the 110-yard and 440-yard gold medals at Vancouver. Upon their return from the Games there was a special civic reception for the three athletes at Concord Council Chambers (at that time situated on Burwood Road, Concord). The photograph shows Lorraine Crapp, wearing the official Games uniform, with David Anderson following. The girls acting as a guard of honour are swimmers from the Cabarita Ladies’ Amateur Swimming Club of which Lorraine was a member. More images of the civic reception can be seen on flickr.

All three athletes went on to participate in the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne with both Lorraine Crapp and Jon Henricks winning gold medals.

Local club made a big splash


In the early 1950s the Cabarita Ladies’ Amateur Swimming Club had a big impact on Australian women’s swimming.

The club was founded by Lesley Thicknesse who had been a diver at the Empire (now Commonwealth) Games in London in 1934. Her three daughters Janet, Val and Pam along with Lorraine and Thelma Crapp were among the first members of the club. Based at Cabarita Baths (now Cabarita Swimming Centre), six members of the club were part of the Australian team at the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne.

In view of the regimens of today’s elite swimmers, it’s interesting to reflect on training 1950s style. Winter calisthenics classes were held on the backyard lawn of the Thicknesse family home. Participants were reminded to ‘bring a rug or small blanket’. However, training was under the guidance of Frank Guthrie, one of the great coaches of the period, who helped Lorraine Crapp achieve enormous success in the pool.

The photograph shows Pat Huntingford and Lorraine Crapp participating in a Cabarita Ladies’ Amateur Swimming Club calisthenics class in 1955.

City of Canada Bay is hosting a family fun day at Bayview Park, Concord on Saturday, 21 March 2015, 12noon – 4pm as part of the Parramatta River Catchment Group – Our Living River initiative, to make the Parramatta swimmable again. Come along, it’s free!

Keeping cool at Drummoyne

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The first swimming baths at Drummoyne were opened in November 1899, close to where the current pool is located. It was a floating timber structure, moored in place by a large punt that allowed the platform to be lowered or raised depending on the tidal flow of the Parramatta River. The baths were reserved for ‘the convenience of ladies’ from 11 am to 3 pm.

In 1904 a permanent structure was built at a cost of £3000. The pool was cut out of solid rock with a concrete wall erected to keep out seawater. It is one of the oldest Council pools in Sydney.

Over the years there have been many alterations and renovations to maintain the standard and quality of the pool. It has been both an enjoyable place for the local community and an important training pool for some of Australia’s best known swimmers, including Dawn Fraser, Jon Henricks and John Konrads.

The photograph shows Drummoyne Pool in 1949.

A dip into the past

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In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries there were many tidal swimming pools along the Parramatta River providing welcome relief and recreation on hot days.

In November 1888 bricklayer Samuel Ashton purchased Lots 7 and 8, Section 3 of the Mortlake Estate. Samuel Ashton had emigrated from England with his family, probably in late 1884 or early 1885. He was soon engaged in building a baths, blasted out of sandstone bedrock adjacent to the foreshore. They measured 30 metres by 12 metres. In September 1889 Samuel Ashton advertised to purchase a “Centrifugal PUMP, 3 or 4 in., with 30ft. piping.” (The Sydney Morning Herald, Thursday 12 September 1889, p14.) He devised a way to empty and fill the baths with the tides and every fortnight they were emptied out and the sides and bottom scrubbed and whitewashed.

It was previously thought the baths were constructed in 1886, but as Ashton didn’t purchase the land until late in 1888, 1889-1890 is more likely. Certainly they were complete by September 1890 when they were advertised as the “Mortlake Baths”. They are believed to be the first non-tidal enclosed public baths built in metropolitan Sydney. In the early days males and females were strictly segregated. Under no circumstances were men and women allowed to swim together. Bathers were charged threepence admission, which included use of a clean towel.

It is recorded that 21,000 school children attended the baths each week during the swimming season. Although electric pumps had been installed so the baths were not dependant on the tides, competition from larger and more modern swimming pools in the area led to a decline in patronage in the 1930s. Ashton’s Mortlake Baths closed to the public in 1934 (The Sun, Thursday 27 September 1934) and Samuel Ashton died on 22 May 1936. The site was used as Ashton Brothers paint factory and the pool was filled in about 1950. The land remained in the ownership of the Ashton family until 1961.