The cultural origins of competitive swimming in Australia, R Light, T Rockwell

Tags: Australia, Sydney, Richard Light, Sydney Morning Herald, Competitive Swimming, Port Jackson Swimming Club, swimming clubs, Sydney Harbour, enclosures, Port Jackson, Tracy Rockwell, Australians, Swimming Club, the nineteenth century, Professor Cavill, Australian Sport, beaches in Sydney, Sydney Morning, St Leonards, Australian culture, Australian national identity, Sporting Intelligence, New Zealand Association, New Zealand Amateur Swimming Association, Swimming in Australia, Hidden Influence of Sport, Australian Beach Cultures, Royal Australian Historical Society, City of Sydney, Sydney clubs, Federation Sydney, development, Public Bathing, Australian, nineteenth century, Competitive Swimming in Australia Richard Light, the University of Sydney, cultural association, government concern, swimming baths, swimming, Frederick Cavill, Pitt Street Sydney, Governor Lachlan Macquarie, Human Movement and Health Education, City of Sydney Council
Content: 21 The Cultural Origins of Competitive Swimming in Australia Richard Light teaches in the area of social theory in human movement in the Faculty of Education and Social Work at the University of Sydney. His research focuses on the social and cultural dimensions of sport and on the development of innovative sport and physical education pedagogy. Tracy Rockwell teaches in Human Movement and Health Education in the Faculty of Education and Social Work at the University of Sydney. His research interest lies in the history of water polo in Australia and experiential learning. Introduction Within the context of profound post-industrial revolutions and social and economic changes from which sport emerged, and the particular social and cultural environment of the Australian colonies, this article traces the transformation of bathing from a popular pastime into the regulated practice of competitive swimming, with a focus on Sydney.1 From settlement in 1788, bathing in Sydney Harbour, its rivers and the adjacent ocean developed as a popular social activity and part of a growing relationship between the new inhabitants and the water. Within the context of anxiety over the development of a civil and moral society from the early nineteenth century, however, there was growing government concern with the practice of bathing and with public displays of the naked body in particular. This concern with morality in the young colony led to government strategies aimed at controlling bathing by increasingly restricting the natural locations in which it could be practised and the construction of bathing enclosures. From the mid-nineteenth century it was within these spaces that competitive swimming developed and the subsequent growth of swimming clubs began. This transformation of bathing as a leisure activity into the regulated and rationalised sport of competitive swimming during the mid-nineteenth century occurred as part of the development of a distinctive Australian sporting culture as Australians moved away from following established British practices during the second half of the nineteenth century.2 This article examines the first century of Australian's association with the water to trace the process through which bathing in the waters around Sydney progressively developed into organised, competitive swimming to become a popular form of entertainment by the time of Federation.3 It tracks the development of competitive swimming from an early 'intimacy' with the water in the waters of Sydney and the growth of bathing as part of an emerging Australian culture during the nineteenth century. Despite Sporting Traditions, vol. 22, no. 1 (November 2005), pp. 21-37. Published by the Australian Society for Sports History.
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concerted attempts by authorities to suppress bathing over this period, a strong cultural association with the water ensured that bathing and swimming as a cultural practice endured. Attempts at controlling bathing, however, played a significant part in the development of competitive swimming. While there was certainly justification on grounds of the dangers it presented for encouraging bathing within enclosures, the drive to bring bathing into enclosures and under control came from middle class Victorian concerns with morality and self-control. Such concerns were intensified by anxieties created by the particular conditions of the colony during the nineteenth century.4 Specifically, there was concern with the type of society that would develop from convict stock and the effects of an alien and threatening natural environment. Within the context of these concerns, sport was seen as a bulwark against perceived threats to the building and maintenance of a civil society.5 Concern with the immoral nature of uninhibited naked bathing led to the restriction of locations where bathing could be practised and the construction of fixed enclosures where the authorities could control bathing. This regulation and rationalisation of bathing stimulated the development of competitive swimming that was then further accelerated by the ensuing growth of swimming clubs throughout Sydney and later elsewhere in the colonies. The ensuing growth of competitive swimming saw it subsequently develop into a popular form of public entertainment. Public Bathing: From Cooling Off to Moral Danger There was little time for indulging in the sports that were popular with the British in the early years of settlement. There were few bats and balls so apart from gambling and violent sport between convicts, swimming and bathing were among the first sports to be taken up in the new colony with a bathing enclosure built by the British Marines as early as 1788.6 The eleven ships, naval contingent, convicts and military escort that formed the first fleet arrived at the height of the Australian summer on 20 January 1788. In such heat and humidity the numerous coves and harbour beaches that line the foreshores of Port Jackson offered a natural means of washing and cooling off, as it had for thousands of years for the Aboriginal population. The proficiency of the locals at swimming was noted by Lieutenant James Cook on his arrival at Botany Bay in 1770: Whenever the surf broke over them, they dived under it and to all appearance with infinite facility, rose on the other side. At this wonderful scene we stood gazing for more than half an hour, during which time none of the swimmers attempted to come ashore.7 From the arrival of the first fleet, the British took up bathing and it is from this early engagement with the waters of Australia that swimming developed as a competitive sport throughout the nineteenth century.
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Although a few intrepid convict would-be-escapees swam across Sydney Harbour on what they thought was a route to China, one of the first reports of the new inhabitants swimming was recorded in July 1788, when two of Captain Hunter's men swam across the Middle Harbour to get through to Sydney Cove and H.M.S. Sirius.8 Captain Hunter's journal records that after exploring the Hawkesbury River to the north of Sydney and returning to Manly, his officers had forgotten to send a boat to collect the scouting party. To save the longjourney around the Middle Harbour hills, two seamen swam across to the sand-spit and made their way back to Sydney Cove with their commander's orders to send a boat and crew. One of the sailors lost what little clothing he was wearing on the way and finished the swim naked.9 'Cold water bathing' had long been considered a health promoting activity in Britain and a belief in its health giving properties was well accepted in Australia right through the nineteenth century with Dr William O'Reilly recommending it for those suffering liver complaints and chronic afflictions of the digestive system.10 Despite this belief in the health giving aspects of bathing and its growing popularity among the new emigrants, public bathing was considered a vulgar pastime by the middle classes and an affront to their Victorian sensibilities. It was seen to be socially unacceptable and particularly so for women. In the heat of the Australian summer however, men shed themselves of their heavy work clothes and, in the absence of bathing suits, often entered the sea naked.11 Authorities saw bathing as 'a very indecent and improper custom' and a threat to public morality. On 6 October 1810, the first regulations governing public bathing were introduced with bathing near the Government Wharf in Sydney Cove and in the Dockyard prohibited by order of Governor Lachlan Macquarie: A very indecent and improper Custom having lately prevailed, of Soldiers, Sailors and Inhabitants of the Town bathing themselves at all Hours of the Day at the Government Wharf and also in the Dockyard, His Excellency, the Governor, directs and commands that no Person shall Bathe at either of those places in the future, at any Hour of the Day and the Sentinels posted at the Government Wharf and in the Dock-yard are to receive Strict orders to apprehend and confine any Person transgressing this order.12 Controlling Public Bathing and the Construction of Public Baths In addition to growing disapproval by authorities and the middle classes, bathing in the idyllic coves of Port Jackson proved at times to be a life threatening activity. Apart from the ever-present danger of drowning, the inviting waters of Sydney Harbour also proved to be shark infested. Horrific and fatal shark attacks such as the one recorded below served to discourage bathing:
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Not long ago some persons were bathing close to the baths -- unfortunately not in the baths -- and a large shark seized one of the swimmers by the top of the thigh, so close to the shore that he was scarce out of his depth. His companions came to the rescue, and pulled him back by the body into his depth, the fish still retaining his hold. Then commenced a terrible tussle and pull -- two men against a shark for the body of an agonised human creature. They were victorious for they pulled the poor fellow out of the grasp of his monstrous persecutor, and yet the shark was not altogether vanquished, for he left his teeth so closely shut that all the flesh of the thigh and leg remained in his mouth. The poor human sufferer died on the bank immediately afterwards, with the whole of his limb denuded of flesh and muscle. It had actually dragged through the clenched fangs of his relentless enemy.13 Early attempts to restrain bathing weren't driven by concern for public safety but by the effect of open bathing upon morality with displays of the naked body in public being of particular concern. As settlement developed in Sydney a half-century after the first fleet arrived, concern with morality and the future of the colony resulted in a concerted campaign by the middle classes for temperance, sobriety and family values that found many zealous supporters in the new colony. The currency lads and lassies, as they came to be known, proved to be very conservative and it was this generation that contributed to the formation of the Temperance Society in Sydney in 1834 and the eventual development of public baths as a means of reigning in unregulated bathing.14 The government of the time was prepared to assist the growth of bathing enclosures. It provided financial aid for the construction of baths in Woolloomooloo Bay and offered a land grant for the construction of an enclosure in the Domain.15 By this time bathing and swimming were growing rapidly in popularity to the extent that in 1834 the Sydney Gazette claimed that swimming was 'the favourite recreation in Sydney'.16 Swimming was also developing in South Australia where, in the 1870s the first recorded women's swimming race was held.17 Christian moralists in Britain considered the nudity associated with bathing to be intolerable and were able to exert enough influence on the authorities to have prohibitive legislation introduced, beginning with the Vagrancy Act in 1824 which made it illegal for men to appear naked in public in the view of women.18 Growing concern with the immorality of public bathing by groups such as the Temperance Society and others in Australia led to the development of public baths as a means of amending public bathing and exerting control over the behaviour of the working classes. Among the very first harbour baths to be built in Sydney were those of Mrs Esther Biggs, wife of an ex-coachman on Governor Lachlan Macquarie's staff, who built a roughly constructed pool
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for women and families, located adjacent to the open area used by males in Woolloomooloo Bay. This 'bathing machine' was advertised in the Sydney Morning Herald in 1833: Mrs Biggs of Phillip Street begs to inform the ladies of Sydney and its vicinity that she has been at considerable expense in building a comfortable Bathing Machine which will be opened for their reception on Monday next week, when families can be accommodated on economical terms. The machine is stationed in Woolloomooloo Bay, near the old crane.19 Barely a month after Mrs Biggs baths came into operation the New South Wales (NSW) Government moved to control public bathing. Strong societal pressures combined with the growing influence of the Temperance Movement persuaded the government to ban bathing in Sydney Cove altogether and restrict it to Woolloomooloo Bay. So, again in 1833, the NSW Government found it necessary to pass an Act prohibiting bathing in the waters of Sydney Cove and Darling Harbour between the hours of 6.00 am to 8.00 pm, as noted accordingly: '... persons in the habit of BATHING in SYDNEY COVE at all hours of the day, but particularly on Sundays, are in gross violation of decency, and to the hindrance of the public'.20 Restrictions on bathing outside enclosures saw increasing numbers of people bathe at other locations, such as Sydney's beaches. Five years later another Act had to be passed, this time prohibiting bathing on all beaches within view of a public place or resort during the day. As the primary aim of this law was to stop the display of the naked body in public, some resorts such as Queenscliff and Sorrento in Victoria, and Manly in NSW constructed bathing machines that were like change rooms on wheels and these machines allowed bathers to enter the surf out of view of the public.21 Locals who wanted to swim in the ocean moved away from the beaches patrolled by inspectors. Inspectors and Local Government officials were often reluctant to enforce this unpopular law with any great zeal, and Newcastle Council appealed to the state government to have the law rescinded.22 The law was unpopular with the public and was frequently violated but was not repealed for another 70 years. From around 1890, bathers and swimmers increasingly challenged the law to the extent that Manly Council placed four 'rescue lines on the beach in 1891.23 William Gocher, the editor of the Manly Daily, famously defied authorities.24 On three occasions in 1902 Gocher announced his intention to bathe in the surf at Manly Beach with a crowd of over 1000 people turning up to watch his defiance on the final occasion. He was arrested but not charged and the unpopular Act was amended in 1903 after which Sydneysiders again took to the beach in numbers. The ensuing explosion in numbers bathing in the ocean, however, resulted in an
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alarming increase in deaths by drowning that in turn saw the establishment of the first surf clubs in 1907. In the early years of the Sydney settlement, bathers had begun diving off the rocky foreshore surrounding Woolloomooloo Bay. Although Sydney Cove and the Rocks precinct were becoming quite populated at that time, there were few houses in Woolloomooloo Bay and it therefore became a popular location for bathing. This site at Woolloomooloo was on the Domain side of the bay and featured huge overhanging fig trees where crude steps had been cut into the rocks leading down to a bathing spot known both as Fig Tree or Centipede Rock.25 From 1810 to 1821, Mrs Macquarie, the governor's wife, was very fond of this vicinity and had a bench carved out of the rock where she would spend hours watching the bustling harbour activity of the growing colony. The rock bench is still there and is known today as 'Mrs Macquarie's Chair'. In September 1838, Thomas Robinson established a floating bathing enclosure at the Fig Tree site on the Domain foreshore. The opening of the ladies' baths, 'for that most delightful and healthy recreation' was followed three weeks later by the opening of the men's baths and for the next 50 years Robinson's Baths became one of the best-known attractions in Sydney.26 The early bathing structures were segregated by sex and usually constructed of hardwood palings to withstand the corrosive effect of the sea. Robinson created his baths by anchoring the hulk of an old sailing vessel, known as the Ben Bolt, 40 yards offshore. He then provided a swimming enclosure by connecting the bow and stern of the vessel to the shore with fences of wooden pickets driven into the mud. After several years the Ben Bolt disintegrated with age but was replaced by a bigger hulk known as the Cornwallis. The cabins of the Cornwallis were converted into dressing cubicles, while alongside there was also built a separate enclosure for women.27 An eyewitness at the time described the scene: As I strolled along the edge of the Domain nearest the Harbour, I came upon a hulk moored close to the shore ... The said hulk, I found, had been converted into a bathing-machine round which bathers could swim secure from sharks, which swarm in Port Jackson, and are of the largest size. A spot about fifty yards from the hulk was pointed out to me where a too adventurous person had had his leg nipped off by one of these monsters. This fact considerably cooled my growing desire for a good long swim.28 The Development of Competitive Swimming The fixed length enclosures provided by public baths encouraged competitive swimming as an increasingly organised and regulated sporting activity. Confined to members of the baths, the first swimming races ever recorded in Australia were held in Robinson's Baths in 1845 and paved the way for
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the first swimming championships held the following year. On 14 February 1846 a procession of Sydneysiders headed for Robinson's Baths to watch Australia's first swimming championships that drew entrants from all over Sydney.29 The baths were decked out in bunting for the occasion and the main event that afternoon, held over 440 yards, was watched by 1000 spectators perched on the rocky hillside of the Domain or clinging to the branches of the fig trees. In an atmosphere of tense excitement and with a rowdy accompaniment of barracking, the spectators observed the winner, 22-year old William Redman,30 cover the distance in eight minutes and 43 seconds, with Alister McLean and the winners' older brother, John Redman, filling the minor places.31 Competitive swimming meetings continued to be held at Robinson's Baths and on occasion the patrons staged impromptu long distance races in the open waters of the harbour. They started these events inside the baths, dived under the Cornwallis and then struck out for the finishing mark on Bennelong Point, Potts Point or Garden Island with supporters rowing beside the swimmers to keep the sharks away.32 The prizes were six guineas for first, four guineas for second and two guineas for third place. When a shark was sighted, boatmen would put out with harpoons from the fishermen's sheds in Woolloomooloo Bay. The protection they were able to provide was, however, limited and a shark took a soldier of the garrison during one such race to Farm Cove. On another occasion a dozen swimmers were marooned overnight on Garden Island after taking refuge there from a school of sharks.33 The popularity of swimming saw the arrival of a competitor for Robinson's Baths. In 1858, the nearby Gentleman's and Ladies Free or Corporation Baths, which were established by the Town Council, or Corporation, as it was known, was established on the site of the later well-known Domain Baths. These primitive enclosures were constructed principally of wooden palings and were known for the next two generations as the Corporation Baths.34 There were no facilities for undressing and swimmers had to strip behind trees or beneath overhanging rocks and some took cover by scrambling down to an embankment of stones along the water's edge. As the men and boys swam nude at these baths, mixed bathing was strictly forbidden. Rules for women, however, were very different. No female appeared in the water unless they were clothed in a neck to knee gown. By this time the gold rush had been in full swing for almost a decade and the swelling hoards of immigrants to NSW reported back to the 'mother country' on the Australian fascination with swimming upon their return to England: As regards bathing, there is no English watering place which can surpass Sydney Baths are erected, at which, for the payment of fifteen shillings per quarter, the most timid can enjoy that luxury without fear,
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while for those whose nerves are a 'leetle stronger' there is a beautiful cove overhung with a profusion of trees, where on a gently shelving bed of sand we can encourage an intimacy between ourselves and the liquid element, and for those who are accomplished in the art of swimming, there are rocks from which they can fearlessly plunge into the refreshing flood.35 As the early bathing structures were not solidly built, both the old Gentlemen's and Ladies' Corporation Baths were constantly in need of repair and they were demolished in 1898.36 Despite such problems however, these first city baths remained in use for almost 50 years until in 1908 a newer structure was erected. This latter structure became the largest and bestknown Domain Baths and was opened on the 17 October 1908 by Sydney Lord Mayor, Thomas Hughes, who described them as 'easily the finest baths in Australia and rivalling the best in the world'.37 Despite the competition from these other bathing establishments,38 Robinson's Baths remained the headquarters of Australian swimming until the second Domain Baths were opened. The Development of Swimming Clubs The building of enclosures for public bathing stimulated the growth and popularity of swimming and its development into organised competitive swimming in a process through which Australians' engagement with the water was increasingly rationalised and regulated. The regulation of swimming was extended through the formation of swimming clubs. The first Swimming Club established in Australia was the Victoria Swimming Club at Kenny's Baths in Melbourne, 1867.39 Other clubs were also established in Victoria, with the Ballarat (1875), South Melbourne (1876), and St Kilda (1876), Swimming Clubs all forming before any clubs in Sydney.40 The first Sydney clubs formed were the Sydney and PortJackson Swimming Clubs, which were both formed in December of 1879.41 The oldest swimming club still operating today is the Balmain Swimming Club of Sydney formed in 1884.42 The primary motivation for the creation of the Port Jackson Swimming Club in Sydney was concern over the need for a population living so close to the water and increasingly engaging in water-based leisure activities to be able to swim. One incident in particular that attracted great public attention provided the main impetus for the formation of the Port Jackson Swimming Club. In a fatal boating accident that occurred on Sydney Harbour on Sunday, 7 December 1879, two young lovers both drowned while sailing with friends.43 The tragedy, which was widely reported in the press, affected the populace to such an extent that the formation of a swimming club was proposed and accepted by bathing patrons, with the new club coming into existence one week later, on 13 December 1879:
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Mr. W. Wynne, who was voted to the chair, explained the objects of the meeting, and went on to show the operation of swimming clubs in England and in the other colonies. In Ballarat, for instance, 70 boys had been taught to swim during the first year of the existence of the club and this number had been increased every season. The South Melbourne and St Kilda Swimming Clubs had been equally successful, and he saw no reason why a similar institution in Sydney should not have as satisfactory a career before it. 44 Two Sydney clubs were established almost simultaneously and became early competitors by virtue of the venue to which they were attached. The Sydney Swimming Club operated out of Robinson's Baths, whilst the Port Jackson Swimming Club operated out of Foley's Baths (Corporation Baths) and was situated at the northern end of the Domain. By 1879, with swimming enthusiasm visibly gripping the town, the City of Sydney Council was incorporated and the transformation had an immediate effect on city planning. The next few years witnessed the erection of baths at the end of Point-Street Pyrmont in 1879,45 and the Natatorium opened at 400 Pitt Street Sydney. The term natatorium was used during this period to describe places where a wide range of water pursuits were undertaken and within which competitive swimming was only one activity. The Coogee Palace Aquarium was also being constructed at this time and a municipal meeting at Balmain was held in February 1880 to discuss council's work on the swimming baths at Elkington Park.46 These new bathing facilities gave birth to more swimming clubs, and by 1885 the Balmain, Enterprise, Port Jackson and St Leonards clubs were joined by newer clubs which were beginning to operate all over Sydney. Swimming as a Form of Entertainment: Exhibitions and Swimming Carnivals During the late nineteenth century the number of baths and swimming clubs grew quickly in Australia, as did the popularity of competitive swimming. During this period swimming developed as a spectator-sport and a source of commercial entertainment. In the summer of 1881, one of the first ever inter-club swimming competitions conducted in Australia was held at Foley's Baths, with eleven events on the programme as reported on page six in the Sydney Morning Herald on 21 February 1881: The Port Jackson Swimming Club held a swimming tournament on Saturday evening at Foley's Baths. About 250 persons were present including ten or twelve ladies. On the programme there were eleven events, which were well contested. At intervals during the evening the Prince of Wales' Band discoursed some excellent music ... The whole concluded with a polo match, which caused great amusement.
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By the middle of the nineteenth century competitive swimming had risen in popularity with growing public interest in competitions. In 1861, Joseph Bennet, the NSW champion defeated the Victorian champion, Stevens, over 200 yards at St Kilda to win Ј30 in prize money. Events such as these were creating enough interest in the sport for it to provide a livelihood for many involved in activities such as swimming teachers, carnival organisers and proprietors of baths, such as 'Professor' Frederick Cavill. In 1879, Cavill, who had been one of Britain's best-known swimming teachers, sold his London baths and migrated to Australia. In England he had collected four Humane Society medals for saving lives and once almost succeeded in swimming the English Channel.47 It seems likely that it was Professor Cavill who introduced the sport of water polo to Australia, as in the next swimming season following his arrival the first reported occurrence of a polo match was printed in the Sydney Morning Herald.48 Three weeks later, Professor Cavill repeated this open inter-club swimming event at Lavender Bay Baths with the inaugural meeting of the St Leonards Swimming Club.49 As with most swimming competition of the time it formed part of a program of aquatic entertainment along with water polo matches and a range of other carnival like events as reported in he Sydney Morning Herald in 1881: On Saturday afternoon the inaugural meeting of the St Leonards Swimming Club was held at Professor Cavill's Lavender Bay Baths, and passed off successfully. A swimming match for boys of 14 opened the proceedings, and proved an interesting event. Then followed the polo match, between members of the Port Jackson Swimming Club and the St. Leonards Swimming Club. There were twelve members a side, under the captaincy of Messrs. W. Wynne and Cavill. The first goal was secured by the St Leonards Club, and the second by the Port Jackson Club. The final goal fell to the St Leonards team, who were thereupon declared the winners. Other amusements such as riding on a dummy horse, and a wooden dolphin, served to keep the juveniles engaged until a late hour. The local club now numbers over 50 members, and with the fine baths they have to practise in, should soon make themselves known as exponents of the natatorial art.50 Aquatic carnivals 'whetted the appetite' of the pubic for swimming as a sport.51 Well-known, and highly accomplished female swimmer, Annette Kellerman who made several attempts to swim the English channel and swam 22 miles down the Danube River, was also an entertainer under the name of 'Diving Venus'.52 Although these early events were produced more for entertainment and amusement than competition, such displays of swimming prowess became the model for inter-club competition, and the descendents of these early exhibitions are known even today as swimming
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carnivals. Professor Cavill went on to sign a lease for the Lavender Bay Baths for a 30-year period but within 10 years the NSW Government resumed the site to use for railway purposes. After some legal wrangling, approval was given for Cavill to establish new baths on the other side of the harbour at Farm Cove. There he built a floating structure, made of light wooden slats and supported by iron tanks.53 In 1902 Cavill's Baths were moved to another site in Woolloomooloo Bay, where it remained one of Sydney's landmarks for the next seven years.54 A violent storm one night in 1909 broke the floating structure from its moorings, and it was driven across the harbour and wrecked on the deserted shores of Cremorne Point.55 At almost 70 and too old to start again, the professor went into retirement and left his lifelong passion for swimming with his sons, Ernest, Charles, Percy, Arthur, Sydney and Dick, who kept the Cavill name at the forefront of Australian swimming for many years. By 1885, swimming as a sport was taking hold in other parts of the country and competitions were being hosted by the South Melbourne,56 St. Kilda57 and Western (Geelong) Swimming Clubs in Victoria.58 Swimming baths were also erected at Newtown in Sydney where a natatorial exhibition and swimming contest was held in 1889. The events reported in the Sydney Morning Herald provide an example of the emphasis on entertainment at swimming carnivals: The music of the brass band considerably added to the pleasure of the afternoon ... Messrs. Corbett and Parkinson, of the Port Jackson Swimming Club, gave an exhibition of natatorial feats. They took headers with lighted cigars in their mouths, smoked under water, revolved on the surface separately, with legs locked together, and then with head and shoulders together, floated in double groups and sank to the bottom, ate and drank under water, turned front and back somersaults, and wrote answers on slates while under water to questions asked above the water. Mr. Corbett swam head downwards, with feet under water, and Mr. Parkinson undressed under water. Mr. Parkinson then acted as a drowning man for those entered for the 'best style of rescuing a drowning person'.59 By 1890, with the rapid growth in the construction of bathing enclosures and the formation of swimming clubs, there was a need for a governing body for swimming as a sport. The New South Wales Amateur Swimming Association was formed on 31 January 1892, with a unanimous vote by members to adopt the rules of the New Zealand Association.60 The New Zealand Amateur Swimming Association had been formed three years earlier on 21 December 1889 at Lake Takapuna, and had adopted most of its structure from the British Association.61 The development of other state
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swimming bodies soon followed, and for a period of time these organised their own individual championships. An association of member clubs made sense to the early administrators of swimming, and offered a means of streamlining rules, procedures and standards. It was, however, the progress of professionalism that hastened their decision to associate. Only a year prior to association, an inter-colonial swimming race offering prize money of Ј35 was held between Messrs. Corbett and Parkinson in Victoria,62 By 1892, Australia was entering a golden era of competitive swimming. Coinciding with the growth of sport in Australia during the second half of the nineteenth century, swimming boomed. By the turn of the century Australians held all the world records for men's events, Fanny Durack was the women's world champion and record holder, breaking all world women's swimming records between February and March 1912.63 Australia was at the forefront of world swimming.64 This phase spanned almost 20 years before a federal association was formed to stage national championships under uniform rules, and the Amateur Swimming Union of Australia became the governing body for the whole country in 1909. Conclusion Australian swimmers' impressive performances at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games confirmed Australia's standing as a dominant force in world swimming and much of this success is due to the efficiency of the governmentfunded sport system built around the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS). Australia does, however, have a long and successful history in international competitive swimming reaching back well before the inauguration of the AIS or the rise of sport science. Prior to the merging of science with sport and growth in the political and economic importance of sport, Australia's climate, which allows year-round swimming, and the population's access to swimming pools, made a significant contribution to the development and standard of Australian swimming. These factors are, however, of much less significance for performance at elite levels with the advances made in the sport sciences, technology and training methods. While a wide range of factors have contributed toward the success of Australian swimmers on the world stage, much of this success has been built upon the prominence of sport in Australian culture which has its roots embedded in Australian history. As early as 1837 observers noted how, Australians' fascination with the water contributed to the standard of swimming: 'Where there is so much bathing it may naturally be supposed there are good swimmers, and Sydney is celebrated for them'.65 There are few, if any other countries where competitive swimming captures public attention, as much as it does in Australia. As much academic and popular writing has commented on over the past century or so, sport
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holds an unusually prominent position in Australian culture. Swimming, and the relationship of Australians with the water, has long formed a very prominent element of Australian national identity. A total of 85 percent of Australians live within an hour's drive of the coast, and the beach forms both a significant influence in the development of Australian children and a central icon of Australian culture. Swimming is a compulsory part of schooling in the early years for Australian children and champion swimmers such as Ian Thorpe, Susie O'Neill and Dawn Fraser are familiar names to most Australians. Cashman identifies the period from 1850 to 1914 as the critical era in the formation of a distinctly Australia sporting culture.66 It was during this period that sport as an organised and regulated practice emerged and was consolidated to lay the foundations for the future development of Australian sporting cultures. From settlement and through much of the eighteenth century, Australians tended to follow British sporting traditions, but in the latter half of the century, as Australia moved toward Federation and an Australian national identity began to emerge, sporting practices began to take on a distinctly Australian approach. Swimming and bathing were among the earliest sports to be practised in Australia and despite the very different physical and social environments, Australians were initially guided by British attitudes to aquatic activities. The latter half of the nineteenth century, however, saw the emergence of a distinctly Australian approach to aquatic practices. Like other sports, swimming contributed to the development of an Australian national identity in the lead up to Federation and continues as an important cultural practice that plays a significant part in the production and reproduction of Australian culture and national identity.67 Particular environmental conditions played a part in the development of an intimacy with the water, in Australian culture from the arrival of the first fleet. The hot and humid summers, the pleasant water temperature and the abundance of idyllic coves and beaches in Sydney and other locations around the country, all contributed to the growth of bathing and water-based leisure activities. It was however, the particular social conditions of the colony within which attempts to control bathing and the subsequent development of enclosed baths that was most significant in the development of organised swimming as an important element of Australian culture, practised in an Australian way. Similar research focused on the development of swimming in states other than NSW, or on the development of swimming as a sport in Australia over the twentieth century, would provide further and valuable understanding of the ways in which Australia's strength in international swimming is tied into the development of a sporting culture particular to Australia.
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Endnotes 1 P. Bourdieu, 'Sport and Social Class' in Social Science Information, vol. 17, no. 6, 1978, pp. 819-840; R. Holt, Sport and the British: A Modern History, Third Edition, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1995; J. A. Mangan, Athleticism in the Victorian and Edwardian Public School, the Emergence and Consolidation of an Educational Ideology, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1981; J. Stratton, 'Australia: This Sporting Life', in G. Lawrence and D. Rowe (eds), Power Play: Essays in the Sociology of Australian Sport, Hale and Ironmonger, Sydney, 1986, pp. 85-111. 2 R. Cashman, Paradise of Sport: the Rise of Organised Sport in Australia, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1995, p. 15. 3 This article does not seek to provide a comprehensive history of swimming in Australia from settlement to Federation. Instead, it uses selected primary sources of data to provide support for the central arguments in the paper concerned with the cultural origins of competitive swimming in Sydney and the ways in which it was shaped by changing social and cultural conditions. 4 B. Stoddart, The Hidden Influence of Sport', in V. Bergman, N. Lee and J. Lee (eds), Constructing a Culture: A People's History of Australia Since 1788, McPhee, Gribble-Penguin, Melbourne, 1988, pp. 124-35. 5 Stratton, Australia: This Sporting Life', pp. 4, 85-111. 6 Cashman, Paradise of Sport, p. 15. 7 L. Wells, Sunny Memories: Australians at the Seaside, Greenhouse Publications, Melbourne, 1982. p. 17. 8 Capt. J. Hunter, An Historical Journal of Events at Sydney and at Sea 1787-1792, The Royal Australian Historical Society, Sydney; Angus and Robertson Publishers, 1968 (Original work published in 1793). 9 Hunter, An Historical Journal of Events at Sydney and at Sea. 10 D. Booth, Australian Beach Cultures, Frank Cass, London, 2001. 11 Wells, Sunny Memories, p. 20. 12 Government and General Orders. The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, 6 October 1810, p. 2. 13 Rev. J. D. Merewether, Diary of a Working Clergyman, Hatchart & Co., London, 1859, pp. 225-226. 14 L. C. Turnbull, Sydney: Biography of a City Random House, Sydney, 1999, pp. 85-86. 15 V. Raszeja, A Decent and Proper Exertion: The Rise of Women's Competitive Swimming in Sydney to 1912, ASSH Studies in Sports History no. 9. Australian Society for Sports History, Campbelltown, 1992. 16 Sydney Gazette, 18 February 1834, cited in Raszeja, A Decent and Proper Exertion, p. 34. 17 J. A. Daly, Elysian Fields: Sport, Class and Community in South Australia 1836-1890, J. A. Daly, Adelaide, 1982, cited in Raszeja, A Decent and Proper Exertion, p. 20.
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18 Booth, Australian Beach Cultures. 19 Sydney Morning Herald, 14 January 1833 p. 3. 20 New South Wales Government Gazette (Sydney) no. 50:59, 13 February 1833, p.1. 21 Booth, Australian Beach Cultures, p. 25. 22 Booth, Australian Beach Cultures, p. 30. 23 S. Brawley, 'Our Life-Savers: The Royal Life Saving Society and the Origins of Surf Life Saving in Federation Sydney', in R. Cashman, J. O'Hara and A. Honey (eds) Sport Federation, Nation, Petersham, Walla Walla Press, Sydney, pp. 139-164. 24 Booth, Australian Beach Cultures, p. 30. 25 J. Askew, A Voyage to Australia and New Zealand by a Steerage Passenger, Simpkin, Marshall & Co., London, 1857, pp. 196-206; 'Local News -- Ladies Baths', Australian (Sydney), 21 September 1838, p. 3. 26 'Local News -- Ladies Baths', Australian (Sydney) 21 September 1838, p. 3; Leigh & Co., Handbook to Sydney and Suburbs, Sydney, 1867, p. 24. 27 Sun Newspaper (Sydney), 21 January 1914. 28 Rev. A. Polehampton, Kangaroo Land, Richard Bentley, London, 1862, p. 36. 29 'Domestic Intelligence -- Public Swimming Matches', Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney), February 1846, p. 2. 30 New South Wales Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages (2003). Birth registration for William Redman, 1823 (V18236359,1B/1823) son of John Redman [Convict-- Tried Devon 1801, Sentenced to Life, arrived Sydney 1802 on the Coromandel] and Mary George, married 1812 (V18121402 3A/1812) in Sydney. 31 'Domestic Intelligence -- Public Swimming Matches', Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney), 16 February 1846, p. 2. 32 'Domestic Intelligence -- Grand Swimming Match', Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney), 23 March 1847, p. 2. 33 Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney), 23 March 1847, p. 2. 34 Archives Office of New South Wales, Woolcott and Clarke's Map of the City of Sydney, 1854, Microfilm No. 2755 (Frame 5722). 35 Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, A Visit to Australia and its Gold Regions. Truscott, Son & Simmons, 1860, pp. 110-114. 36 Archives Office, Map of Sydney, 1989, no. 530. 37 Proceedings of the Municipal Council of the City of Sydney, Sydney Corporation Baths -- Woolloomooloo Bay, 1908, p. 133. 38 Amusements -- Pyrmont Sea Baths', Daily Telegraph (Sydney) 1879, p. 8. 'Pyrmont Sea Baths, from dawn to dusk, Boats for hire. P. H. Vipond, Point-street, North'. 39 J. McDonald, The First 100: A Century of Swimming in Victoria, Swimming Victoria, Melbourne, 1993, p. 5. 40 McDonald, The First 100, p. 4.
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41 'Amusements, Sydney Swimming Club -- Gentlemen desirous of joining above may communicate with J. G. Wilson, Robinson's Bath's, Domain', Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 6 December 1879, p. 8. 42 http://www.tigers.org.au/Football_club/legends/alllegends/fraser.html. 43 'Fatal Boat Accident', Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 8 December, 1879, p. 2. 44 'Port Jackson Swimming Club', Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 15 December, 1879, p. 2. 45 S. Fitzgerald and H. Golder, Pyrmont and Ultimo Under Siege, Hale and Ironmonger, Sydney, 1994, p. 55. 46 Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 18 February 1880, p. 3. Municipal Meeting, 'Motion: pursuant to notice by Alderman Schultz -- That this council erects a bath, for the accommodation of the youths and labouring classes of Balmain, at the end of the place known as the water reserve between Reuss-street and White Horse Point, to be a free bath, and that the matter be referred to the committee of works'. 47 London Daily Telegraph, 16 August 1876. 48 'Sporting Intelligence -- Port Jackson Club', Sydney Morning Herald, 21 February 1881, p. 6. 49 'Sporting Intelligence -- Swimming', Sydney Morning Herald, 14 March 1881, p. 6. 50 'Sporting Intelligence -- Swimming', Sydney Morning Herald, 14 March 1881, p. 6. 51 Cashman, Paradise of Sport, p. 50. 52 Cashman, Paradise of Sport, p. 51. 53 E. Wilson, The Wishing Tree: A Guide to Memorial Trees, Statues, Fountains etc. in the Royal Botanic Gardens, Domain, and Centennial Park, Sydney Kangaroo Press, Sydney, 1992, p. 27. 54 Sydney Botanic Gardens Annual Report, 1900, p. 21. 55 Reader's Digest, Australia's Yesterdays: A Look at our Recent Past, Reader's Digest, Sydney, 1974, p. 192. 56 Argus (Melbourne), 31 January 1885, p. 16. 'Amusements, Fifth Mile Race, South Melbourne Swimming Club, will take place in the Yarra on Saturday, 14th February, at 6.30am. Entries close at Steele's baths on Friday 13th February, at 5pm. 57 Argus (Melbourne), 14 February 1885, p. 16. Amusements, St. Kilda Swimming Club, Grand Champion Meeting -- February 28th ... Entries close at Hegarty's Baths on the 18th at 8 O'clock. Races commence at 2.30. Admission, 1s. A. Watt, Hon. Sec'. 58 Argus (Melbourne), 16 February 1885, p. 7. 'Sporting Intelligence -- Swimming. The annual matches in connexion with the Western Swimming Club, Geelong, were held at the Western baths on Saturday'. 59 'Sporting Intelligence -- Swimming Contests at Newtown', Sydney Morning Herald, 18 March 1989, p. 5. 60 Truth Newspaper (Sydney), 31 January 1892, p. 6. 'Sporting -- Swimming Notes, A general meeting of swimmers interested in the
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formation of an association, was held at the Natatorium on Monday evening, when it was unanimously resolved to adopt the rules and bylaws of the New Zealand Association'. 61 New Zealand Amateur Swimming Association, 1894/95 Annual, 1895, p. 7. 62 Referee (Sydney), 29 January 1890, p. 8. 'Swimming Notes, Corbett and Parkinson to meet in the half-mile Intercolonial Handicap, to come off in Victoria on February 8, the first, second and third prizes for which are Ј35, Ј10 & Ј5 respectively'. 63 Raszeja, A Decent and Proper Exertion, p. 71. 64 Cashman, Paradise of Sport, p. 50. 65 Saturday Magazine, Sketches of New South Wales No. XVI: Some account of Sydney and Port Jackson, and the country towards Botany Bay London, no. 305, 1 April 1837, pp. 122-124. 66 Cashman, Paradise of Sport. 67 Brawley, 'Our Life-Savers', pp. 139-164.

R Light, T Rockwell

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Title: The Cultural Origins of Competitive Swimming in Australia
Author: R Light, T Rockwell
Author: RichardLight
Subject: Sporting Traditions
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