Swimming and diving at Blackrock

You can see from this turn of the century photograph why this area of Salthill would be known as Blackrock. Up until about that time there was a great tradition of fishing here. There was a small cluster of fishermen’s thatched cottages at Blackrock until the night of the Big Wind, when they were all literally blown away by the storm and the tide, forcing the occupants to move further inland.

Much of the area was owned by Col O’Hara and he did not take too kindly, in the beautiful summer of 1885, to a springboard being erected at his property. Blackrock was always a favourite place for bathing, but the erection of a permanent structure obviously got on the landlord’s goat and he did everything he could to make it difficult for swimmers to get to the rock. Eventually, he had the board removed and took a number of the bathers to court for trespass, but the Urban Council stepped in and managed to get a lease on a public right of way to the bathing area.

So the original springboard (which we see in our photograph ) was replaced by a more elaborate affair for swimming and diving. This arrangement was not very safe, and when the handrail of the wooden stepway was torn away by the tide and the diving boards became slippery with green sea-growth, it became dangerous. In 1942, an elderly lady who had ventured on to the lower springboard fell in to the water. Happily she was seen by Miss Craughwell, who called her brother Laurence Craughwell. He rushed to the scene and dived fully clothed into the sea which was in flood tide at the time, and rescued the lady.

This forced the corporation into a rethink and so the diving boards were replaced by the diving tower that we see today at Blackrock. This was built by James Stewart and Co to a design by Mr B Faherty, the borough engineer, and was blessed by Fr Hyland, parish priest of Salthill, in May 1954. The total cost of the tower was £5,500, of which £1,000 was contributed by the Salthill Citizens’ Organisation.

Blackrock was a ‘men only’ bathing place for a long time. In 1925 the Garda sergeant at Salthill found two men bathing there without bathing costumes. They reported this to the Urban Council so that it could take proceedings against the two men. The matter was debated at a council meeting and the secretary told the meeting that they had put up notices warning people that they would be prosecuted if they did not wear bathing costumes. After some debate it was concluded that the notices were not very noticeable and as the two men were visitors, there would be no proceedings.

In the very early seventies, the ladies began to swim at Blackrock, and it has been a ‘mixed bathing’ place since.

The Old Galway Society is hosting its first lecture of the season tonight in the Mercy Convent at 8.30pm. It will be given by this writer and will be an illustrated nostalgic stroll from Nile Lodge to Blackrock. All are welcome.

An Taisce gets its lecture season off to a start in The Ardilaun hotel on Wednesday next, September 19, at 8pm with a lecture entitled ‘Cemeteries in County Galway, Legends and Designs’. It will be given by Dr Christy Cunniffe and again, all are welcome.

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