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Diving at Blackrock

Thu, Nov 07, 2019

Up until the mid-19th century, there was a cluster of thatched cottages at Blackrock. on the Night of the Big Wind [January 6, 1839] these were literally blown away by the ferocity of the storm and the tide and most of the occupants had to move inland. They were mostly fishermen and there had always been a tradition of fishing in the area. Blackrock was also a favourite place for men bathing, and in 1885, Mr Moon and some of his friends decided to place a springboard there. Unfortunately they did not have ‘planning permission’ from the owner of the land, Colonel O’Hara, and he had the board removed and made it difficult for the bathers to get to the rock at all. It ended up in court and the urban council stepped in and signed a lease giving a public right of way to the bathing area.

In April, 1904, the urban council sought tenders for the erection and maintenance of the springboard at Blackrock. This structure was quite primitive and consisted of a wooden walkway with the board at the end, all supported by some metal poles. It was eventually replaced by this more elaborate structure much further out into the water which we see in our photograph today (which was kindly given to us by Cliona Clarke). Swimming galas were held here, usually under poor conditions, the idea of a swimming pool with lanes was a pipe dream then.

The building of this tower on four levels which included platforms and springboards, introduced Galwegians to a new sport, diving. This was a sport, originally known as ‘plunging’, which was how one entered the water in a swimming race and which evolved into ‘fancy diving’ where the athlete could perform acrobatics while in the air. It became an Olympic sport in 1904. At Blackrock, diving competitions were usually held during swimming galas. In 1938, two American Diving Stars gave an exhibition during a club gala and attracted huge crowds. This may well have been the occasion on which this photograph was taken


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