'The Pools' in Salthill

The ladies and children’s bathing pools in Salthill were blessed by Canon Davis in 1930. These were two linked tidal pools which filled up when the tide came in and emptied when the tide went out. The floors were of sand so they were a perfect playground for children even when they had dried out. Thousands of children and adults learned how to swim there with Jimmy Cranny of Galway Swimming Club and Christy Dooley of Blackrock Swimming Club teaching organised groups on alternate evenings throughout the summer.

The first pool could be described as an infants pool. The sand floor was sloped and at its deepest it was about 18 inches high. The second pool was the same size, about 25 yards long but deeper than the first. At full tide, it was about three and a half to four feet deep, ideal for the learner swimmer. On the sea side, there were seven diving boards with another one at the end of the extended little pier, all of which were ideal for learning how to dive.

At the time there was very little sandy beach in Salthill compared to what we enjoy today, so this pools complex became very popular with families. The area became known as ‘the pools’ or ‘the Ladies’ while Blackrock was a male bastion. Sadly, Bishop O’Doherty and later Bishop Browne felt they had to maintain this division to preserve the morals of the people of Galway so they got the council to erect ‘men only’ signs in Blackrock and ‘no mixed bathing’ signs at the Ladies. Bishop O’Doherty wrote to The Irish Times boasting that he had personally hunted men away from the boundaries of the new bathing pool while women and children were bathing there.

He wrote: "The Galway Urban Council, to its great credit, has uniformly resisted all suggestions that it {mixed bathing} should be allowed at our splendid seaside resort in Salthill. Broadminded views have been expressed at the Council meetings from time to time, but I have been glad to note that the Council, as a body, has always held a still more broadminded view – namely the view of the Catholic and decent Christian morality." His replacement, Bishop Michael Browne, insisted on the same set of rules, so the so-called family resort made a point of splitting up families who went swimming.

In the late seventies the pools began to fill up with sand and could no longer be used as pools and eventually, the corporation covered them in concrete and that is how they have remained for almost 40 years. This has prompted three young Galwegians, Morgan and Ronan McGuire and their cousin Stephen Tummon, to organise a petition to get the corporation to restore the pools to their former glory – to make them safe, durable, inexpensive and to serve a large section of the community, children and adults learning to swim, recreational swimmers, lifeguard and sports club training. Their petition has already gone in but if you would like to add your name to it, you can do so by signing at https://my.uplift.ie/petitions/rebuild-the-salthilltidal-pools

Our thanks to Galway County Library for today’s photograph.


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