Dublin Swimming Club
Created on 18 January 2008
Last Updated on 21 April 2012
Written by Administrator
In the August 3rd 1875 edition of the "Freeman's Journal" it was announced that "Dublin Swimming Club" would hold its Annual Swimming Races in Salthill Baths on 21st August of that year. (In subsequent reports on the races, the club was referred to as "County Dublin Swimming Club").
This appears to be have been a very colourful affair with a festive atmosphere: it included fancy dress and even a water polo match played with ball and mallets on "horses" made out of sealed casks with artificial heads and tails! This kind of atmosphere seems to have prevailed at all "Athletics in Aqua" or "Water Carnivals" held around Dublin Bay at the time. The Competition between Bangor and Dublin was keen, with Dublin swimmers travelling to the Bangor Galas and Bangor swimmers travelling to Dublin for the "Blackrock Races" which were held Annually from 1875: first in Salthill Co. Dublin (as announced in the "Freeman's") and from 1878 in Vance's Harbour at the rear of Blackrock House.
Similar festivities in 1880 came to a tragic end when a young swimmer named Rutherford failed to surface in the long dive competition. Although it was later established that the young man's death was due to heart failure, it undoubtedly highlighted the dangers inherent in swimming and the need for tighter constraints.
Perhaps this sad occurrence, together with Dublin's W.R. Richardson coming second in the English Long Distance Championship, encouraged the members to become more formerly organised.
In any event, forty of them attended an inaugural meeting at 5.00pm on Thursday 19th May 1881 in Sports Outfitter John Laurence's premises at 63 Grafton Street (now Dunnes' Stores). Mr. RM. Peter, Honorary Secretary of the Irish Rugby Football Union, chaired the meeting.
W. R. Richardson was elected Captain, Frank Kennedy Honorary Secretary and EH Andrews Honorary Treasurer.
The Committee consisted of R.M. Peter, H.L Robinson, K. Armstrong, R Blakney and W.S. Collis. The new club adopted the rules of the Swimming Association of Great Britain to which it became affiliated.
On the 23rd July, the new club Captain, W.R Richardson again competed in, and this time won, the English Long Distance Championship over five and three quarter miles from Purney Bridge to Charing Cross Railway Bridge in a time of one hour, twenty-one minutes and thirty-seven seconds. Dublin Swimming had arrived.
There followed two decades of success against a growing number of clubs. In Leinster; Sandycove (1882), Clontarf (1884) and Pembroke (1894) and in Ulster; Bangor, Belfast Amateur, Wellington, Templemore, Ormeau, Swan and South Side.
Irish Championships were introduced at various venues without the permission of the English Swimming Association, which was of the opinion that Ireland like England (1886) and Scotland (1888) should form its own Association under the (British) Amateur Swimming Association. (A.S.A)
Perhaps to bring this about, the A.S.A in 1893 directed that the 220yds Championship of Ireland, which Dublin proposed to hold, should not take place. Dublin S.C. did not hold this event but instead spearheaded a series of meetings which led to the formation of the Irish Amateur Swimming Association in Belfast on 25th November 1893, at which Messrs E.H. Andrews, W. Findlater, L.H.S. Beatty and R.M. Peter (all members of Dublin Swimming Club) represented Leinster.
Mr. E.B. Andrews chaired the meeting, which elected the following as first officers of the new association. President R. Kirkpatrick (Ulster), Vice Presidents E.H. Andrews, E.F. Bunyon (Ulster), Honorary Secretary R.M.Peter, Honorary Treasurer W. Findlater, Auditors L.H.S. Beatty, F. Wilson (Ulster).
Subsequently Andrews (1895) Findlater (1897) and Peter (1901-03) were elected President. In all, ten members of the Club have been honoured with this position. The Club also produced a succession of outstanding champions and Water Polo players: Richardson, Andrews and L.H.Beatty were all multiple Irish Champions prior to 1893.
In the period 1893 to 1914 of the 80 Irish Championships swum, Leinster won 66, and 54 were won by just five swimmers: H.M. Dockrell (D.S.C.) 6, Oscar Conway (D.S.C.) 9, R.W.McCabe (Sandycove) 9, Jim Beckett (Pembroke) 10 and George Dockrell (D.S.C.) 20.
George Dockrell was easily the best Irish swimmer of his generation. He won his first Irish Championship in 1905 and the following year was placed third in both the U.S. 440yds and 880yds Championships. In 1908 he represented Great Britain and Ireland in the Olympic games and in the same year he won the 100 metres Championship of the World in Paris. He retired in 1911 at the height of his career and to prove it he broke the Irish Record for the 100yds freestyle. He served with distinction as a Major in the First World War, was wounded in 1915 and subsequently died from his war wounds.
Dublin S.C. was dominant in Water Polo throughout this whole period and reached its zenith in the 1920's. Noel Purcell was a regular on the Irish team from 1910 to 1927 and again in 1932. He won Ireland's first Olympic Gold medal as a member of the Great Britain Team in 1920 and in 1924 Captained the Irish team which included fellow Dubliners M.A O'Connor, J.A O'Connor and N. Judd.
The 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam saw Ireland field another water polo team, which included Dubliners N.Judd, T.M. Dockrell, M.A O'Connor and J. O'Connor. In addition it included Ireland's first female aquatic competitor in the person of sixteen years old Marguerite Dockrell (D.S.C.). She won the 100yds freestyle in 1926, 1927, 1928, 1929 and 1933 and 220yds title in 1927, 1928, 1929, and 1930. Needless to say these were the only Irish titles for ladies; she was the darling of Irish swimming.
With the growth in the number of clubs and improved facilities, Dublin's share of Championships was reduced but Diarmiud Murtagh in the 30's, Bill Hawkins, Gilda Deane and Kathleen McNally in the 40's, Peader Hyland in the 50's, Liam Loughman and Grainne McManus in the 60's, Eileen Gallagher, Deirdre Kenny, Grainne Friel, Catherine Owen, Valerie and Christine Fulcher and Pat Crowe in the 70's and 80's all contributed to Dublin's success at Irish level.
At Water Polo the Club was also successful. Pat Crowe, Martin Bowers and Gerry Bohan were capped for Ireland and our Ladies Team consisting of Eimear and Isolde Goggin, Paula and Catherine Murphy, Catherine and Madeline Connolly, Eileen Davis, Sandra Trappe, Anne Bergin and Geraldine Dunleavy were supreme in Leinster.
In 1977 a Committee consisting of Gay Maloney, Peader Hyland, Neil Kennedy, Harry McEvoy, Des O'Dwyer and Fergus Barron introduced Masters swimming to Ireland and Dublin's Claire O'Dwyer has proved to be Ireland's most successful Master swimmer with both European and World Championship records to her credit.