Walcha History: Competitive swimming in the Apsley River

Water sport: Spectators watch competitive swimming and diving in the Apsley River in the early 1900s.
Water sport: Spectators watch competitive swimming and diving in the Apsley River in the early 1900s.

The swimmers shown in the photo on the left-hand side are close to the finish line, a rope strung across the river. Swimming races were started from a temporary platform placed in position across the river.

It was often simply a log fitted with several planks.

The makeshift diving platform shown on the right was positioned where there was a sufficient depth of water.

During the 1930s Walcha’s Apsley Swimming Club came out of recess for a few weeks in the summer of each year to organise local events and to compete with other centres before retiring until the following season.

In January 1934 the club was given council permission “to control the precincts of the swimming area and to erect a spring board and two dressing sheds.”

The sheds had to be removed at the end of the season.

The Walcha News of January 21, 1935, said: “The team to represent the Apsley Club at the Uralla Carnival on Monday 28, in racing and diving is: J. Murray, C. Hargrave, A. Harrison, G. Roberts, G. Jones, J. Millet and A.P. Hamilton.”

The Apsley Club affiliated with the New England Amateur Swimming Association in January 1936 and decided to compete at the forthcoming swimming carnival at Armidale.

The 1936-37 season at Walcha was abandoned due to continuing dry weather that saw many residents needing to draw water from the river for domestic purposes.

The council banned swimming until conditions improved.

Two instructors from the NSW Amateur Swimming Association visited Armidale, Uralla, Walcha and Tamworth early in 1945 as part of a “Learn to Swim Free” campaign.

Noel Cross recalled two springboards at the Mill Hole.

One was about three feet above the water with the other set somewhat higher. He said they were just simple planks but were quite effective and enjoyed by many.

The Dumps Hole in the river between Middle and Lagoon Streets, which was much shallower than the Mill Hole, was a popular spot for younger children.