This evening we celebrated a special occasion with the re-opening of our Girls Grammar pool. This project wouldn’t have been possible without the ongoing support and significant donation from our Parents and Friends Association, along with the tireless work of Kasey Mitchell our Facilities Manager. As I did during this evening’s proceedings, I would like to thank everyone involved in this important upgrade of facilities, including our Year 12 cohort for the addition of pool furniture as part of their senior gift. It is events such as this where it is fascinating to return to the history of our school through the pages of the Wider View. Here I have learnt a great deal about our school’s 130 year old history including the very beginnings of what has been wonderfully revitalised.
It was the summer of 1896 when Miss Downs wrote to the Department of Public Instruction, expressing her hope for a ‘swimming bath’ to be constructed in the grounds so that all pupils could ‘learn to swim and swim safely’. Some pupils at the time received lessons at the Rockhampton Town Baths, but the headmistress envisaged a complete life-style for girls within the School environment, and preferred that all instruction should occur at the school. Final arrangements were made for the construction of the ‘swimming bath’ at a cost of £500, but in February, 1901, the proposed works were postponed for three months, and later for one year, as with increased enrolments there was a pressing need for additional boarding accommodation, and the matter of a swimming bath was finally shelved.
From her arrival at the School in 1925, headmistress Miss Margaret Smith was adamant that a swimming pool was essential. Oddly, lack of the facility at the School was relieved in 1929, when a pool was constructed at The Rockhampton Grammar School. Miss Smith gained the permission of headmaster Henry A. Kellow for the girls of the School to practice at the Boys’ pool twice per week, and to hold school swimming sports there; the quarterly fee for this use was £15 charged to the girls’ School, as the water for the pool had to be purchased from the Rockhampton City Council.
It was twenty years after Miss Smith introduced swimming as a regular sport in 1925 that the Old Girls’ Association held a meeting in the cause of a ‘modern swimming pool’. At the meeting in May, 1945 the Committee decided that as no official celebrations had marked the Golden Jubilee Year of the School in 1942 because of the circumstances of World War II, The Old Girls’ Association would raise the amount of £2000 - suggested as the cost of the swimming pool - and this would be the Association’s gift to the School. A great amount of time and effort from many Committee members, Old Girls and the Board of Trustees commenced with a total amount of £1736 being raised. However, their application for a permit to build the pool was rejected and Chairman A.H. Paterson commented on Speech Day, 1947, that the government had “contended that a pool was not an essential undertaking in times of shortage of houses and materials”.
It wasn’t until 1954 that the recently formed Parents and Friends Association from 1952 took up the pool cause again. The headmistress, Mrs V. E. R. Byres, appealed for a School pool, stating that it could be used almost all year and that the Old Girls’ Association money raised previously would have reached almost £2000 with accrued interest. The Centra Swimming Pool Committee was formed with two members of the Parents and Friends Association, two trustees and two members of the earlier Old Girls’ Association Pool Committee. The P&F Association raised additional money, and the amount available was more than £3000 at the end of 1954. Fund-raising continued, and in 1956, the trustees applied for a government subsidy for construction of the pool with dressing shed at the north end, and after the grant was received in 1957, they accepted the tender of L. C. Bartlett at £8100 for construction of the pool to the plans and specifications of the School architect. From the first fundraising efforts in 1945, thirteen years had passed before the School Pool became a reality. At a cost of £8676, including a £3240 subsidy, it was completed in 1958, but a filtration system that had been the ideal of Miss Smith was not installed until 1961.
On the 6 September 1958, it was the Queensland Minister for Education who drew aside the School flag draped on the wall of the new dressing shed, to reveal a plaque that read,
“This pool is a gift to the Girls’ Grammar School from those who passed through it, their parents and friends.”
The opening celebrations included the use of the Pool, with tropical entertainment featuring a water ballet performed by a local group of swimmers. The skillion roofed dressing shed was painted in the colour scheme - flamingo walls, white and black trim and olive green and grey doors. The interior was painted in light and olive green with a pale-pink ceiling and flamingo benches.
At the end of the 1950s, girls knew the independence and pride of swimming in their own Pool. For earlier generations, the facility had remained a ‘vision’, an idea suggested and requested by headmistresses, and later supported by trustees. It was the task of a decade of funding-raising by the Old Girls’ Association, and ultimately achieved with the assistance of the Parents and Friends Association. Thus the establishment of the Pool was indicative of the tenacity of purpose of a School community in the interests of development and progress.
This remains the case today and we are fortunate for the combined efforts from our Parents and Friends Association and members of our School community to allow us to upgrade these facilities that were so intensely fought for.