Fraserburgh man recounts swimming experiences

Sports and Community Centre.
Sports and Community Centre.

A Fraserburgh man has recounted his thoughts of swimming over the years in the Fraserburgh area.

To coincide with the opening of the new Pool and Community Centre in Fraserburgh next month, Dennis Morrice looks back at swimming in the days of the old open air pool at West Shore, the Fraserburgh Bay Swims and the events that led to the creation of the current swimming pool, which opened in 1969.

Solomon has said: “To everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven, a time to break down, and a time to build up.”

Swimming has been an attraction, particularly to young folk, so that wherever there is water there is the desire to get involved and at times with devastating results, tragedies may have been avoided had swimming lessons been encouraged.

A common sight in the old days was to get into the sea with a string of herring net corks tied around the waist to keep one afloat until able to swim.

The beach was a popular place to swim. It was clean and had a roped area and during the summer months a beach rescue was employed by the local council, a few of the towns in the North-east had their open air pools constructed at modest cost. A site thought suitable was an area at the West Shore near Broadsea.

However, it was ruled out on these being one of the town sewers outlet a short distance from the site, the pool would have been tidal, all of the town sewers were directed into the sea and affected all of the coast line, now much improved.

The lack of suitable facilities did not deter swimming activities, there had been for some years the Fraserburgh amateur swimming club and the sea swimmer club. Many young folk were taught to swim, local swimming galas took place at Fraserburgh and Sandhaven harbours and also galas competed with neighbouring towns, attracting much support. Fraserburgh Bay swims took place and five certificates were awarded to participants at the bay swims. These were:

Elementary: from the last barrel at the beach to the harbour (distance: 1/2 mile). Intermediate: from Sand hole (3/4 mile). Advanced: from Corbie Hill (1 mile). Higher: from Waters of Philorth (1 and 3/4 miles). Medal: frin Cairnbulg harbour to Fraserburgh harbour (2 miles).

The first three swimmers to achieve the two-mile swim on Saturday August 23 1947 were Miller Ritchie, David Strachan and Charles Livingstone, timing one hour, 20 minutes to one hour, 30 minutes. All were members of the amateur swimming club. Other swimming activities that were encouraged included diving from the pier, the harbour light and the spectacular dive by Alan Paterson from the top of the harbour light, 75 metres.

In all of the aforementioned events safety measures were in place. Pilot boats will attendants and line keepers for the swimming events were in attendance.

All year sea swimming by the more hardy and enthusiastic took place as did weekly winter bus trips to the beach baths at Aberdeen, attracting up to as many as 50, who would spend an evening swimming at the pool.

For the end of the Second World War, the need for an indoor pool was constantly raised and had been proposed at a council meeting in 1947, funding being the draw back. It was July 1969 that the swimming pool and community centre was opened at a total cost of £152,404, (today’s value - £2.01m). Comprising the pool and four community areas, it was built in close proximity to the Academy school in order to provide swimming lessons for the pupils during school hours.

Over the years it has proved to be a tremendous asset to the community. All who have been involved over the years are to be congratulated.

In addition, there has been the Fraserburgh Leisure Centre, all weather football facility, the rebuilt golf club, the Dunes Golf Driving Range and the new martial arts centre, all contributing to what can only be described as excellent recreational facilities for the use of both young and old, able and disabled to enjoy and has covered a time span from 1945 to 2013, some 68 years.

The site chosen for the new Pool and Community Centre at Ramsay Park soon to be opened, having state of the art facilities, this up to date premises costing £9m and built to a high standard will surely be the envy of communities beyond the North-east of Scotland and we look forward to its opening.