Dunlop Park War Memorial Swimming Pool: Will the Children Sink or Swim?

Marion Mackenzie     

The efforts that went into the establishment of the War Memorial Swimming Pool in Dunlop Park straddled the entire 1950s and epitomised some of the features of life in Oxley-Chelmer during that decade.

The first moves for a memorial came from the Oxley Progress Association. This organisation called a number of public meetings during 1952, seeking ideas for a way to acknowledge those local men and women who had lost their lives in the war, not with another monument, but with a facility that would be enjoyed by both present and future residents, particularly young people. (SDW 11 March 1964, p. 1.) 

As a result of these meetings, the ‘Wacol to Chelmer War Memorial Swimming Pool Association’ (or Wacol-Chelmer District War Memorial Swimming Association) formed in 1953, adopted a constitution and elected a Committee. The aim of the Association was to raise £10 000. Once that was raised the City Council and the State Government indicated they would provide subsidies for the completion of the project.  

The Association started out with high hopes and much enthusiasm. They received letters of support from local doctors and school head teachers, congratulating them on their aim of providing an outlet for healthy activities. (WSW 9 February 1955, p. 1)

In 1954, the Association recommended Dunlop Park as the location for the pool, a park of nineteen acres, formerly the bailiwick of the Dunlop family. The Council indicated they were favourable to this proposal. Alderman Thomas Reginald Groom, local councillor, praised the decision in the following words:

“It is an example to the rest of Brisbane in that the residents of this area are not content to sit down and call upon either Council or Government to provide these amenities, but are prepared to actively support the project by raising portion of the cost.” (SS 15 December 1954, p. 1)

Progress in fundraising proved to be painfully slow. Almost each week, the local newspaper, edited by Mr C. V. Abraham, printed a page one summary of how much had been raised, but the funds grew by such small increments, it must have been disheartening. It is worth noting that the basic wage in 1950 was £9/6/-, so there was not a lot of money in family budgets to put aside for generous donations to a local amenity, no matter how well supported it might be.

The Swimming Pool Association began to get a little creative with its efforts. This seemed to coincide with the time Miss Gladys (Rikki) Bailey  became Secretary in March 1955, but I have no way of knowing whether the art unions, bottle drives and street stalls were her ideas.(WSW 30 March 1955, p. 2) A Ladies Auxiliary was responsible for street stalls. However, the takings from all these efforts fell far short of expectations and by April 1955, the total had not yet reached the first £1000. After a successful Art Union, the amount doubled by the following year. The frustration of the Committee was evident in the call made in the Western Suburbs Weekly for attendance at a public meeting to discuss progress to that point: “if you have any suggestions, come along – we would like to hear them. If you haven’t, come just the same.” (WSW 7 March 1956, p. 2) 

Out of this meeting came the suggestion of a Hobbies and Handicrafts Exhibition at Corinda Hall, to be opened by the new Alderman, Bettine Warner. An afternoon and evening of entertainment was advertised to take place on 28 April 1956. Various organisations, including Scouts, Guides and Church Guilds ran stalls and displays. The War Memorial aspect of the Swimming Pool was recognised by special displays by Servicemen and Women. (WSW 18 April 1956, p. 3)

In February 1957 a major campaign to conduct a door-to-door canvas for donations plus a bottle and scrap metal drive was declared ‘a smashing success’. Over £1000  was raised in eight weeks, but the total was still far short of the target, and by reading the accounts, it is possible to discern that the Committee members were a little tired of the effort involved. (WSW 13 February 1957, p. 1; 17 April 1957, p. 1)

The next event given publicity was a carnival to mark the opening of the Shell Service Station at Sherwood in March 1958. Mr Joe Stick, the proprietor, undertook to give the proceeds of the chocolate wheel, fairy floss and merry-go-round to the Pool Committee, but in the end, only £20 was added to the funds from that event. (WSW    5 March 1958, p. 1; 12 March 1958, p. 1) The Oxley Progress Association came good with a donation of £250, but the project still needed at least £3000 to reach its aim. (WSW 11 June 1958, p. 1; 10 September 1958, p. 1)

When Centenary Year came around in 1959, several organisations were involved in planning a local celebration to mark one hundred years of Queensland government. Many of the same people were on both Committees. The Swimming Pool Committee claimed they were making their ‘final appeal’ for funds. Another Art Union was described as the ‘3rd and last Art Union’. This one had a prize of a TV set valued at 245 guineas, which  was a very attractive prize, as television was the exciting new entertainment. The person who won the TV set in June would have had it in their lounge-room for two months with a blank screen, as broadcasts in Queensland did not start until August 1959 (Channel 9, November for 2&7). Then they certainly would have been popular with their neighbours! This Art Union raised £700 and at last the Association felt able to advise the Council that they were close to the required amount. (WSW 23 July 1958, p. 1; 14 January 1959, p.1) 

The announcement was helped by the decision of the Oxley and District Centenary Celebration Committee that the proceeds of their activity day in Nixon Park in June would go to aid pool funds. (WSW 3 June 1959, p. 1)

The Pool Committee admitted that they still felt a ‘desperate urgency’ to complete the fund-raising. They began to use shaming methods. Advertisements in Mr Abraham’s newspaper proclaimed in large print WILL THE CHILDREN SINK OR SWIM? and DoYour CHILDREN Need This Pool? The President, Mr. A.E. Baldry spoke about apathy in the community. (WSW 20 May 1959, p. 1; 3 June 1959, p.1; 10 June 1959, p. 1;15 July 1959, p. 1)

By July 1959 a grand total of £8402/3/7 had been raised, so close to the amount needed that the go-ahead was given. The final burst was provided by a local businessman, Mr Ramsey of Earth Movers Pty Ltd at Erin Vale Street Corinda, who offered to donate half the cost of excavation. (WSW 22 July 1959, p. 1) It was another two years before he started that work in June 1961.(WSW 12 July 1961, p. 2) Construction proceeded apace, and the pool opened by the Lord Mayor of Brisbane, Alderman Clem Jones, on 22 December 1961.(WSW 13 December 1961, p. 1; Courier Mail 23 December 1961, p. 7) Perhaps because of the Christmas break, there was no description of the opening in the local paper, but a notice of a meeting to establish a Swimming Club appeared in the first edition of 1962.(WSW 1 January 1962, p.1:; 24 January 1962, p. 1) Approximately 200 people attended that meeting and the Dunlop Park Amateur Swimming Club began operations with a Learn to Swim Campaign, competitive carnivals, club swimming and coaching. A Gala Dance Evening was held to kick off the finances. (WSW 31 January 1962, p. 1) A year later, in 1963, the Dunlop Park Life Saving Club was formed, and similarly held a dance at Corinda Hall, where 200 dancers enjoyed the music of the Black Jacks, raising £30 to boost the Life Saving Club funds. (SDW 13 February 1963, p. 1)

 Just over two years after the opening of the pool, the War Memorial aspect of its formation was acknowledged with the unveiling of a Memorial Plaque inside the entrance on 26 February 1964. Five hundred people attended the ceremony. Mr K.F. Allen of the Sherwood Sub-Branch RSL, acted as Chairman and Mr John Herbert MLA, Alderman Gordon Thomson, Mr Vic Honour of the Corinda High School, and Mr A.F. Baldry, President of the Wacol-Chelmer District War Memorial Swimming Pool Association addressed the gathering. 

Mr Baldry outlined a history of the pool, the ideas behind its instigation and the difficult times involved in raising funds. He was pleased that the results testified that their efforts were not in vain.

He explained that when the final amount was handed over in December 1960 it had grown to £9 100, including interest, but it had taken seven years and seven months after the election of the first committee. The total cost of the project was £97 184, which included the cost of a sewerage treatment plant. The State Government subsidy was £18 803, and the balance was met by the Brisbane City Council, which administered the pool. (SDW 11 March 1964, p. 1)

The Corinda Pool was not an unusual war memorial. Across Australia, many communities chose to honour the war dead by paying tribute in this positive way. Swimming was the glamour sport of the 1950s, when champions Dawn Fraser, Lorraine Crapp, Murray Rose and John and Ilsa Konrads were household names. The build-up to the Olympic Games of 1956 in Melbourne and 1960 in Tokyo when Australians gathered a swag of world records, meant that young people were enthusiastic to participate in competitive swimming – as well as simply to enjoy a fun place to cool off.

In the Oxley-Chelmer area, swimming had always been a popular pastime – whether in waterholes, in Oxley Creek, at The ‘Sands’ at Chelmer, or the swimming pool in the river at Ferry Street Sherwood. In 1921, the Sherwood Shire Combined Progress Associations prepared a platform of twenty-one points they recommended to local councillors for improvement to civic amenities. One of these was a district swimming pool. It took forty years for it come to fruition, thanks to the efforts of a lot of people who were prepared to make it happen. (Souvenir catalogue, 1921 Sherwood Show, pp. 69-70)


Note:   SS   Sherwood Star  published 17 December 1953-19 January 1955

            WSW   Western Suburbs Weekly   published  9 February 1955-9 January 1963

            SDW    Sherwood District Weekly 13 February 1963- 31 March 1973




Dunlop Park Memorial Swimming Pool is Opened

Cathy Collins

12 December, 1961

Mr. O’Neill, Secretary, Oxley Progress Association, phoned re opening of Dunlop Park.  He asked if the pool could be open for use but the Official Opening be deferred until towards the end of January.  They were hoping to arrange a function in connection with the opening to raise money for the ambulance, hoping to put in a wading  pool and also many of the Committee who had helped to raise the money would be unable to attend at short notice and near to the Christmas holidays. 

Dunlop Park Corinda Swimming Pool was officially opened at 8pm on Friday, 22 December, by the Right Honourable the Lord Mayor, Alderman Clem Jones.  The Pool was opened for public patronage from 6 am on Saturday, 23 December 1961.

After so many long years of fundraising, the grand opening ceremony itself was a hastily organised affair.

On December 15 – just one week before the opening, a flurry of letters and memorandums were issued forth from the Department of Planning and Building.  These included:

  • A letter to the Police Department, requesting the services of the Queensland Police Pipe Band to perform at the opening ceremony
  • A memo to the Department's Senior Architect, asking him to prepare a layout of seating, including the identification of ‘a suitable position for the dais’.
  • A memo to the Town Clerk, asking for ‘two girls’ to be hired as ushers for the event.
  • A request to the City Hall Supervisor – to arrange for the delivery of a carpet for the dais and 200 'Stack-a-bye' chairs.
  • A letter to the Planning and Building’s Electricity Department for the “necessary public address system and lectern”. This included the additional note that the Town Clerk desired “that coloured lighting be provided to give a gay effect to the proceedings.” 

The initial list of invitees to the event consisted entirely of Departmental heads, managers and foremen involved in the construction of the pool.  This list was drawn up following the suggestion made by the Chief Health Officer that “an all-male affair”, would be “easier to arrange and accommodate”. 

At some point, however, it was considered that invitations should be extended to members of the fundraising committee themselves, despite the fact that some of them were women!





Friday, 22 December, 1961, at 8 p.m.

7.15pm Programme of music by Police Band

7.25pm Announcement by Lord Mayor’s Orderly

Demonstration by Royal Life Saving Society

7.40pm Demonstration by Underwater Research Group.

Preparation of swimming lanes.

8.00 p.m.

Introduction of the Right Honourable the Lord Mayor of Brisbane (Alderman Clem Jones).

The Lord Mayor addresses and officially opens the pool

A swimmer from Q.A.S.A. dives off each starting block and swims one length of the pool.

The Right Honourable the Lord Mayor then introduces the following and invites them to speak: -

Alderman C. Greenfield, Chariman, Health Committee.

Alderman L.D. Ord representing the Leader of the Opposition.

R. Baldry, Chaiman, Wacol-Chelmer Swimming Pool Committee replies on behalf of the Appeal Committee.

C.P. Hornick replies on behalf of the Contractors, Sub-Contractors and Workmen.

Half hour of Demonstration of Swimming Strokes by members of the Queensland Amateur Swimming Association.

Compere – Mr W. Holland.

At the conclusion of the swimming, Official Guests depart.