August 25 - 31, 2013: Issue 125
Surf Bathing and the Advent of Manly’s First Surf Carnival - 1907
There can be no doubt that once Australian’s noticed they could learn how to swim or paddle to stay cool that no amount of restrictions was going to stop us from becoming some of the best swimmers in the world and that this, in turn, led to the formation of life-saving techniques that have been shared around the world.
All this getting into the fresh sea air did not have the ready visions of sublime relaxing in balmy salt air and tingling salt water that we may see when thinking of surf bathing. Originally ‘sand bathing’ was all the rage!;
Were mankind only to agree that surf-bathing should be regarded as a crime against fashion, the seashore would lose its horrors and become what It still is to Inland points, a really unobjectionable place.
An ingenious antiquarian has lately shown that though the Isle or Wight was a century ago a seaside resort famous for its bathing no one ever entered the Isle of Wight surf. In those days people bathed In the sand. The visitor to the island went to the beach in the morning, accompanied by a native and a spade. By their united efforts a hole was dug In the warm sand, in which the visitor, freed from all garments, was buried, with the exception of his bead and hands. An umbrella and a cigar were then given to him, and he was left to enjoy himself. In the height of the season the beach was thickly planted with visitors, while the villagers walked up and down between the rows of heads, protecting them from the attacks of the inevitable children, who look upon sand as matter out of place unless it Is thrown In the faces and down the necks of grown-up people. After an hour or two of sand bathing the visitors were, dug up, and returned 'to their clothing and their hotel, refreshed and healed of all manner of diseases. Such were the simple seaside customs of our fathers. Is It too late for us to abandon the repulsive vice of surf-bathing, and return to the only true and safe method of utilising the sea-beach ?
The advantages of sand-bathing are so manifest that they need scarcely be mentioned. The bather requires no bathing dress. He or she— as the case may be— is concealed from the public view while bathing, with the solitary exception of the head, neck, and arms, and the latter, not being exposed to the ravages of salt water, can be embellished to any extent by art. The bather rests quietly In the sand, secure against the danger of being knocked down and buried under a thousand tons of water. Instead of swallowing the coarse and unpalatable mixture with which the basin of the ocean is filled, the males and-bather can sip—well, cold tea, and the female sand-bather can indulge in icecream. Books can be- read, and handkerchiefs can be embroidered in the sand us well as on It. What could be more delightful than to be buried near to one's heart's Idol while a single umbrella shuts out the world, and it is certain that the old people will not be dug up for two long, blissful hours. The 'Margate beach, planted with three thousand visitors in, say, six rows, with space enough between the hills to permit waiters to walk and carry refreshments, would be a sight to please the gods.'—' Pearson's Weekly.' On Bathing. (1903, December 26). Delegate Argus and Border Post (NSW : 1895 - 1906), p. 9. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article110042903
The sight of people baring an ankle, a shin and knee was once scandalous! For of our trussed within a breath of their lives ancestors, getting to throw a few layers off and dip overheated summer skin in yon briny must have seemed the best idea. To keep those shocked by such exhibitions from fainting regulations which prohibited bathing in daylight hours and the use of ‘bathing machines’ became the acceptable way to indulge in this cooling exhilaration;
When Sydney Surfed In The Bathing Machines - A Place in History
IT is only a little more than 50 years ago that the right of the people to bathe on Sydney beaches at anytime of the day was won for them. To achieve that right obnoxious restrictive regulations were ignored and defied. Even so, before surfing came into its own a few Sydney people enjoyed sea-bathing, but in "machines."
In the late eighties and early nineties of last century there were bathing machines on the ocean beach at Coogee, but why the contrivances were called "machines" is not at all clear. The miniature sheds on wheels served as dressing rooms - those were the days of neck-to-knee costumes, and worse - and attached to each "machine" was an enclosure in which the bathers enjoyed the salt water after the "machine" had been wheeled a few yards into the water.
The bathing "machine," an idea introduced from some of the bathing resorts in England, did not survive long at Coogee, but old residents say it was for some time in use at Manly.
SURFING outside the law was practised on the ocean beach at Manly, and doubtless elsewhere, in the eighties, probably as far back as 1882.In the early days of legalized surfing, bathing was prohibited after 6 a.m., and that time was later extended to 7 a.m., and later still to 8 a.m., with corresponding extensions in the evening.
It was not until 1902 that all-day sea-bathing became general, the late Mr. W. H. Gocher, of Manly, being responsible for the "revolution," when he defied the restrictive regulations. Old residents say that nude bathing was quite common on the more remote Sydney beaches.
The late Mr. George B. Philip, Sydney bookseller andpublisher, and for 32 years president of the Tamarama Surf Life-Saving Club, has recorded the first contribution to safety on Bondi beach. It was a pole in the middle of the beach with a lifebuoy and line attached, the buoy more often than not being some yards away, and the line having vanished, probably to carry the weekly washing in some adjacent backyard. "Bathing machines" at Coogee in the late eighties. When Sydney Surfed In The Bathing Machines. (1953, March 8). The Sunday Herald (Sydney, NSW : 1949 - 1953), p. 10. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article18507862
Above: Bathing Machines at Coogee circa 1880, Pic B51331 courtesy State Library of Victoria. From:
Bathers at Coogee in 1870 were not concerned about restrictions on costumes, and, as this picture shows, wore trunks. REPLANNING PROPOSAL FOR NORTH SYDNEY DISCUSSED — LADY ANDERSON'S DEPARTURE — AIR MAIL PICTURES. (1936, November 20). The Sydney Morning Herald(NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 16. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article17290688
Much has always been spoken about Mr William Henry Gocher, many attributing to him our now taken for granted rights to swim where we like when we like. Although he clearly did stand up for those who did swim during the prohibited hours, which were daylight, the much vaunted arrest did not ever take place according to his wife;
EARLY DAYS OF SURFING.
Mrs E J Gocher in a letter to the Editor says she wishes to correct a misstatement made by Mr J J Maloney at the 39th anniversary dinner of the Royal Life Saving Society held on January 31. Her late husband was not arrested at any time for all-day surf bathing. In 1902 three young men were arrested for bathing between 8am and 8pm. Mr. Gocher immediately championed their cause and defied the police to arrest him. No arrest was made and he repeated the challenge the following week but still nothing was done by the police in the way of an arrest. He then interviewed the Inspector-General of Police (Mr Fosbery) who said that as long as men and women were dressed in neck to-knee costumes, no action would be taken
"Quebe," In a letter to the Editor, says surfing was practised on the ocean beach at Manly as far back as 1882. The Manly Council prohibited bathing after 6 a.m. but this was later extended to 7 a.m. Bathing was at first carried on in the nude. EARLY DAYS OF SURFING. (1933, February 4). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 14. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article16950230
SURF BATHING AT MANLY.
The bathing question is at present occupying the attention of the Manly municipal authorities, and as a result summonses were the other day issued against two persons. The defendants were, at the Water Court yesterday, charged with having bathed in water, exposed to view from a public place within the municipal district of Manly at about the hour of 7 a.m., they not being attired in proper bathing costume. It was, however, stated that the defendants had promised to comply with the council's bylaws in future, and not repeat the offence. The information was, therefore, withdrawn; SURF BATHING AT MANLY. (1902, December 16). Evening News (Sydney, NSW : 1869 - 1931), p. 3. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article114507550
GALLANT RESCUE FROM DROWNING,
The thousands of excursionists who visited Manly yesterday afternoon witnessed the narrow escape of a boy named William Grey, who resides in Victoria-street, Waterloo, and who is about 15 years of age, from death by drowning, and a gallant rescue. The boy, who was bathing on the beach, got beyond his depth, and was carried out a couple of hundred yards past the breakers. Mr George Moore, of Willoughby, who is staying at the Clarendon Hotel, and Mr. John Kerr, another Manly resident, ran out a life-line, and, plunging into the surf, went to the lad's assistance. They succeeded in bringing him to shore, but only after a struggle of about 20 minutes duration, at the conclusion of which they were heartily applauded for their plucky conduct. GALLANT RESCUE FROM DROWNING. (1902, December 27).Evening News (Sydney, NSW : 1869 - 1931), p. 4. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article114503699
Pic: Gallant Rescue from Drowning at Manly on Boxing Day. (1902, December 31). Australian Town and Country Journal (NSW : 1870 - 1907), p. 26. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article71496924
Mr Gocher was, however, present at a very important Manly Council where the tragic loss through drowning of a former mining man holidaying at Manly with his family and a young woman he tried to rescue from the surf crystallised public opinion that people were not going to desist from surf bathing, and as there were other recent drownings associated with this new phenonmenon, it may be time to get a grip and do something more constructive then police propriety;
An unfortunate case of drowning occurred at Manly on the morning of January 17. As usual, there was a large number of persons of both sexes bathing on the beach. A little before 7o'clock, Miss Mabel Thorpe, who was staying with her sister at Manly, went in to bathe at a spot between two outfall pipes, which run down the beach. She got into a hole which had been scoured out by the action of the waves, and was swept down by the under-tow. Seeing her danger, Mr. Frederick Christian Smalpage, who was also bathing with his wife and children, went to Miss Thorpe's assistance. Though a good swimmer, he failed to reach the girl, and was himself sucked down by the action of the water, and both were drowned. The body of Mr. Smalpage was recovered about two hours later, but that of Miss Thorpe was not found. Drowned at Manly. (1902, January 25). Australian Town and Country Journal (NSW : 1870 - 1907), p. 20. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article71519475
Bathing Fatality at Manly. SYDNEY, FRIDAY.-A tragic double drowning fatality occurred at Manly at 7 a.m. A number of ladies and gentlemen were bathing in the surf, when Miss Mabel Thorpe, aged 22, suddenly found herself being carried out to sea. She shrieked for help, and in an instant was swept beneath the surface by the under-current. She reappeared frantically struggling some distance away, and Fredk. Smallpage,aged 83, a visitor from Broken Hill, who was bathing with his wife and children, responded to the call for aid. Plunging into the sea, he made desperate efforts to reach the woman's fast receding form. After swimming for some minutes, the man was seen to become exhausted, and both shortly afterwards disappeared from view. Several other persons endeavoured to reach the victims, but the strong current compelled them to desist. Smallpage's wife and children became almost frantic with grief as they saw him sink. His body was washed on the beach a couple of hours later, but Miss Thorpe's body has not yet been
Above: Miss Mabel Thorpe, WHO WAS DROWNED WHILE SURF BATHINGAT MANLY ON FRIDAY LAST.(Sketched from a recent photo.)
Rightt: Mr. Frederick Smalpage, WHO WAS DROWNED IN ENDEAVORING TO RESCUE MISS THORPE.
OCEAN BATHING AT MANLY
The Manly Council Chamber was crowded on Monday night, when a meeting of the residents was held, under the auspices of the Manly life- Saving Society, for the purpose of devising the best means of minimising the risk to ocean beach bathers during the forthcoming season. The Mayor of Manly (Alderman Quirk, M.L.A.)presided, and in opening the meeting said that it was generally agreed that some steps Should be taken, to try and prevent the fatalities that occur every summer on the ocean beach. It was the council's intention to-have a 'bathing reserve' from Wentworth-street, to the corner —and to ask bathers to use no other part of the beach. Mr. Wallace moved that it would be advisable to have a boat patrolling outside the breakers every morning. Mr. A. Rosenthal seconded the motion.
Mr. Gocher thought the people who bathed all day were deserving of some consideration. If a boat were on the beach it could be launched and a rescue effected.
Mr. E. H. Mark said that at Coney Island(New York), and Brighton (England), boats were provided.
Mr. D. Hogan gave some, figures in connection with the cost of maintaining the boat and suggested that a strong committee should be formed to collect subscriptions.
Mr. C. Sly. in answer to questions, said he could launch a boat from the beach in a moderate break. It certainly required experience to manage a boat in the surf. If the - Boat had been in use, both Miss Thorpe and Mr. Smallpage could have been, saved.
A man in a boat could much mere readily reach a drowning person than a rescuer from the beach.
Alderman. A. Ogilvy said a boat, manned by professionals was, undoubtedly, the best means to save life. When the occasion arose, what was wanted was promptitude, and practical knowledge born of long experience.'
The motion- was carried.
Mr. Gocher suggested that the members of the life saving corps should be provided with cork vests to be used in case of emergency, and the Mayor said the council would consider the matter.
A committee of 25 was appointed, with the aldermen as ex-officio members and Mr. D. Hogan was elected as hon. sec, and Messrs. A Ogilvy,- and E. Johnson as hon. treasr. A ladies' committee is also, to be formed, -and the Humane Society is to be asked to provide a life-buoy on Freshwater Beach. OCEAN BATHING AT MANLY. (1903, September 15). Evening News (Sydney, NSW : 1869 - 1931), p. 5. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article115857576
" Shooting the Breakers," showing a phase of surfbathing at Manly, is the subject of a picture in this week's " Mail.''-Advt. Advertising. (1903, March 18). The Sydney Morning Herald(NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 7. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article14535197
MANLY SURF BATHING. At the last meeting of the Manly Council the question of surf bathing and the costumes to be worn were again discussed. The Mayor(Alderman Quirk) brought forward a motion, which was carried, to the effect that the dress for ladies should be of dark material, that the costume should reach from neck to knee, with a tunic from waist to knee; that the costume for men should be the usual neck to knee attire of dark material, with true addition of a V shaped trunk of same fabric as dress. Several aldermen wanted to know what constituted 'dark material.' The Mayor admitted that the colour and material of a costume were difficult matters to deal with, but he thought his resolution a satisfactory one. MANLY. SURF BATHING. (1906, July 26). Evening News(Sydney, NSW : 1869 - 1931), p. 7. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article114087075
Launching the Surf Boat at Manly, March 23. (1907, March 27).Australian Town and Country Journal (NSW : 1870 - 1907), p. 20. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article71590669
SURF BATHING. A meeting of surf bathers, convened for the purpose of forming a club, the objects of which are to organise surf bathers to obtain suitable dressing-rooms and improvements at Manly, and to assist in improved life-saving methods, etc, will be held at the Steyne Hotel, Manly, on Tuesday next. SURF BATHING. (1907, July 15). The Sydney Morning Herald(NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 11. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article14834176
Surf Bathing. MANLY PREPARATIONS.
The question of surf bathing was very prominent among the business transacted at the last meeting of the Manly Council. . Mr. W. E. Neave wrote submitting an improved design and model for surf bathing accommodation. The writer said be had submitted his plans to the Department of. Navigation, which had approved them. The Manly Surf Club,' which is proving a very live body, wrote asking what steps, the. Council had taken in the erection of suitable bathing structures on the beach. Also, failing satisfactory arrangements with the Government, the club hoped the council would see its way clear to improve existing accommodation without delay. The employment of a surf attendant was necessary, and the requisite life-saving appliances should be procured as soon as possible, as surf bathing would soon be in full swing. If the council were willing, to make a grant to the club of a sum sufficient to cover the' expenses of caretakers and surf attendant, the club would undertake the responsibility of keeping the sheds clean and manage all matters pertaining to lifesaving, and see to the proper costume for mixed bathing. If the council were willing, representatives of the Surf Club would be glad to meet the aldermen and discuss mattters. Messrs Tonge and Relph also brought under the notice of the council the fact that the men's dressing-shed was open to the view of anyone passing up and down the steps at the Fairy Bower. Something should be done to remedy this evil. It was a source of constant trouble, and should be seen to. The correspondence was referred to the works committee, which has the whole question of surf bathing in hand. Surf Bathing. (1907, September 18). Evening News (Sydney, NSW : 1869 - 1931), p. 6. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article112650106
Manly’s first Surf Carnival was held on Saturday December 7th, 1907;
A surf-bathing carnival was held at Manly on Saturday to celebrate the opening of the new dressing enclosure on the ocean beach. SUMMARY. (1907, December 9). The Sydney Morning Herald(NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 1. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article14911194
SURF CARNIVAL. DISPLAY AT MANLY. PROCESSION DEFEATS DR. ARTHUR.
On Saturday afternoon a large crowd gathered at Manly to witness a surf carnival. A liberal programme was carried out, as can be vouched for by those who occupied positions on the high ground overlooking the beach where the displays took place. An enclosure was roped off as a sports arena, but this was so densely packed by surfites that those who were not garbed to wade through the breakers were unable to obtain more than a momentary glimpse of what was going on. It is to be regretted that better arrangements were not made to keep the crowd of bathers from encroaching on the beach, as a very Interesting afternoon’s entertainment was provided. The whole affair showed the want of a good stage manager.
The carnival was hold to celebrate the opening of the new dressing accommodation on the ocean beach. Much has been made of the additions and alterations, still bathers are not nearly as well provided for as they should be, and many surfites expressed the opinion that the council was unwise in drawing attention to the poorness of the accommodation available compared to that at other resorts especially Coogee.
The new improvements were declared open by Mr. Moore, M.L.A., Minister for Lands. A large platform was erected in the enclosure, on which the Minister and the aldermen of the local municipal council took up a position. Mr. Moore was introduced by the Mayor, Alderman Learmonth, and presented with a gold key. The head of the Lands Department then declared the dressing accommodation open. He delivered a telling address on the value of surf bathing, and emphasised the interest the Government took in It. But his words were practically wasted. He was supposed to be addressing the spectators, but as they were about fifty yards on each side of him his utterances were drowned in the noise of the breakers on the beach. Still his sentiments were not entirely lost, for beside him were the aldermen and the committee of the carnival, who were not stinting with their applause.
When the Minister had finished. Dr. Arthur, the member for the district, moved a vote of thanks to him. The speaker impressed on Mr. Moore the necessity of reclaiming certain lands at Freshwater, when the procession of bathers in fancy costume were seen making towards the enclosure. The representative of Middle Harbour saw It coming, and, knowing that It would arrive before he could lay all the facts before the Minister, he spoke at an ordinary pace, but quickened his speed. It was a fine effort, and the race was watched with a deal of Interest by those round the platform. The words fairly flew out of the speaker's mouth, and It was thought that he would be able to ventilate all of Manly's wants before the procession arrived. Such, however, was not the case, for he was going strong when though boom, boom, boom of the big drum at the head of the masqueraders drowned his voice, and he was compelled to wind up abruptly by calling for three cheers for Mr. Moore.
That was the end of the serious business of the afternoon. The procession entered the arena, where the members were Judged, photographed, and biographed. A display with the lifeboat followed. This was rather tame on account of the disinclination of the breakers to break. They were so docile that two men had no difficulty in putting out from the beach in a small dingy. "Happy" Eyre then swam out and rescued a supposed drowning bather, who was resuscitated by a squad from the Royal Life Saving Society. The programme also included an obstacle race, wading and swimming races, and a tug of war. SURF CARNIVAL. (1907, December 9, Monday). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 9. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article14911240
With the success of this first carnival, the second and its scope:
SURF BATHING. CARNIVAL AT MANLY.
The Manly Surf Club held a meeting at the Hotel Steyne last night, Mr Alderman Adam Ogilvy occupying the chair It was reported that the Government would place the Captain Cook at the disposal of the club on carnival day to act as flagship, and would also arrange for a display with the Government lifeboat and a rocket display. The programme of the carnival was settled, it being decided to again have the “Birth of Venus” on the harbour beach, and “The Landing of Captain Cook" on the ocean beach, also a fancy dress procession through Manly, in which a representation of lady Godiva's ride will be given.
All the lifesaving clubs around Sydney will be invited to send representative teams to walk in the procession in club costume carrying their life saving reels and gear. There will be a number of competitive events on the ocean beach, land drill, surf swimming and shooting and alarm reel races but the chief event of the day will be a rescue competition with lifelines and reels in which twelve teams will probably take part. This event last year caused considerable rivalry, and the Bondi Surf bathers' Lifesaving Club and the Manly Surf Club proved a very close match. The Sly Brothers will give au exhibition of shooting the breakers in the surf boat. Every effort will be made to provide the thousands of spectators with a good view of the proceedings, and the council will close the dressing sheds in order that only competitors may be in the water during the progress of the carnival. The Manly Band will perform during the afternoon.
At the conclusion of last night's meeting of the Manly Surf Club, Mr A W Relph, who has held the position of hon secretary for eighteen months since the club's formation, handed in his resignation, owing to pressure of private work. SURF BATHING. (1908, December 31).The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 10. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article15025416
Photographic postcard titled 'The Crowd, Manly' Taken circa 1890, courtesy Australian National Maritime Museum, image no: ANMS0519
Surf Bathing And The Advent Of Manly’s First Surf Carnival - 1907 - threads collected and collated by A J Guesdon, 2013.