May 16 - 22, 2021: Issue 494


John 'Jack' Carter

Johnny 'Jack' Carter passed away on May 10th, 2021, aged 91. This community extends its sincere condolences and love to Robey, Storm and Jay.

Johnny was renowned for having taught generations of youngsters to swim in the Palm Beach Rockpool - in fact, over the 70 years of Januarys Johnny spent at this pool, later with the daughter he was so proud of, Robey, this Palm Beach icon has taught around 10 thousand youngsters, and a few oldsters, to swim. 

The emphasis for John was not about money, he charged around 10%, or 'God's tithe', of what was charged elsewhere - the focus was on the children. He loved them and they loved him.

The community placed a plaque to honour his decades of teaching people to swim at the pool in 2001 - he'd done over 50 years by then. In 2005 the Queens Birthday Honours lists of June that year included an OAM recognition of his input into this community:

Mr John Edward CARTER
Cabbage Tree Club, Ocean Road, Palm Beach NSW 2108 
For service to the community of Palm Beach as a swimming teacher and lifesaver. THE QUEEN'S BIRTHDAY 2005 HONOURS The Governor-General is pleased to announce the following appointments and awards: (2005, June 13). Commonwealth of Australia Gazette. Special (National : 1977 - 2012), p. 1. Retrieved from 

Recently the pool has been renamed in his honour.

Since Monday tributes have been posted in online news forums as well as sent in. A sample:

I was one of his older ‘pupils’! At age 44 Johnny taught me to swim ‘Australian Crawl’ and in the summer of ‘86’ I did the Big swim between Palmie and Whale Beach, still resting on my laurels, and still swimming at the now JOHNNY (JACK) CARTER POOL! Forever thankful! RIP  - Traudi Line

Taught me to swim 65 years ago ...lifelong friend ! a legend and character so so many stories from surf o planes to greyhounds ..miss you mate !! - Darcy B.

A once in a lifetime character! So thankful for all he did for my 5 kids. He will live on in the beautiful swimming strokes he gave to the kids of Palm Beach & Avalon. - Jason R.

Johnny Carter taught me to swim when I was a little boy in the 1950's. He was tough, uncompromising, disciplinarian and we loved him. We would have swam round the world if he had asked us to do it. The best reward was at the end of each week, his "Best trier" got to sit on his long board for a surf ride.

Johnny Carter taught my Mother and her Brother as a 3 & 4 year olds in the 1950's, he then taught my brothers and I in the 1980's and he has just taught my nieces to swim this summer. Johnny Carter was a total legend who gives back all the money he makes from the lessons to the children he has taught. Each summer he provides competitions for the children and supplies all the prizes for the winning teams.

John first came to Palm Beach from Bondi as a teenager and soon after he commenced working as a Beach Inspector, and later Life Guard, he was saving lives. In a 2013 interview with Pittwater Online he said he worked from 7 in the morning until 7 in the evening for £5 a week. 

Shane Oxenham, 2019 Palm Beach Surf Club President, stated in an address he gave at the pool dedication ceremony;

'Johnny gave me a job as a kid renting surfoplanes on the beach, but before this, he taught me to swim in this place …..60 years ago. Today I speak today for the estimated 10,000 children that Jack has taught in this pool including Nicolina Ralston who started swimming lessons in 1952 when she was 6 …. and Jack Carter was just 22.

I also represent the PB Surf Club, of which I am a member, and with which Jack has been long associated since the Club first introduced him here in 1946. Surprisingly, he never actually joined the Club despite living in it for 70 summers. When asked about this, Jack replied twinkle in his eye “why would I join the Club… then yous’ed be able to kick me out.” 

Club Members trumped this compelling logic in 2010 by electing him its 13th Life Member for his service on this beach and in this pool. Nugget Meares, the ranking Surf Club member here today, actively supported this decision as Nug had joined the Surf Club in the same year as Jack didn’t.'

'We have come to honour a generous and humble man who early in his life worked out what is important and what is not. He has assessed that it matters not the model of your car or the size of your house…. But that you have been important in the life of a child…. 3 of his own, and 10,000 of this community’s.

There is a Brazilian saying: I have met a poor man, the poorest man you ever saw. All he had was money. In terms of the friends that Jack Carter has made with his philosophy of life, he is the wealthiest man in Palm Beach.

In 1946 Jack answered a Surf Club advertisement for a swimmer 21 or older to act as a life saver during summer week days. He got the job, commenced work and lasted just two weeks. He won both the junior and senior surf race at the NSW Titles at Bondi that year … so clearly he met the competent swim qualification…… but he was not 21…. He had just turned 17.  He owned up, and was sent home to Bondi…. much to the disappointment of the country girls boarding that summer at Florida House.''

LIFE SAVER Palm Beach now till Easter. Apply with copies references No 16784. Herald. Advertising (1946, December 12). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 23. Retrieved from 

What Shane may not have known is that at least three surf life saving clubs, North Bondi, Bondi and Tamarama, are quoted as having 'Jack' as their member in various late 1940's articles - a fourth may have been too much. The 1947 Annual Report of the Bondi Surf Bathers Life Saving Club shows he has gained his Bronze Medallion there.

While on this snippets from the pages of the past, it may be just as well Johnny was sent home to Bondi. Earlier that year he was involved in the first recorded of his many rescues after being a witness to this tragedy:

30 Caught In Undertow

A Moth Minor plane, piloted by a young man training for his civil flying licence, crashed into the sea off Tamarama Beach, Bronte, yesterday afternoon, and, when surfers attempted to recover portions of the wreckage, more than 30 were caught in the undertow. The body of the pilot-Eric Alfred Hurst, 29, single-has not been found.

Life-savers, using four lines and three surf skis, rescued men, boys and girls from the strong surf.

Hurst formerly lived at Lyndhurst, but had been staying with friends in Victoria Street, Waverley. He purchased the plane recently from the War Salvage Disposals Commission and had 40 hours' solo flying. He made one short trip from Mascot early in the afternoon, and set out on another flight about 3.30 p.m. He had no passenger. Robert Harrison, of Carter Street, Waverley, said Hurst, who was his friend, spent the morning in the city.

Girl Friend Saw Crash

"Just before Í left him." said Harrison, "we arranged to surf at Bronte in the afternoon after Hurst had made a couple of practice flights. He tele-phoned his girl friend and told her to watch him flying over the beach. I was on the beach with his girl friend, watching him do stunts, and we saw him crash."

Charles Freeman, of Newland Street, Bondi, who watched Hurst circling over Tamarama Bay, said: 'T saw him loop the loop twice. On the second occasion the engine appeared to cut out and the plane went into a tail spin at a height of about 300 feet. It then crashed into the sea about 200 yards from the beach." ,

Hurst's girl friend, collapsed when she saw the plane strike the sea.

John Baker, 19, of Curlewis Street, Bondi, who was sunbaking on the cliff, was first, to reach the plane, which was fast disintegrating. He climbed aboard the remainder of the fuselage, and looked into the cockpit, but it was empty. The wings had broken off, and the engine had broken from its fittings and had disappeared into the sea. 

Life-savers In Trouble

A few seconds later John Carter, of Carlisle Street, Bondi, a Bronte lifesaver, reached the, plane with a belt. Baker had become entangled in the broken parts of the plane. A foot and his back were lacerated. Lifesavers brought him back to the beach, and he was taken to a military hospital.

R. G. Cummings, of Oxford Street, Paddington, also a lifesaver, attempted to search the cockpit, then almost submerged, and he, too, had to be helped back to the beach. Jagged pieces of the plane had lacerated him badly, and Eastern Suburbs Ambulance look him to St. Vincent's Hospital.

Purlions of the plane were carried towards the beach, and at least 100 surfers attempted to swim out to souvenir pieces.

J. Brooks, the beach inspector, shouted to the crowd to leave the surf, as heavy seas with a strong undertow were running. His warning, however, was disregarded, and with-in a few minutes more than 40 men, women, girls, and boys were in difficulties.

Brooks had the key to the club's locked ambulance room in his pocket as he swam out to help those who were being carried out to sea.

To get gear and first aid equipment from the ambulance room, George Bishop, a lifesaver, of Pacific Avenue, Tamarama, smashed the window with a brick. While climbing into the room he gashed a hand. He also had to receive treatment. PILOT MISSING AFTER CRASH INTO SEA (1946, January 23). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 1. Retrieved from 

Surfers See Stunting Plane Dive Into Sea

Hundreds of bothers sow an unlicensed pilot crash to. his death 300 yards off Tamarama Beach at 3.45 yesterday afternoon. Eye-witnesses Eye-witnesses said, .that the: plane, a single-engine de Havilland Moth Minor monoplane, had been engaged in aerobatics for nearly two hours before it crashed. 

LIFE-SAVERS FROM BRONTE, Tamarama and North Bondi surf clubs; swim through heavy surf in an effort to rescue the pilot of a plane which crashed into Beach yesterday. 

Airman Had Little Experience

The pilot was Eric A. Hirst, aged about 30, of Lyndhurst, via Cowra. Late last night his body-had not been recovered from the sea. Within 10 minutes of the crash, the cliffs on either side of Tamarama were lined by thousands of spectators watching rescue attempts. Many inexperienced swimmers dived into the heavy surf at Tamarama to swim to the rescue, and for 45 minutes there was grave danger of some being drowned. Lifesavers from North Bondi, Bronte, and Tamarama clubs, who raced to the scene, made 30 rescues. Members of the public who rushed the lifelines to lend assistance impeded rescue work.

A Surf Life Saving Association official (Mr. Jack Hodge) ordered the shark bell to be rung to clear the surf. 

Hirst purchased the aircraft six months ago. It was registered as VH-AEK. Hirst had had very little tuition. At the time of the crash he was supposed to be making only short solo flights near the boundary of Mascot aerodrome to increase his flying hours and experience before being examined for an Air licence— a pilot's initial licence. Under Civil Aviation Department regulations a pupil learning to fly may not take his aircraft more than three miles from an aerodrome.

Hirst crashed more than six miles from Mascot. The regulations forbid stunt flying by learners. An aviation official said last night that the Moth Minor was not certified for aerobatics. Hirst took off from Mascot about 2 p.m. yesterday, and returned soon after 3 p.m. He took off again at 3.30 p.m., and crashed into the sea 15 minutes later. 

John Phelan, 18, Pacific Street, Bronte, a member of Bronte Surf Life Saving Club, said: "We had been watching him stunting most of the afternoon. ;"The "The pilot seemed to know someone living nearby, as he came down low over the beach and; the headland between Bronte and' Tamarama, and waved. We could see him distinctly. "A few minutes before the crash he did a roll, then two loops at about 1000ft., while flying inland. He turned around and headed out to sea. "When he got over the; water just off Mackenzie's Point, between Tamarama and Bondi, he pulled the machine into a steep climb, and the engine seemed to stall. "He got her nose down towards the water, and the aircraft went into a series of spins. I counted three distinct spins."

"His motor was not revving. "The engine spluttered into action when the aircraft was about 50 feet above the water, and the pilot then tried to level out, but it was too late. He hit the water while still spinning. "The plane disappeared in the splash that it sent up. Then I heard a dull explosion." 

John Carter, 15, junior surf champion of Tamarama club, who was first to swim to the wrecked plane with a belt, said there appeared to be two persons in the plane the first time it stunted over the beach.

"When the plane returned about 15 minutes later, there was only the pilot in it." he said.

John Carter. 

Mr. B. Jones, of Lyndhurst, a brother-in-law of the dead pilot, said last night: "This wall be a terrible shock for Ms sister. We have been, trying to keep the news from her toff a while." Hirst's mother and brother, Lloyd, also live at Lyndhurst. His other brother, Gordon, lives at Cabramatta. 

Mrs. Dorothy Symonds, Pacific Avenue, Bondi, said: "I was disgusted that people swarmed round and swam after souvenirs, tearing apart large pieces of the plane. "I wonder how people boast to their friends that such and such a piece of metal is a souvenir of some unfortunate who went to a tragic death in front of them." UNLICENSED PILOT DIES IN CRASH (1946, January 23). The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW : 1931 - 1954), p. 1. Retrieved from 

The periodicals of the past also provide a few insights into why Johnny became a swimmer and some of his early swim successes:


Four rowers were injure and several surf-boats damaged yesterday at Garie Surf Carnival. Heavy seas caused capsizes in the boat events. Frank. Swan (Freshwater) was struck by an. oar in a capsize and his arm was badly bruised. He rowed in a later race and was hurt again in a second upset. Keith Dingwall (Coledale), Gus Wenck (Coogee), and W. Bullivant (Bondi) were all treated for cuts and bruises received hi boat accidents. Maroubra surfboat suffered damage estimated at £50 when the Collaroy crew lost control and the two boats collided. The gunwale, two seats, and several planks, were broken in the Maroubra boat. The Collaroy boat smashed a front stem and planking that will put her out of action for several weeks. Lines were out three times to rescue boats and crews who were helpless in a strong cross-current and breaking waves.

First Start Win 

John Carter, of Bondi, swam a great race to win the junior surf championship. He has just turned 16 and this was his first surf race. He showed he was capable of handling the rough water, but he has yet to meet swimmers of the calibre of Bruce Bourke, of Cronulla. 

Jack Homer (Maroubra) was lucky to catch three waves in succession to beat Arthur Beard. Club events were cancelled at all clubs except North Bondi, Queenscliff, and Curl Curl. Queenscliff and Bondi claim they are opposed to sending club members away from the beaches on Sundays. A 16-year-old schoolboy, who weighs only 8st. 31b., has 'won the three open surf races in which he has started in his first season of surfing. He is Bill Simpson, of Queenscliff dub. Simpson easily defeated experienced surf swimmers in the second and third rounds of the Cosgrove Trophy competition at Queenscliff yesterday. He is. now leading in the competition with 31 points. 4 ROWERS HURT IN BIG SURF (1946, December 2). The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW : 1931 - 1954), p. 19. Retrieved from 

Open Surf Race Win By Johnson At Bondi Gala

In a hard swim in a flat surf State champion Bob Johnson showed a return to form to beat a strong field of swimmers in the open surf race at Bondi today. Johnson was first to turn, and held off challenges by Australian champion Rod Button (Collaroy) and Arthur Beard (Dee Why). After the place-getters came Rod Chapman (Bronte), Jack Campbell (Bronte), Alan Fidler (South Narrabeen), and Eric Carruthers (Maroubra). Johnson has been disappointed at his form this season, and before the race said he would be satisfied to finish in the first eight.

Australian medley champion Jack Campbell surprisingly turned out for Bronte, and swam well to finish fifth. Rod Button, former Australian swimming champion, has had three starts in the surf for a win and two seconds. He finished third to Fidler at Manly and won the novice race at Garie. 

Maroubra's 20th Rigged out in colorful white costumes with lightning red and blue stripes. Maroubra gave a perfect exhibition of formal, inn marching to win its 20th successive march post. Headed by uti. 4in. .standard bearer "Tiny" Lenton, Maroubra certainly looked the outstanding squad in the March Past. Queenscliff, marching well, again finished second, with North Bondi third. Bondi headed the parade wearing shorts.

North Steyne star, "Tony" Coore, winner of the State junior belt title last year, made a dashing debut in senior events by winning the first, heat of the senior belt race, from champion swimmers, Col Hendy ("North Bondi) and Ron Mathieson (Freshwater), who dead-healed for second. 

Won From Champion 

Coore proved that he is going to be hard to beat in the title events this season, for he could not have struck a harder heat. Eric Carruthers, former Australian junior surf champion, swam for Maroubra and Bronte champion Ken Mills was in Coore's heat, so that North Steyne bellman's task was not easy. 

Bill Philpolt (Cronulla) beat South Narrabeen star Max Whitehead in the second heat of the belt rnce. Still Surf After having a hard swim in the junior belt race, Australian junior breaststroke champion, Ken Jones (Manly), won the junior surf race from Tony Cunno (S. Curl Curl) and Jack Carter (Bondi). The junior race was it hard swim all the way in a still surf. 

Jones and Dick Winshuttle, both of Manly, led around the buoys, but Carter, who has just gained his bronze medallion, hit the front on the swim back to the beach. Jones, after two long swims, was able to go past Carter after the waves, and he beat Cuneo and Carter on the run up the beach. 

Although Jones Is a national swimming champion, today's win was his first in an open surf race. Open Surf Race Win By Johnson At Bondi Gala (1946, December 7). The Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 - 1954), p. 7. Retrieved from 

BONDI. — First Round Championship Surf Race, Senior: D. McDougall 1, P. Mcintyre 2, M. Smith 3.. Junior: J. Carter 1. J. Chesher 2, J. Gillies 3. Brace Relay Handicap Surf Race: J. Fisher-W. Jenkins 1, J. Haynes-A. Owens 2, -J. Chesher- J. Peters 3. SPORTING RESULTS, DETAILS (1946, December 9). The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW : 1931 - 1954), p. 17. Retrieved from 

10,000 SEE DUKE REWARD MAROUBRA'S 25th MARCH (1947, January 4). The Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 - 1954), p. 5 (TEST STUMPS). Retrieved from 


Two lucky waves enabled North Bondi Surf Club to win a 20-aside surf relay race against Bondi at North Bondi yesterday. Clem Walsh, their second last man, entered the water more than 80 yards behind Bondi Club's leading surfer, Ashur Hart. Walsh had. not gained any ground when Hart reached the buoys, 400 yards out. On the swim back, Walsh caught a big wave which Hart missed, and then caught a second broken wave which enabled him to give his team a slight lead. The last swimmers, Jack Carter (North Bondi) and Garry Taylor (Bondi) turned the buoys together, and both "cracked" the same wave. Carter won by feet only in the runup the beach. 

Freshwater surfer Don Mathieson yesterday defeated his brother Ray In the club's open surf championship. Ray last week qualified for the State carnival, to be held at Bondi on March 15. On Saturday night Mathieson defeated Jack Carruthers (Maroubra) in the A.I.F. 110 yards sprint championship at the Olympic Pool. LUCKY WAVES HELP NTH BONDI TO RELAY WIN (1947, March 3). The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW : 1931 - 1954), p. 18. Retrieved from 


Knowledge of the tricky Tamarama surf enabled Jack Carter to outclass rivals in the junior surf race at yesterday's McNally Trophy carnival. Carter, who is a member of both Bondi and Tamarama clubsis having his first season with Bondi. He has swum at Tamarama most of his life, and knows all the tricks of the surf. Yesterday he won excellently by 30 yards. Carter swam near the reef all the way out, and took advantage of the even water. Although only 17, Carter is considered one of Sydney's most promising swimmers. Rod Chapman (Bronte) won the senior surf race and was first to the beach in the teams' race. CARTER'S EASY SURF WIN (1947, March 10). The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW : 1931 - 1954), p. 19. Retrieved from 

"Lives" In Water

Jack Carter, of Bondi, who spends 10 hours a day in the baths and surf, is going to Victoria for the three-mile marathon swimming race in the Yarra. Carter, 16, has Just gained the bronze medallion, but has already beaten seniors in open surf races.

Last year, when a plane crashed in the Tamarama surf, Carter swam out and dived for nearly an hour looking for the pilot. He has dived off the rocks at Bondi many times to rescue surfers in difficulties.

Carter, a vegetarian, will shake up the opposition in the three-mile Yarra race, although to look at him one would think he was not capable of swimming 100 yards. What he lacks in size, he makes up for in pluck. Surf Newsreel (1947, February 5). The Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 - 1954), p. 13 (TEST LATEST). Retrieved from 


Jack Watson (YMCA), one mile State title-holder in 1940; Jack Carter (Bondi), and Ivan Stedman (Melbourne), who gained fastest time last year, are the back-markers of 92 entries in the Yarra three miles swim this afternoon. They will concede 44 minutes to the veteran distance swimmers, Joe Gill (Middle Park) and Roy Lander (Brighton Beach).

Ted Kempster (Brighton), last year's winner, has two minutes handicap, together with D. Le Nay (Essendon), D. Carruthers '(YMCA), and W. H. Orchard (Olympic), who swam fastest time in the two miles event last Saturday. A previous winner in L. Weeks (Albert Park) has three minutes start.

The race will start at Macaulay's boatsheds, Studley Park, at 2.45pm. 92 ENTRANTS IN YARRA SWIM (1947, February 8). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 8. Retrieved from 

Mile Swim Gave Winner Breakfast Appetite

Alex Manderson, winner of the three-miles Yarra swim on Saturday, swims one mile before breakfast each morning. Manderson, a South African who swims with Olympic club, won the event swimming breaststroke by 80 yards from his clubmate Reg Armstrong. L. Smart (Abbotsford) was 70 yards away third. It was his first start in a distance event.

In the women's section Marion Mc Cutcheon (B r i g h ton Beach), also swimming Breaststroke, won by 50 yards from Nancy Clarke (Camberwell). Mildred Mccutcheon (Brighton Beach), sister of Marion and last year's winner, was two feet away third.

There were 77 starters, including eight women, in the event, which began from Macauley's boatsheds, Studley Park. Jack Carter, junior surf champion, of Bondi, NSW, gained fastest time of 1h 19min 45sec, and Bill Orchard (Olympic) was second fastest with 1h 21min 30sec. In the women's section, Pat Elliott (Brunswick) was fastest for the fourth consecutive year. Her time of lh 49min 15sec was a shade slower than that of last year. Mile Swim Gave Winner Breakfast Appetite (1947, February 10). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 14. Retrieved from 

Youth, 17, Scratch Starter In Bondi Club's Surf Race

Seventeen-year-old Jack Carter will be scratch starter —giving the limit competitor 145 seconds start — in the Bondi Surf Club's first surf race of the season next Sunday.

Two years ago Carter could not swim the length of the Bondi Baths — 55 yards. Last year he won the Yarra three-mile race, in which he gave the limit competitor 44 minutes' start. He broke the record by 1 min 12sec. On Sunday he will be giving star surfers Rothe Bassingthwaighte, Ashur Hart, Jack Ferguson, and Herman Doerner a start. 

When he was 13 years of age, Carter suffered from catarrhal jaundice, and was in hospital two years. It was on his doctor's advice that he took up surf swimming. Carter also set himself a strict diet. He does not eat meat or potatoes. Last year he became junior surf and belt champion of Bondi Club. He is a strong tip to win the Australian junior surf championship this year. In the winter months Carter goes to The Chait Kosciusko, and skis to keep in conditionYouth, 17, Scratch Starter In Bondi Club's Surf Race (1947, October 1). The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW : 1931 - 1954), p. 22. Retrieved from 

The Yarra swim wasn't the last marathon swim Johnny took part in as he was among those who went on the first Palm Beach -Whale Beach 'BIG' Swim named the Bob Lynch Memorial Swim in honour of then Club Captain at Whale Beach and the father of Barton.

1974 - the first BIG SWIM entrants.

Jack's name disappears from these sorts of records soon after as by the summertime he was back at Palm Beach, now a salaried 'Beach Inspector', later Lifeguard for Palm Beach SLSC. The 'Season' for the Lifeguard was £100 - Warringah Shire Council would reimburse the Palm Beach SLSC £75 of this after it had closed. 

The Summer after that Johnny commenced teaching swimming to children, which means, had he and Robey been able to hold swim classes last Summer, that would have been his 72nd Summer of doing so.

PALM BEACH swimming instructor Johnnie Carter giving a lesson to six-year-old Jeffrey Persson, who is on holidays from school. Beach Holidays (1953, December 13). The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW : 1931 - 1954), p. 25. Retrieved from 

 At Palm Beach lifesaver Johnny Carter rescued a man swept 200 yards to sea by a heavy rip. Man Rescued In Surf Gives Lifesavers £10. (1954, January 21).The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 7. Retrieved from

Shane Oxenham shares:

But the next year, and for the ensuring decades he was back at Palm Beach as a salaried life guard, Council Beach Inspector, swimming instructor, surfoplane merchant, and trainer of slow greyhounds. Jack somehow juggled these various roles without too many issues but, occasionally trouble arose in the escalator rip near the pool. He was especially alert in the fetch of a black nor-easter, in a choppy short sea, and an ebbing tide. 

In 1958 these factors combined with a huge swell Jack completed the most dramatic rescue ever witnessed at Palm Beach; he saved 2 young boys well around the point and 800m out to sea.  

But how we best remember Johnny is as swimming instructor to generations of PB children – taught us confidence in the water, how to surf, how to read the waves. He did this year after year, with usually with great patience for a minimal financial return and sometimes without any reward at all from some families. 

However, he always took on all comers. He loves this job, and he is confident in his role as a swimming coach. So confident that he was once was critical of Ian Thorpe’s swimming stroke, 6 Olympic gold medals notwithstanding. Jack said……. “if I’d taught him, and got him young enough - he could have been a champion” 

In 2005 Jack was awarded an OAM in the Order of Australia for his services to the community. On presentation of his medal he asked the Governor Marie Bashir whether it was real gold and what he sell it for. Of course… she laughed. 

On another occasion, his friend Kerry Packer was renting a house over the pool and complained….. yelling down Jack at 7am – Jack… shut those kids up – 

Hey Kerry, you old fatso, he shouted back– to shut the kids up you’ll have to buy the pool first

It was once said that…. Small towns are more likely to swamp you than carry you out to the great oceans of life. This was never going to happen with Jack Carter. In this small community he concentrated not on personal ambition, or social politics nor financial success. His concern has been to the one factor that could never swamp him – the well-being of generations of the Peninsula’s children. This is why we are honouring him today.

Mr. Packer and John had 'form' - he taught Kerry and Ros to swim, then Jamie. 

“They’ve been very good to me,” is all he would say to us.

In fact succeeding generations of parents have brought their own children back to Johnny so, at times, you could have three generations of those taught to swim by this gentleman beside the Palm Beach rockpool.

Every Summer since this news service commenced residents have sent in emails, photos or given us a call to let us know 'Johnny's here - come say hello'. Every Summer we ran some of their wonderful photos and also would visit when the annual Jack Carter Cup run by the Palm Beach SLSC, one of their inhouse January carnivals each Summer, was happening. This too has seen many a local volunteer lifesaver rise to the challenge to get their name on this trophy. In 2016 the Palm Beach SLSC celebrated its 20th year of the Jack Carter Cup. The annual Jack Carter Cup comprises a 1.5 km swim, 6 km ski paddle (around Barrenjoey), a 2 km beach run and a 3 km board paddle. These can be done as an individual or as a team.

Palm Beach SLSC's 2016 Captain Alex Tyrell with Johnny and Michael Tuck at the 20th Jack Carter Cup event.

However, our favourite was of course to hang around the pool for what was known locally as the Jack Carter Carnival run through the Johnny Carter Swimming Club at Palm Beach. 

John was a very humble, very gentle man. Teaching them to get their arms right first and then KICK, these youngsters learnt how to swim within weeks and then had great fun in relay swims, running and other sports. Watching them you would see them turn to look to Jack time after time to gauge his reaction of what was going on - they all clearly adored him.

Jack would shake the hand of every boy swimming and kiss the top of the head of every girl before their racing. 

After witnessing a relay race between boys and girls in 2013, with the boys narrowly winning 2-1 in a best out of three, we asked Johnny a few questions:

What’s the best thing about teaching the children to swim year in year out?

It’s something I’ve been doing since 1948 and I love it … I’m getting a bit old now but I still enjoy it. I’m 82 now, have been teaching for 65 years. Around now (end of swim carnival) the kids would normally throw me in the pool…

Do you want me to throw you in the pool?

No, not really (laughs), my heart won’t take it you see. Today we’ve had the boys against girls relay swim but we’ve also had an iron-man contest too you see; we have three teams and they pick their own teams, they’re all good swimmers but not as competitive as Carlile.(swimming school). We swim more for fun, for having fun, and they have a good time as you can see. They swim well.

The Carlile school also has a link with Palm Beach; during the 45-46 surfing season Forbes Carlile joined the Palm Beach SLSC. At this time he was a lecturer in physiology at Sydney University and was coaching as part of the New South Wales Amateur Swimming Association. He was instrumental in the formation of the Palm Beach Amateur Swimming Club and its success in breaking NSW and Australian records during its first ever season, attributed to Carlile being selected as coach for the 1948 Olympics Australian Swim Team.

Johnny Carter, 17 when first on Palm Beach, must have seen these swimming techniques and legendary sportsmen such as R.M. ‘Dick’ Tooth who he recalls in Beach Beyond – A History of the Palm Beach Surf Club 1921-1996, training in the Rockpool with a four gallon drum strapped to his back.

Where did that little song the girls were singing come from… ‘Girls are strong, like King Kong…Boys are weak…throw ‘em in the creek’?

I sing that every year; sing that to them. Sometimes when the losing team’s gotta go out I sing ‘Goodbye Little Yellow Bird, hate to see you go’.

So how many children have you taught swimming in 70 years?

Ten thousand, at least ten thousand. I used to be the beach inspector here and some would come through via that and I’d teach them and it has just gone on and on since then. I come here from December through to Easter, I take some of the kids after school but it’s for kids that need to learn to swim. I don’t take them much under five or six (years of age) as before three, four or five they haven’t got any memory of it.

How do people get in contact with you if they want to get their children into a class?

After 70 years people know to just turn up here and I’ll give them a time to come down after school for private classes. My daughter Robey is running the business now, she teaches up Newcastle way and comes down to help me. I stay here until Easter.

We also spoke to Sinclair, a young man who has helped Johnny and Robey by being in the water beside youngsters, and was taught to swim by Jack:

It’s been really good being here this Summer. I was taught by him (Johnny) the last few years but I’m now sixteen so I’ve been doing it for a long time.

What’s the best thing about working with him?

He’s taught me a really good technique. I’ve had a good career; I finished going to State and Nationals in year 8 and can credit Johnny with my success.

Which school do you go to?

Riverview, I still continue to swim there. It’s a great school.

Are you going to continue competitive swimming this year?

Yes. I hope to make the GPS Team.

Many people attributed the advancement of their children’s swimming skills to Johnny, stating ‘He brings out the best in the children.’ He knows how to make them laugh, he teaches them swim stroke and breathing methods and constantly reminds them to concentrate on this. While being taught all girls are ‘Maggie’ and all boys are ‘Jimmy’.  You can see the children respond to Johnny, will push themselves to try harder at getting better. The little human fish seen flying through the water on Thursday, their yells, laughter and enjoyment are a testament that this man got it right and had for many Summers.

Johnny would often say ‘Palm Beach gave me a life’, referring to the swimming, the Palm Beach SLSC and those seven decades of teaching generation after generation to swim. This week tributes have poured in stating how much life he gave to the thousands who now enjoy, as habit, an early start and dip in the briny, thanks to him.

Below run some of the photos taken in 2013 - all pure Johnny and 'his crowd' - which is all of us.

with daughter Robey Carter

Johnny 'Jack' Carter Tribute by A J Guesdon, 2021. 'Pure Johnny' photos by A J Guesdon, 2013 - taken at a Jack Carter Carnival in the Summer of.....