Memorial Baths celebrates 90th year with community pool party

Friday, 09 March 2018

The Lismore Memorial Baths has stood proudly in Lismore for just shy of a century and will celebrate its 90th birthday this March.

As the name suggests, the Lismore Memorial Baths was originally built as a monument, honouring the lives of 200 men who lost their lives in WWI.

Proponents of a memorial said they wanted to combine beauty and utility, and decided the memorial should take the form of a public swimming bath. The proposal was sponsored by the Lismore Returned Sailors and Soldiers’ Club and was enthusiastically endorsed by one of the largest public meetings ever held in Lismore.

The concept was approved by council in 1926 and the Lismore Memorial Baths was officially opened by the then Premier of NSW, the late Sir Thomas Bavin, on 19 March 1928. The facility cost approximately 10,000 pounds.

“On the first day, 633 people paid admission, and on the second day, 840 people visited the pool. It was immediately popular and well used by the whole town,” Lismore City Council's Major Recreation and Cultural Facilities Manager Tony Duffy said.

“Today, it continues to play a central role in the life of our city, as a place for families and children to cool off in our notoriously hot summers. Of course, it also remains a memorial to this day, and our annual Anzac Day and Remembrance Day ceremonies, as well as many others, are held outside the Baths at the cenotaph.”

The Lismore Memorial Baths has had its fair share of historic moments and brushes with fame since the pool first opened.

The foundation stone was laid by Lieutenant General Henry Chauvel, the first Australian to reach the rank of Lieutenant General, who was the commander of the Anzac Mounted Division that captured the town of Beersheba in 1917.

The facility was visited by His Royal Highness the Duke of Gloucester in 1934, and his first port of call after flying into Lismore was to lay a wreath at the Memorial Baths, watched by some 300 diggers and their families.

The Lismore Memorial Baths was also the training ground for swimmer and diver Lurline Hook, who competed at the 1938 British Empire Games (now known as the Commonwealth Games) where she won gold in the women’s 10m highboard (platform) diving.

“It has been the sight of some important and sombre moments, but also just the simple local pool where most Lismore people went swimming as children,” Tony said.

“We gave the grand old dame a facelift after the 2017 flood, and knowing that the 90th birthday was on the way, we chose to focus on the history of the Baths as it means a lot to the people of Lismore. The history is now recorded in black and white photographs and story panels around the walls of the facility.”

The Lismore Memorial Baths’ 90th birthday will be celebrated with a family fun day on Sunday, 25 March from 9am. Entry will be $3 for everyone and there will be a $2 sausage sizzle, inflatable fun and birthday cake. There will also be prizes for the best dressed green and gold Aussie-themed outfits in support of athletes attending the Commonwealth Games in April.

Image: Locals having fun at the Lismore Memorial Baths in the 1970s.

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