The History of COMMERCIAL SWIMMING CLUB Inc from 1903

The History Book

A history of the Commercial Swimming Club’s one hundred years of existence has been completed by Barry Short, a Life Member of the club. It has now been published in A4 format through the good graces and tremendous assistance of the firm ‘Media IQ,’ a Dwade Sheehan and Cy Pearson Company, with Dwade, a past national and international champion club member, playing a very vital part in the exercise.

The printing of the book was funded by the Brisbane City Council, Media IQ and the Commercial Club. The club and the author are extremely grateful to the Council and Media IQ for their input and support towards completion of this enterprise.

The history has been named A Century of the Natatorial Art. Reference to a dictionary shows that ‘natatorial,’ a word based on Latin, refers to swimming. A natatorium is a swimming pool, especially indoors. This word was popular in newspaper articles around 1900. This document, of 193 pages, contains a tremendous amount of information and besides the main part of the history, records in addendums the names of most of the officers and officials of the two original clubs and the combined club since 1974; information about the Honour Board for members who fought in the Great War; lists of persons who attended the dinners celebrating the Ladies Club’s 50th Anniversary and those who attended the club’s 100th Anniversary.

Feedback indicates that readers believe the history of Commercial is “An inspired and timeless contribution to swimming” and “A must read for anyone interested in swimming in Queensland.”


Obtaining the History of the Club

Copies may be obtained, by contacting
Barry Short Phone – 07 33997029 or
Email –
The cost of the book is $11.00.


The Founding of the Club

Commercial Swimming Club has two founding organizations, the Ladies Commercial Amateur Swimming Club, from 1903 and the Commercial Amateur Swimming Club, from 1913.

Although thought for many years to have commenced in 1905, it has now been established that the ladies’ club was formed late in 1903. News of its formation was published in an article written by H20, in the Evening Observer on Saturday, 12 December, 1903, suggesting “that the recently formed ladies’ club, which swam at the Spring Hill Baths, promised to be a great success.”


The Contents

The history records not only the various activities of the club and its members, but details information about the sporting atmosphere at the end of the 19th century, including the first swimming club in 1885, the creation of the various old baths, including those floating at the banks of the Brisbane River, the use of the South Brisbane Dry Dock for competition and the development of the sport of swimming since its inception in Brisbane.

Of very great interest are the wonderful notes by Mr Jim Dunning, the original secretary of the Commercial Amateur Swimming Club in 1913, who in 1985 personally typed out this information about swimming around the beginning of the 20th century when he was a child swimming in the river, unlawful at the time during daylight hours and the beginning of the men’s club in 1913. These gems create a wonderful vision of that time.

The photographs and information about them as shown hereunder are not included in the written history.

The silver cup shown was competed for on 11 December, 1917 at the WET Martin Memorial Carnival. It is kept in the Commercial Club Trophy Room at the Valley Pool.

WET Martin’s photo is next to that of the cup and the other photo is of young Jim Dunning, in 1914. WET Martin was one of those killed in the First World War, as is recorded on the memorial plaque that is attached to the western wall of the meeting room, on the pool level of the Valley Baths. The cup was won by H Pickering, whose club is identified by the letter ‘T’ in the club records, which could be for the Toowoomba Swimming Club.

The early days of the Commercial Amateur Swimming Club saw members involved in both water polo and surf lifesaving. The water polo events between clubs were strongly competitive. The club supplied to the Royal Life Saving Society, members who travelled to both the South and the North Coasts to watch over the swimmers at beaches in those localities.

Up until after the Second World War, both clubs usually struggled to keep going, with some seasons recording quite small memberships. Indeed, it would seem that the financial support of the stall at the Exhibition was the main reason for its continued existence.

Both clubs operated successfully in their own right. Members of the men’s club tried for many years to amalgamate with the ladies, who were not enthusiastic about this idea. Even so, the two separate clubs did compete together, firstly at the Spring Hill Baths and then from 1926 at the "new" Valley Baths. This was for economic reasons, i.e. two clubs for the cost of one pool hire fee.

A Combined Committee had been formed by at least 1923 to smooth the running of the club program and other matters. Eventually, in 1974, the clubs did amalgamate and the club was called at the time, the Ladies and Men's Commercial Amateur Swimming Club. Throughout most of its life, the club could not be called elite until the last decade of the 20th Century, when it became highly successful in national and international competition. However, it has to be said that much more detail was recorded in the history about its early life, as virtually nothing was known about this period. There is a quite remarkable record of Commercial available since 1974, through its annual reports which are highly detailed.

Silver Cup

WET Martin

Jim Dunning