Two good men, a long friendship and Friday night swims at Tattersall’s pool

At the funeral today of our Dad’s great friend Tony, his daughter Philippa spoke about her father’s love of swimming and his special affection for Clovelly where he was always on the lookout for the blue groper.

Clovelly, photo Therese Spruhan, 4 Dec 2017

She talked about his involvement with many organisations including Friends of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Rostrum and Apex, where he and my Dad John met more than 60 years ago. As I listened to her speak about her father as a “powerhouse of humour, kindness and hospitality” my thoughts weren’t far from my Dad, a man who also had those traits, and who in days gone by met Tony for a swim and a drink at Tattersall’s Club on Friday nights.

After the funeral, I drove down to the water at Clovelly to visit the place that Tony had loved – even though the skies were grey and the rain was pelting down.

Clovelly Beach and Geoff James Pool, photo Therese Spruhan, 4 Dec 2017

As I walked by the Geoff James Pool, I remembered the time I’d bumped into Tony on the coastal walk at Coogee just south of Clovelly.

The pool at Clovelly with banksias, photo Therese Spruhan, 4 Dec 2017

I had gone there to take photos of the big seas crashing over the chains at Wylie’s Baths and Tony was on one of his regular long walks.

Wylie's Baths Coogee, photo Therese Spruhan

We talked about what everyone had been up to, how many grandchildren he had now and reminisced about the days when he and Dad met up at Tattersall’s Club on Friday nights.

“The routine was we’d have a swim and then go and have a drink. A drink,” Tony said, and laughed.

Photo from Tattersall's Club Sydney website

I told him how we always thought it was funny that you didn’t bring your own cossies to swim at the pool at Tattersalls (in those days a men-only club) and that Dad’s description of black material that you tied up at the sides, seemed way too skimpy for our trunks-wearing father.

“Yes, I suppose they were quite brief,” said Tony. “But it meant we could just meet up in our business things and didn’t have to take swimmers and towels to the pool.”

As we chatted above the wild seas, the wind howling loud, Tony said, “Your father wasn’t a great swimmer.”

Coogee coastline, photo Therese Spruhan

“No, he wasn’t,” I said, and told him the story Dad used to tell us about learning to swim at the Domain Baths in the mid-1930s.

He said the teacher said to him, “Jump in and get to there.” So, Dad jumped in and thrashed about and eventually made it to the other side.

A few weeks later he thought his swimming skills were up to taking part in the St Pat’s Strathfield carnival but halfway through the race he felt a tap on his shoulder and a teacher saying, “listen sonny, we’ve got other races to swim today.”

When I finished the story Tony burst out laughing, and I remembered how both he and Dad enjoyed nothing more than making each other laugh – as well as discussing the state of the nation and world affairs. Before we said goodbye, I asked Tony if he still went to Tattersall’s and swam in the pool.

“No,” he said. “I’ve been out of there for years. In the end, well, when your father passed on what was the point?”

Clovelly, photo Therese Spruhan, 4 Dec 2017

I didn’t see Tony again so I’m glad I bumped into him that day and pleased I was able to join his family and friends at St Anthony’s Church today to celebrate his 85 years of life – and to remember a lovely man who shared lots of laughs, good conversation, Friday night swims and drinks over many years of friendship with our lovely Dad.

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  • Hi I’m current member of Tattersalls and am delighted to hear that our pool and club were such an important part of your dads life. We still have a very strong swimming culture at the club with teams at many of Sydney’s big swims as well as some international events .

    Please let me know if you’d like to come and have a look over the club . I would be delighted to show you around

    • Thanks for your comment Paul. They were particularly regular during the 1970s and 80s with the Friday night swims and I remember Dad used to say they had races on there. We used to stir him that he wasn’t up to racing standard as he mainly swam a slow breaststroke with his head on the side. Dad’s friend Tony McDonald was the member of the club although I think Dad (John Spruhan) was a member in the mid to late 90s. Would love to have a look at the pool as we never could back in the days when it was an all-male club. In January some time would be good if you are around then. Happy swimming, Therese.

  • This is quite beautiful and a tribute to two very fine men. I was very privileged to Tony’s sister and a school friend of your mother and travelled overseas with her and the girls
    Fondly
    Mary Anne

  • This is quite beautiful and a great tribute to two very fond men. I am Tony’s sister and your mother and I traveled Overdeas together with another 5 girls and were wonderful friends
    Love
    And thank you for this tribute
    Mary Anne Duncan

    • Thank you Mary Anne and good to see you the other day at your brother’s funeral. It was good to mark their friendship. Always also remember Mum’s friendship with you – we have her album of photos from her trip overseas with many photos of you – and one or two of Tony too! Best wishes, Therese.

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