Manuka Pool celebrates 80 summers


Last Friday night, Manuka Pool, Canberra’s first public swimming pool, celebrated its 80th birthday.


Friends of the heritage-listed pool were entertained by a ukulele band, acrobats and swing dancing as they picnicked in the garden. Others spent the night in the pool, enjoying a dip at dusk.

As old photos were projected onto the wall at the deep end of the art deco space, revellers gathered on the cantilevered seating surrounding the pool for a swimsuit parade.

Modelled by the pool’s young lifeguards, some of the more retro cossies transported us back to 1931 when The Swimming Pool, as it was then known, was first opened. The young lifesavers also treated us to an Annette Kellermann-style water ballet display with the synchronised swimmers decked out in frilly red caps.

There were also plenty of older representatives at the party including 88-year-old Merv Knowles, who was at the pool’s official opening on Australia Day 80 years ago.  Don Tier, 89, a member of the morning regular swimmers, known as the Coneheads, also dropped in for a night-time swim.

A former diving coach when the pool had two and three metres boards, Don calls Manuka Pool, a hidden treasure. Taught to swim in America by Gertrude Ederle,  the first woman to swim the English Channel, he says if he had nothing else to do he would swim all day.


The Taverner family were also well represented with current manager John ‘Tav’ Taverner running the show with his wife Pearle and daughters’ Sophie and Grace. It was wonderful to see his mother Lesley there too, who turns 86 soon. She and her late husband Owen managed the pool for 50 summers from 1947 to 1997.

It was a great night and a fitting way to celebrate Canberra’s much-loved oldest public pool.


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  • Hi Therese

    Only just looked at this website. The Hingee family spent a lot of time at Manuka Pool where I first learnt to swim and then most of us were part of the Club swimming team and competed all over the country. My Dad went on to be a swimming official at the 1956 Olympics.

  • Glad you found it Ric and to hear your family’s connection with Manuka Pool. There are so many great stories at Australia’s swimming pools and like you and me many people have a particular connection to one or two pools. Stay in touch as I am writing a range of stories on pools and would be good to speak to you at some stage. Happy swimming.


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