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Portobello

 Outdoor Bathing Pool

1985

View to the SW from Portobello Open Air Pool, now closed - 1985

©  Miles Cumming Edinburgh                                                                                                   Photograph taken September 26, 1985

Portobello  Outdoor Bathing Pool

The Pool

Thank you to Miles Cumming for sending me the photograph above.

This view looks across the pool towards:

-  the housing in Portobello High Street (left)

-  Arthur's Seat in Holyrood Park (right).

This is one of several photos taken by Miles after the closed.

All the photos were taken on September 26, 1985.

Portobello Open Air Pool - empty - 1985 ©

Here is a view, taken the same day, looking to the east from the pool, looking towards the kilns from the old pottery works:

View to the east from Portobello Open Air Pool, now closed - 1985 ©

 

 

Recollections

1.

Archie Young
Moredun, Edinburgh

-  The Pool

-  Wave Machine

-  Raft

-  Filling the Pool

2.

Henry Kaczynski
USA

-  RAF Kirknewton

-  Cold Pool

3.

Danny Callaghan
Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland

-  Porty Pool

-  Diving Boards

-  Waves and Pontoon

-  Salt Water

-  Portobello - More Information

4.

Rod Wallace
Kincardine on Forth, Fife, Scotland

-  Working at the Pool

-  Saved

-  Memories

-  Amusements

-  The Wave Machine

-  The Suction Men

-  In Decline

5.

Derek Patience
Pathhead, Midlothian, Scotland

-  Pool Manager

-  Lifeguards

-  Engineer

5.

Update

Colette_Hunter
York, Yorkshire, England

-  Pool Manager

6.

Rod Wallace
Kincardine on Forth, Fife, Scotland

-  Bathing Pool Sign

-  Bathing Pool Towel

7.

Derek Patience
Pathhead, Midlothian, Scotland

-  Sean Connery

-  Lifeguards

-  The Pool

8.

Danny Callaghan
Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland

-  Pool to Close

-  Final Visit

-  Closed

-  Meeting Again

8.

Reply 1

Archie Foley
Joppa, Edinburgh

-  Pool Closed 1978

-  Final Visit

-  Closed

-  Meeting Again

 

9.

John Russell
Calgary, Alberta, Canada

-  Actors

10.

Peter Gilhooly

-  Bathing Pool Manager

-  Lifeguard

11.

Peter Gilhooly

-  Growing up in Portobello

-  The Amusements

-  Summer Work

-  Schools

12.

Maureen Macneil
(née Martin)

-  The High Dive

-  The Water

 

Recollections

1.

Archie Young

Moredun, Edinburgh

The Pool

Thank you to Archie Young for telling me more about the pool and its wave machine.

Archie wrote:

"This photo was taken from the restaurant window.

View to the SW from Portobello Open Air Pool, now closed - 1985 ©

Wave Machine

"I have arrowed (with red arrows on the photo below) where the wave machine was."

Raft

"There was also a large wooden raft. (A blue arrow shows where this was.)  The raft was held in position by, I think, chains or thick rope.

People would swim onto it just before the waves started, they would then stand up and see how many stayed on at the end of the wave session."

Filling the Pool

"When they were filling the pool after maintenance, they used around six fire hoses like the ones used by the Fire Brigade.  It took three days to fill the pool."

Archie Young, Moredun, Edinburgh, April 4, 2009

View to the SW from Portobello Open Air Pool, now closed - 1985

©  Miles Cumming Edinburgh, with arrows added by Archie Young, Moredun, Edinburgh.         Photograph taken September 26, 1985

 

Recollections

2.

Henry Kaczynski

Annapolis, Maryland, USA

The Pool

Thank you to Henry Kaczynski who wrote:

RAF Kirknewton

"In Oct 1960, I selected RAF Kirknewton as my first overseas assignment with the U.S. Air Force, after graduating from technical school in Texas.

 I headed to the base library and checked out a book on Scotland. I came across a B&W photo that showed a huge outdoor pool that turned out to be the one in Portobello.

The photo was very old, judging by the clothing worn by the people standing around the pool."

Cold Pool

"They were dressed mostly in jackets, overcoats and wearing hats. It's seemed odd that people would be dressed that way at a pool.

I found out why when I arrived in Scotland and went to the pool in the summer(?) of 1961. I never went back. I guess I wasn't tough enough.

To this day, I've always wondered why an outdoor pool had been built, considering Scotland's climate, that wasn't heated."

Henry Kaczynski, Annapolis, Maryland, USA:  May 6, 2009

Harry:

The Pool opened in 1936, then closed for a few years soon after, during the 2nd World War.

Portobello Power Station had been built in 1923.  It stood beside the pool and supplied heat to the pool, though I've heard that even with this heat the water in the pool could still feel cold.

Portobello Power Station was demolished in 1978, and the pool didn't last much longer.  It closed in 1980.

Peter Stubbs:  May 9, 2009

 

Recollections

3.

Danny Callaghan

Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland

Thank you to Danny Callaghan who wrote:

Porty Pool

"I have some great memories of Portobello Outdoor Pool (Porty Pool).    I used to be taken there by my older cousin, then as I got older I would get the bus from Broughton to Porty Pool.  It must have been 2 buses. 

On really nice days there would be a long queue and as swimmers came out more were let in.   I'm sure that in the '50s and '60s there was no time limit.  You took you towel and sandwiches and sunbathed on the terraces."

Diving Boards

"I never mastered diving from the boards but used to love jumping from the top diving board which was 10 meters high (33 ft) and into a deep 16 feet area below the dive boards.  You used to think you would never come up.

Waves and Pontoon

"The pool was 50 yards wide and went from about 7ft in main swimming area to nil at shallow end.  There were floats across the pool to separate the shallow from deep end.   There was a pontoon in the deep end and the challenge was to stay on when the waves came on. 

I remember once someone getting flung off but they held onto the ropes round the pontoon and they broke or dislocated their arm.   The waves had to be stopped and the lifeguards rescued the person in a rowing boat.   That gives idea of the size requiring a rowing boat which was normally kept on the side near the pontoon.   I am sure that the wave machine was manufactured by Brown Brothers.

Salt Water

"The pool was originally salt water,  heated.  It was the cooling water from the power station next door which had been pumped in from the Forth.    As we were all made more aware of how polluted the Forth was the pool was changed to fresh water, and of course then no longer heated.    I think that's what spelled the death knell for Porty Pool as the water was no longer salt and was cold.

Danny Callaghan, Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland:  November 12, 2009

Portobello  -  More Information

Thank you to Danny for also telling me about this page by JK Gillon on the FortuneCity web site.

The page gives a brief summary of:

-  Portobello

-  Portobello Pier and

-  Porty Pool

It also has a link to a page about Marine Gardens, Portobello.

Recollections

4

Rod Wallace

Kincardine on Forth, Fife, Scotland

Thank you to Rod Wallace who wrote:

Working at the Pool

"I worked at the Portobello Open Air Pool for two seasons, 1974 and 1977. In the latter season there was a clear-out of stuff into a skip on the basis that it wasn't expected the pool would open again in 1978, though in fact it did."

Saved

"The sign was saved by me and has adorned bathrooms in various houses over the years.  I also used to have some scruffy towels with the POAP logo, but these seem have gone now. Only the memories are left."

Memories

"I remember  the contrast of the rare sunny days when every locker was in use and there was hardly a square inch to spare on the poolside, and much more common poor weather, with hardly a patron to be seen except the hardy regulars who swam every day.

Amusements

"In the quiet times when there was no meaningful work to be done.  Some of us used to carve chess sets from the decades old carbolic soap, which had long since become brick hard!

Other amusements, on dull days, included:

- playing some of the collection of 78 rpm records, some records dating from the 1930s

reading 'The Book' - an evaluation of all staff who had ever worked there, with comments after their name and then VG, G or NBG.  A certain Mr Tommy Connery was listed."

The Wave Machine

"By the late-1970s, the wave machine was a bit decrepit but still worked on one side of the pool. It was an impressive site in the plant area when in operation, very noisy and quite scary.

I remember the machine being powered by a huge electric motor coupled to a gearbox and cranks.  There was a lever that controlled the movement of the wave paddles, and the plant men never turned it up very high for fear of damage.  I think they were wise, because all that power could have vibrated concrete and cracked it."

The Suction Men

"Two worthies of the pool in those late days were Jock Good and Bill Woodhouse, 'the suction men'.   Jock and Bill started in the early morning and hand-hauled a heavy suction trolley across the the bottom of the pool from side to side, using ropes. Not bad for two guys, one over 60 and the other over 70!

It gave them a good thirst, which they slaked in the Foresters Arms or the Railway Club, and on busy days they came back in the afternoon to do a back-shift in the changing rooms."

In Decline

"I loved my seasons at the pool, but it was sad to see it in terminal decline. I hope nonetheless, that people will enjoy seeing this photo."

©

Rod Wallace, Kincardine on Forth, Fife, Scotland:  April 15, 2010

 

Recollections

5

Derek Patience

Pathhead, Midlothian, Scotland

Thank you to Derek Patience who wrote in response to Karen Irwin's question: 'Who was the Pool Manager at Portobello Bathing Pool?"

Derek wrote:

Pool Manager

"The manager of Portobello Pool was John Wilson.  He was also swimming coach at Portobello Amateur Swimming Club which met at the indoor baths at the bottom of what is now Bellfield Street.

John Wilson had a daughter whose name escapes me.  She had two older brothers one was called Brian and the older one was Jimmy."

Thank you, Derek.

This answers a question asked by Carol Irwin in 2007, in 'Portobello from 1950s, Recollections 27'

Derek added:

"I could probably find out the daughter's name if your contributor is interested."

 

Lifeguards

"I used to work at the pool as a lifeguard along with whole bunch of Portobello legends including:

-  Iain Whyte

Derek Davidson

Paul Thomson

Paul Beak

Derek Cossar

Pete Cassidy

Jimmy Kay

and lots more.

Engineer

"Jimmy Thomson was the engineer who looked after the famous wave machine."

Derek Patience, Pathhead, Midlothian, Scotland:  June 30, 2010

 

Recollections

5

Update

Colette Hunter

York, Yorkshire, England

Thank you to Colette Hunter who wrote in response to Karen Irwin's question: 'Who was the Pool Manager at Portobello Bathing Pool?"

Colette wrote:

Pool Manager

"My Mum worked at the Open Air Pool and my Nana worked at Porty Baths.  John Wilson managed both.  His daughter was Elaine."

Colette Hunter, York, Yorkshire, England:  11 + 20 April 2016

Recollections

6

Rod Wallace

Kincardine on Forth, Fife, Scotland

Thank you to Rod Wallace for following up his comments in 'Recollections 4' above, and adding:

Bathing Pool Sign

"You were kind enough to display my old Portobello Open Air Pool sign on your site."

Portobello Open Air Bathing Pool  -  Notice for Wave Making Machine ©

Bathing Pool Towel

"I mentioned in my previous email that I used to have a couple of towels, which I had assumed had been thrown out. 

However, recent redecorating entailed digging out dust sheets etc, and one of the towels was in with them.  The towels, like the sign, were retrieved from a skip in 1977.

I didn't find the second one, so this may be the only Portobello Open Air Pool towel still in existence !!   OABP stands for 'Open Air Bathing Pool', as if you couldn't guess."

Portobello Open Air Bathing Pool  -  towel ©

Rod Wallace, Kincardine on Forth, Fife, Scotland:  July 8, 2010

 

Recollections

7

Derek Patience

Pathhead, Midlothian, Scotland

Thank you to Derek Patience for writing again.

Derek wrote:

Sean Connery

"Speaking of lifeguards at the pool, the most famous one has to be Sean Connery who did a stint, I think, in the late-1950s.  My father knew Sean back then but not through the pool.  It was when 007 was a milkman in Fountainbridge where my Dad was the postie.  Back then Sean was know as 'Big Tam'."

Lifeguards

"Other lifeguards from my time included:

Roman Winckler

Brian Don

Terry Jones.

John Wilson went to manage the Commonwealth Pool in 1970. The new Pondmaster was a Mr McCosh,

The Pool

"Portobello Pool was very special. Not only was it the largest pool in Europe but it was probably the most significant example of 1930s architecture (Art Deco style) in Edinburgh.  Even the showers and changing rooms were elegantly formed with beautiful blue tiling.  It was a real loss to the city's heritage when it was demolished.

Still I was lucky enough to enjoy the pool as a wee boy in the 1950s, and then work there in the late-1960s and early-1970s."

Derek Patience, Pathhead, Midlothian, Scotland:  July 7, 2010

 

Recollections

8.

Danny Callaghan

Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland

Thank you to Danny Callaghan who wrote:

Pool to Close

"As a regular at Portobello Pool as a kid and teenager I was saddened when I heard it was to close***. I lived in Linlithgow then.   On the weekend of the closure, I had been telling some of my neighbours teenage kids and their pals about the wonders of Porty Pool, the high dive, the raft and of course the waves.   'The waves will be on in 5 minutes'." 

Final Visit

"Then said it would be great to see the pool, and I did not take much encouraging.    So I got them to check with their folks, then I agreed to take them on the Sunday morning for that last splash!   The Sunday was reasonable and they arrived with their swimming togs, and of course a few other pals.    They were 12- to 14-year-olds and 2 of them heading for 6 foot.   After a bit of squashing up all 7 of us managed to get into a Morris Marina Coupe.  What you did to company cars!"

Closed

"We safely arrived at the pool and I was a bit surprised to see that it all seemed quiet.  I thought, being last day, there would have been a lot of nostalgia trips.    In fact, it was quiet because  Sunday was not the last day.  The pool had closed on the Saturday for some reason, and was all locked up.    Very disappointed I took them to have a look round the outside and think you could see in from main road.

So as not to have a completely wasted journey, we then headed for the Commy Pool - but it was just not the same."

Meeting Again

"I bumped into one of the guys Alan recently he is now 6ft 6in and he ribbed me again about our trip to Porty Pool.

Porty Pool.  RIP."

Danny Callaghan, Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland:  March 30, 2011

Question

When did Portobello Bathing Pool close?

***  Does anyone know exactly when the pool closed?  Jim thinks it may have been in 1979.   I have seen several different dates quoted on the Internet.  Did the pool, perhaps close, then re-open for a while?

Scottish Screen Archive  says 1970 or 1971

Portobello Wikipedia page says 1984.

Visions of Scotland's Brief History of Portobello says Mar 1979

 

Peter Stubbs, Edinburgh:  March 31, 2011

Recollections

8.

Reply

1.

Archie Foley

Joppa, Edinburgh

Thank you to Archie Foley who wrote:

Pool Closed  -  1978

"The pool closed at the end of the 1978 season.  As your correspondent said, the pool was doomed when the electricity generating station closed in March 1977. 

The electricity generating station was beside Portobello Bathing Pool.  Heat from the generating station had been used to heat the sea water in the bathing pool.

Archie added:

Notice Board

    Portobello Open Air Bathing Pool  -  Notice Board, 1978 ©

"Above is a photo of the Notice Board for the 1978 Season.  It is now in the collection of Portobello History Society, as are the locker number and key below:"

Locker Number and  Key

    Portobello Open Air Bathing Pool  -  Locker Number and Key ©

Recollections

8.

Reply

2.

John Hadden

Edinburgh

Thank you to John Hadden who replied:

1979?

"This Glasgow Herald article seems to support the 1979 date:

Bathers' Bad News

'DESPITE last ditch appeals, Edinburgh District Council voted to go ahead with its plans to close Portobello Open Air Pool.  One deputation  had argued that the closure might tempt children to bathe in the open sea.

The Labour group also felt it would deprive the children of Portobello of a facility upon which no price could be set.'

Glasgow Herald: March 30, 1979, p.2

 

1978?

I think the final closure may well have been in August 1978, the decision reported in the Glasgow Herald on March 30 1979 having been made before the pool would have opened for the 1979 season.

Peter Stubbs, Edinburgh:  March 30, 2011

Recollections

9.

John Russell

Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Thank you to John Russell who wrote:

Actors

"The pictures above remind me of auld day's. 

The 'Body Beautiful' gang used to hang out there, good days or bad.   Some of the actors in those days were:

-  Tam (Sean)

-  Connery

-  Scott Gunn

-  Jimmy Lawrie,

That's a long way back for Sean!

John Russell, Calgary, Alberta, Canada:  August 6, 2012

Recollections

10.

Peter Gilhooly

Pumpherston, West Lothian

Thank you to Peter Gilhooly who wrote:

Bathing Pool Manager

"In his Recollections 5 above, Derek Patience mentioned that he could not recall the name of the daughter of John (Jock) Wilson, the Bathing Pool Manager.  In fact, her name was Elaine."

Lifeguard

"My family lived in Straiton Place, then moved to Portobello Promenade, next to the swing park and amusements.

I remember working as a lifeguard at the open air  pool in the summer, during my student years.  I met my wife Nan (Agnes) Pirrie while working there in the 1970s.

All my family were members of Portobello Amateur Swimming Club.  It was a fabulous place to grow up."

Peter Gilhooly, Pumpherston, West Lothian:  April 10, 2014

Recollections

11.

Peter Gilhooly

Pumpherston, West Lothian

Thank you to Peter Gilhooly who wrote again, adding:

Growing up in Portobello

"I grew up in Portobello.  We lived at 23 Straiton Place (now demolished) next to the Seabeach Hotel (where my wife and I held our wedding reception in 1976).

Then in the early 1960s we moved to 17 Promenade, next to the swing park on the promenade."

The Amusements

"I can recall spending many hours trying to win money at the amusements by trying to read which horses were most likely to win at a machine.

I held a penny over two slots and waited until they had spun for a few moments before the bar came across to stop you putting money in.

Most often my friends and I came out with more money than we went in with, and were 'asked to leave'.  Our hands were green from holding the coppers. On other occasions I recall how the penny falls became victim to a few accidental bumps!"

Summer Work

"During the summers I worked:

-  on the donkey rides,

-  on the deck chairs,

-  at the Fun City, then

-   as a lifeguard at the Open Air Pool.

I was Assistant Pondmaster in 1973, along with Drew Harley who was a fabulous character and a body builder.  He encouraged some of us puny youngsters to work out with him.

I once had the privilege of starting up the wave machine which was done by turning a series of valves in sequence. Get it wrong and the waves were all over the place. At that time one of the sections of four was out of commission but it was still a little scary to stand in front of during its operation."

Schools

"I attended St Johns Primary School from 1958 to 1964.  The Headmaster was Mr Meechan who lived in Mentone Avenue just off Bath Street.

My older brother (Paul) and I played football for the school. He was known as 'Goo Goo' and I was 'Wee Goo Goo'.

I then attended the new Portobello High School and loved PE  I remember:

-  Mr Gordon,

-  Mr Connor,

-  Miss Marshall

-  a young Hamish Thom
   He upset the applecart by starting up football teams.

-   Big Ben,

-   Mr Drummond (Languages)

-  the brilliant Bert Kerr (Technical)
   He was an outstanding Table Tennis player.
   He, ran the basketball team."

Peter Gilhooly, Pumpherston, West Lothian:  April 12, 2014

 

Recollections

12.

Maureen Macneil (née Martin)

Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

Thank you to Maureen Macneil (née Martin)  who wrote again, adding:

The High Dive

"Portobello pool was my 'second home' while I was growing up. I recall the 'high dive' as being more like 90-feet high, and below there was definitely 15 feet of water."

The Water

"I don't believe that the pool was heated at all and, believe that the water was extracted from the sea. However I could be wrong about the long-ago memories. This was one of the best times of my childhood."

Maureen Macneil (née Martin), Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada:  June 10, 2015

Hi Maureen:

The water in the pool could certainly feel very cold.  However, I remember reading at some stage that the water was, in fact, heated, using waste heat from the electric power station next to the pool.

Peter Stubbs, Edinburgh:  June 25, 2015

 

Recollections

13.

Laurie Thompson

Chipping Sodbury, Gloucestershire, England

Thank you to Laurie Thompson for responding to Recollections 12 above.

Laurie wrote:

Diving Board

"Maureen MacNeil recalls the old (and much loved!) Portobello Outdoor Pool  Having once (and once only!) jumped off the top diving platform, I can understand why she feels it was 90 feet high.  The drop seemed to last a very long time before I finally hit the water.

However, according to one of the postcards (posted in Edinburgh in 1947) in my collection, the top platform was a mere 32 feet 8 inches high."

The Pool

"My postcard gives the total cost of building the pool as approx. £90,000!  You probably couldn't buy a one bed flat in Edinburgh for that money nowadays!."

Laurie Thompson, Chipping Sodbury, Gloucestershire, England:  June 27, 2015

 

Portobello

Portobello Recollections

Around Edinburgh

 

 

__________________

 

Links to Other Pages

EdinPhoto - Home Page  Please send me an e-mail ...  with your questions, comments, suggestions or news.   At any time, you can search for a word  -  perhaps a photographer's name or a photographic topic.  The search will produce a list of pages on the EdinPhoto web site where this word appears.     At any time, you can search for a word  -  perhaps a photographer's name or a photographic topic.  The search will produce a list of pages on the EdinPhoto web site where this word appears.  

Photographs and Other Images  -  These include portraits of photographers  -  photographic outings -  Princes Street views  -  Newhaven Fishwives  -  etc.  Early Photography in Edinburgh  -  Talbot, Brewster, Hill & Adamson, Early Professional Photographers in Princes Street, etc.  Professional Photographers in Edinburgh  -  1840 to 1940  -  Their names, dates of business and studio addresses.  The Photographic Society of Scotland  -  1856 to 1873  -  Lectures, Exhibitions, Outings, etc.  The History of Edinburgh Photographic Society  -  1861 to date  -  Lectures, Exhibitions, Outings, Poems, etc.  EPS Publications - EPS Handwritten Records  -  Photographic Journals  -  Trade Directories  -  Books  -  etc.  Thanks to all who have encouraged and supported me in creating the EdinPhoto web site  -  including descendants of photographers  -  researchers  -  providers of photographs and other material  Background notes on the research thal led up to the creation of this site  -   together with lists of new material added to the site since its launch.  Brief comments on how this site might be used  -  Just browsing?  -  Seeking specific information?  Please add your questions, suggestions or other comments to the Guest Book.  Links to other web sites  -  Photographic Societies  -  Photographic History  -  Family History  -  etc.  Click here to find the link to the Edinburgh Photogrpahic Society web site.

 

A selection of my photographs, many from Edinburgh throughout the year.   Also photos from Scotland, London, Iceland, Italy, Hong Kong and elsewhere     Many old maps of Edinburgh (Old Town, New Town, while City), Leith and Newhaven.  Includes several old transport maps and a comparison of old maps with recent aerial photos.   Old engravings, mailly of Edinburgh scenes.  Some from the 1820s, some from the 1890s,  some others - includes many hand-coloured examples from the 1820s.   News from Edinburgh today  -  Events, Collections, Buildings and Gardens, Transport   This site includes     1. Post card portraits taken in studios in Edinburgh:    2. Post card views either takeen/published by Ediburgh photographers or views of Edinburgh, or both.y Edinburgh    Views of Edinburgh, grouped into three sections:     1. Street views:    2. Buildings:    3. Around Edinburgh   Views of transport around Edinburgh  -  Horse drawn trams and buses, cable cars, electric trams, buses and a few railway photos.  Also several maps of Edinburgh's bus and tram routes.   Links to pages with Photos of Groups   Frequently Asked Questions

  Summary of the updates added to this site each month since the site was launched   Links to Dumbiedykes pages  Link to Granton pages  Link to Leith pages   Link to Newhaven pages   Links to Portobello pages   Link to My Recent Talks