A new swimming pool
Ellis Park is opened as a public swimming bath in 1909. The swimming teams at the inter-schools’ galas are not successful - St Mary’s features at the bottom of the list. A lack of enthusiasm is exacerbated by circumstances: before 1951 the girls have to make do with whatever pool they can find. The parents start a swimming pool fund as early as the 1930s but this falls into abeyance during the Second World War. Interest is revived after 1945. Although the parents and school cannot raise sufficient funds in the immediate post-war period, parent involvement in seeing the project through cannot be under-estimated.
The Sisters recognise that from the girls’ perspective, it is more important to have a swimming pool than to have a chapel. The pool that is finally opened in 1951 is half Olympic size; most other schools have opted for smaller pools and training in a bigger pool gives the swimmers an edge.
On occasions, when there are inter-schools’ tennis competitions at St Mary’s, the Sisters let the players swim in the pool afterwards and enjoy a small picnic.
In 1953, the school is unable to raise a team for the inter-high gala but in 1954, the team comes 5th. Some serious coaching and training is taking place. In 1956 the team moves to 3rd place and the school is gripped by swimming fever for the next few decades. (In 1964 the school finally wins the gala, to the accompaniment of much hysteria.)
A St Mary’s girl, Moira Abernethy, is selected to swim for South Africa in the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne; she wins a bronze medal for the 4 x 100m relay in a Games where swimming is dominated by Australians.