History of the Canberra Amateur Swimming Club

Established on 1 December 1930, Canberra Amateur Swimming Club has a long, rich and proud history associated with swimming in Canberra and the ACT region. 

The early history of Canberra ASC depicts the history of swimming in the Territory as a whole.  To celebrate its 50th Anniversary, in 1980, a booklet was published documenting those fifty years of swimming.

Details of the history of swimming in Canberra, and of the Canberra ASC, are being documented for perpetuity.  The task will be ongoing, and the information updated here as it is ready for publication.

Club Patrons

Canberra ASC has a long history, which includes a list of distinguished Club Patrons.  Amongst those who have provided patronage to our club, there are five Prime Minister's of Australia, four Governors General of Australia, High Commissioners from New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Canada, India and Malaya, Ambassadors from the USA, Japan, China, the Netherlands, Indonesia.  Many local individuals have also provided their patronage to our club, including James Brophy, who served as the Club's President from 1946 to 1967.

A roll of honour of those patrons can be found here.

Life Members

The Club has also honoured many of its members with Life Membership in recognition of their service to the Club for at least 5 years and who have rendered distinguished service to the Club.

A roll of honour of Canberra ASC's members can be found here.

Executive Committee Members

Our Club will not operate without the men and women who voluntee their time and take on roles within the Executive Committee.  Over the years, many have given their time, ideas and inspiration to the Club.

A roll of honour of Canberra ASC's Executive Committee Members can be found here.

Beginnings in the Molongolo River

Competitive swimming in Canberra had its genesis in the Molonglo River at a point which is now the shore of Lake Burley Griffin adjacent to the old Power House.

In December 1926 a meeting was held to draw up the rules and elect a committee for the Canberra Fire Brigade Swimming Club.  In its first year, it had a membership roll of 78 men and 14 women.

The first Carnival of the Canberra Fire Brigade Club was held on 15 January 1927. 

The members of the Canberra Fire Brigade erected two dressing sheds for ladies and gentlemen, each shed being provided with Cotter water showers.  The approach to the river was staired and timbered.  A platform, which projected over the water, and a diving tower with a low and high spring board were placed in position.  Finally, a turning board was added 331/3rd yards (100 feet or 30 meters) from the bank. 

All material for these works was supplied free of cost by the Federal Capital Commission.

On 14 November 1928, The Canberra Times reported that “So well have the efforts of the firemen been appreciated, that during last season it was not uncommon to see as many as two hundred people of all ages enjoying themselves in the pool”.

The Club continued its activities under the Presidency of Canberra's Fire Chief, Mr. Percy  Douglas, until February, 1929, when the health authorities informed the Club that the waters of the Molonglo River was unfit for bathing.  As a result, the operations of the Club were suspended.

In December 1929 it was proposed that a 50 metre swimming bath be established in Canberra.

The Canberra Fire Brigade Club met again on 21 November, 1930, and, with the construction of a Swimming Pool then proceeding at Manuka, and in the interests of the bathing and swimming community of the Capital City, it was decided that the time had arrived for a Club representative of Canberra should be formed.

The President, still Mr Percy Douglas, convened a public meeting in the Acton Hall on 1 December 1930.   A motion moved by Mr. Douglas that the Canberra Amateur Swimming Club be formed was carried unanimously.

The inaugural swimming carnival of the Canberra Amateur Swimming Club was scheduled for 26 January 1931.

Sources: “The Canberra Amateur Swimming Club, 1930-1967” Author: Canberra Amateur Swimming Club
The Canberra Times

Andrew "Boy" Charlton

In June 1934 it was announced that Andrew “Boy” Charlton had accepted a position as a chemist with friend and former Manly swimmer, John L Davies, at Kingston, ACT, and that he was settling in Canberra.

Charlton had represented Australia in the Olympic Games at Paris in 1924, Amsterdam in 1928 and Los Angeles in 1932, winning a total of one gold, three silver and one bronze Olympic medals.

At a reception of the Canberra Amateur Swimming Club on 19 June Charlton indicated his intention to resume serious training in the hope of representing Australia overseas for a fourth time, and that he was willing to assist local swimming in any way he could. 

He expected to be based in Canberra for at least two years, and during that time offered to coach promising Canberra ASC juniors.

Later that same month, Charlton spoke on behalf of the Canberra ASC as part of a delegation requesting that Canberra be provided with a 50 metre swimming pool conforming with Olympic standards, perhaps with the construction of a new pool on the “north side of the river”.

At the Annual Meeting of October 1934, Charlton was elected Club Captain of the Canberra ASC. He also donated to the club “as a special encouragement to juniors … a handsome stop-watch which will be suitably engraved and presented to the most improved junior swimmer of the season”.

At the club’s mid-week carnival held in November 1934, Charlton reduced the club’s 400 yards record by 20 seconds, covering the distance in five minutes exactly.

Later that year, Charlton broke the pool record for the same distance, swimming a time of 4 mins 55 secs.

In January1935, Charlton won an exciting race in the half mile (880 yds) at the Domain Baths in Sydney (later renamed in his honour and known today as the Andrew (Boy) Charlton Pool) beating French and Australian champions Jean Taris and Noel Ryan to claim the first NSW State title to be held by a member of the Canberra ASC. 

At the end of that season, four international swimmers, including Charlton, competed at a swimming carnival organized by Canberra ASC.  Charlton also presented the inaugural Andrew Charlton Trophy to G. W. Piggin as the most improved junior.  Charlton himself was awarded the Club championship cup for the 200 yds.

At the start of the 1935-36 season, in addition to being the Club Captain, Charlton accepted the position of honorary coach with Canberra ASC, and announced his intention to devote considerable time to that role.  This coincided with him announcing his retirement from state and national swimming.  He was, at that time, the holder of the Australian title for the half-mile.

In December 1935, Charlton and Edward Dullard dead-heated in the 200 yards men’s handicap, and at the 1935 Christmas carnival he captained the water polo team to a draw.

At the end of that season, Charlton moved to nearby Tarago and his association with Canberra ASC came to an end.

Source: The Canberra Times & The National Library of Australia


Canberra ASC is proud to have strong community partnerships, including Icon Water as a major event sponsor.

Icon Water
Canberra Pentathlon 2016
ACE Swimming
Canberra Pentathlon 2016
Icon Water
Canberra Pentathlon 2016
Slix Australia
Canberra Pentathlon 2016
Sportmans Warehouse Gungahlin