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August 31, 2015 / hbrowne4


The outdoor, seawater swimming pool in Blackrock, Co Louth, was Ireland’s first 50m pool. The dressing-room walls were buttercup yellow; the grey concrete floor always moist was a breeding ground for athlete’s foot and verrucas. The toilets smelled of Jeyes Fluid. The pool itself was Mediterranean blue.
We swam there all summer. Mum had an ancient Volkswagen Beetle. She ferried her brood – my two brothers and me – in the afternoons from the mid- 1960s to the early 1970s. She brought the tartan rug, which she had been given as a wedding present. There was always some sort of picnic to feed us after the swim. Why couldn’t she do picnics like other mothers? The standard fare in the 1960s: white sliced-pan ham sandwiches. Mother had to be different: hard-boiled eggs, bridge rolls, tomatoes, scallions, lettuce and Heinz salad cream. Then fairy cakes with pink butter icing. A piece cut out of the top of each bun was cut in half and positioned as butterfly wings on top of the icing. She battered them up on Fridays, her baking day. Knives, forks, plates, all piled into a cardboard box.
Occasionally I’d swim the length of the pool. I preferred to stay at the shallow end. Daddy’s words ranted in my mind: “Can you put your foot down?”
Sitges, Benidorm and Fuengirola took over from “the Rock”. The pool shut down with the advent of indoor, heated swimming pools. There’s now a block of apartments on the site of the old pool; they have views of the Coolies, Mournes and Ravensdale forest. In winter the brent geese feed on the mussel beds at the end of the village. Migrating waders, gulls and ducks inhabit the strand.



Leave a Comment
  1. hbrowne4 / Aug 31 2015 9:45 am
  2. bercatliz / Aug 31 2015 1:19 pm

    Ooh so enjoyed reading this, took me back. well written.

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