The former Jim Gardiner Pool at Limestone Park.
The former Jim Gardiner Pool at Limestone Park. QT file

Remember this? Ipswich's father of swimming and a leaky pool

AS another regional swimming season hots up, it's timely to remember Ipswich's wonderful coaching predecessor Jim Gardiner - and the Limestone Park pool named after him.

Jim was an icon in every sense of the word.

The "father of Ipswich swimming" taught countless people how to enjoy the benefits of being safe in the water.

As Jim's daughter Cecile Broom told the QT in 2000, "swimming was dad's life''.

"His great love was teaching children to swim,'' she said.

During 60 years of coaching, the Vikings great taught an estimated 25,000 children how to save themselves and be comfortable in the water.

Jim also gave his Railways mates lunchtime lessons in the Bremer River.

Prior to the opening of the Jim Gardiner Pool in 1961, Ipswich only had a 33 yard pool at the "Old Town Baths in Bell Street near the David Trumpy Bridge.

The old pool was nearly always murky, being topped up with Bremer River water every Monday and Thursday.


Historical photos for David Lems.
Swimming icons: Charlie "Digger'' Murphy (left) and Jim Gardiner Cordell Richardson

As Vikings Swimming Club stalwart Charlie "Digger'' Murphy remembered, "you couldn't see the bottom of the pool''.

"To purify the water, the caretaker (Mick Cannon) used to go out with a bucket and throw a few handfuls of chlorine into the water,'' Digger recalled.

All that changed when the new filtered pool was opened at the new Eastern Heights site, at the top end of Limestone Park.

Digger was also one of the original Vikings Club members who worked closely with Jim and other committee members to get Ipswich's new asset operational.

Jim led an active group of people who raised 12,000 pounds to finance the exciting new venture.

For many years, the 55 yard pool became a focal point for major Ipswich championships and for Ipswich people just wanting to train or take a dip.

However, sadly, the pool was the centre of some issues.

In 1979, it was discovered that the Jim Gardiner Pool was 28cm longer than it should have been.

That raised the question whether Ipswich City Council could actually shorten the pool to bring it in step with other aquatic venues around Queensland and Australia.

With the city's pool being 55 yards, it meant records set in Ipswich could not be accurately submitted, compared to other centres that had 50m lanes.

The Rockhampton City Council built a pool of similar size in the 1970s and later restored it to 50 metres.

But Jim Gardiner Pool remained in its natural state until it was closed in the early 2000s, ironically due to an excessive leaking of water that proved too expensive to fix.


The tribute to Ipswich swimming icon Jim Gardiner at Limestone Park.
The tribute to Ipswich swimming icon Jim Gardiner at Limestone Park.

A monument remains at the top end of Limestone Park, showing where the pool was located for four decades.

Those going for regular runs around the park may notice the shed close to where the pool was a prime hub of activity before the new swim centre was opened at Bundamba.

Ipswich born and bred Jim died at a Riverview nursing home in August 1990, a month short of his 87th birthday.

Sporting and mining legend Digger passed away in 2016, aged 97.