Portobello Bathing Pool – Porty – Edinburgh 1936

Lord Provost

Portobello Bathing Pool on on opening day.Lord Provost Louis S. Gumley. Click to enlarge

Portobello Bathing Pool.  The Wonder Swim Pool – No. 1 Sporting Stadium was opened by Lord Provost Louis S. Gumley on 30th May 1936. 

Portobello Bathing Pool saw despite poor weather 10,000 people who were testimony to the spectacle.
Quoted from the The Scotsman June 1st 19 36. “….The Lord Provost 

“I did not think any honest critic of civic administration in Edinburgh could say they were lacking in enterprise.  He said that for efficiency and initiative they were second to none in this country.  he would not stay to speak of the many interesting and unique features of this great bathing establishment,  but in a word he was sure everyone would agree it was a really magnificent piece of work….”

Portobello Bathing Pool - 10,000 crowd on Opening Day - image

10,000 crowd on Opening Day Click  image to enlarge

Opening Day 

Several thousand were unable to gain admission on this historic day. The pool was the largest in Europe and could seat 6000. The crowds were rewarded when the sun shone through torrential bouts of rain.

Portobello's Historic Day, despite the rain clouds

Portobello’s Historic Day, despite the rain clouds. Courtesy of Edinburgh Central Library – Andrew Bethune Click image to enlarge 

To add to the “showers” the artificial wave machine was set in motion. This was the first of it’s kind. There was so much laughter as the foam flecked breakers dashed onto the “beach,” and unsuspecting spectators were christened by the spray!
Flotation displays took place by the Renfrew School Team followed by Prunella Stack leading the diving display from the 10 metre board. She showed grace, ability and much charm.
The display was full of thrills including Mr Tommy Mather, the British Empire High Diving Champion and Olympic Representative. Ex Champions L.G. Marchant followed on with W.G. Stanton and Miss Cicley Cousens – a Coate diver – the National Ladies High Diving Champion.
After many twists and turns, the display rounded off with the grace of the running “swallow” with thunderous applause from the crowd to greet them.
Miss Eileen Wharbuton, a Portobello swimmer together with Mrs Nan Cross gave demonstrations of good swimming style.

Sir Peter Heatly from Portobello Great Britain Olympic Diving Representative

Sir Peter Heatly from Portobello Great Britain Olympic Diving Representative and Commonwealth (Empire) Gold MedallistPortobello was to have many claims to fame, including Sir Peter Heatly, the 1949/50s multi National High Diving and Springboard Champion, Empire Champion and Olympic Representative. His first years were devoted to swimming events but a posting to Rosyth Dockyard gave him the opportunity to concentrate on diving training where there were appropriate facilities during winter time at least.

Film fans would be delighted to learn that Sean Connery was a former Lifeguard here at “Porty!”

Portobello Bathing Pool. Army test out Sea Sickness Pills

Army test out Sea Sickness Pills. Click image on Pathe clip

The first EVER “Wave Machine” served well.  Army troops were sent on a mission to try out sea sickness pills. What better facilities could there be 1959. But there were shock waves too…in 1970 the No. 1 Worlds magnicent Bathing Pool’s future was in balance


From - 1930s - 1970s

From – 1930s – 1970s Click image to enlarge Courtesy of Edinburgh Central Library – Andrew Bethune

There was major public outcry and petitions – a major petitioner being Sean Connery himself.  But it all ended with the shock move.

OUTCOME: Due to climatic changes, patrons change of holiday habits (and going where there is guaranteed sun,) “Porty” went the same route as most open air pools. “Porty” was closed and demolished in 1988. After much debate it was decided to create Five Aside Football on the pool site. 

Portobello’s Wonder Swim Pool – a No. 1 World Sporting Stadium (Daily Record and Mail Saturday May 30th 1936)

Portobello Bathing Pool - Two perspectives of Porty - image

Two persepectives of Porty, Now Five a Side Football Pitches.  The mark indicated where the diving stage stood. The Kilns were always in the background.  Top picture courtesy of Edinburgh Central Library – Andrew Bethune. Bottom picture agj 2004

Portobello Bathing Pool - The Site of Porty - image

The Site of Porty today.

Contribution received from Eric of Pond Hall 09/08/16
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plus this lovely one


portobello - snippet image