MAG&M Collection Stories:

Dive into the Manly swim scene of the 1930s


Competitive swimming and bathing in harbourside pools is a favourite pastime for many. Harold Cazneaux, Frank Bell and various postcards from the MAG&M collection capture the spirit of our connection with the water in the 1920s and 30s. They photographed swimmers and beachgoers around Manly, including at the men’s swimming baths on East Esplanade and swimmers at the shark-proof Harbour baths west of the wharf, touted back then, as the largest swimming pool in the country.

Andrew ‘Boy’ Charlton (1907 – 1975) began his career as an Olympic swimmer in Manly. Depicted in Bill Leak’s 2008 painting, Boy Charlton has a vitality of tone that reflects his many sporting achievements, including numerous world records and gold medals won. This portrait was painted by Leak for the 2008 ABC TV series ‘Face Painting’, where Leak took on the task of depicting six prominent characters who were no longer alive, with the artist utilising recollections and other sources for inspiration.


1.         Harold Cazneaux (1878 – 1953), The Survivor – Pontoon, Manly Pool, c1930, silver gelatin photograph, 25.8 x 18.6cm each. Purchased through the Theo Batten Bequest 2016

2.         Frank Bell (1884 - 1923), Members of Manly Swim Club, c.1920, photographs, 23 x 31cm, Printed by Stephen Lees 1983. Purchased 1983 (P0700)

3.         Harold Greenhill (1914-1995), Boatsheds and Manly Baths, 1943, oil on board, 43 x 37cm. Purchased jointly by MAG&M Society, MAG&M and Mr Wadih Hanna 2019 (A1368)

4.         Bill Leak (1956 – 2017), Andrew ‘Boy’ Charlton, 2008, oil on canvas, 121.5 x 106.9cm. Donated by MAG&M Society 2014 (A1239)

5.         Chuck Bradley (b.1959), Postcards (Nostalgica series), 2013, photograph depicting MAG&M museum objects

6.         Chuck Bradley (b.1959), Speedo (Nostalgica series), 2013, photograph depicting MAG&M museum objects