Durban


The Kings Park swimming complex was opened in 1988.


The hot and humid climate in Durban has led to the construction of numerous municipal, school and private swimming pools. As a result, Natal has always been a major force in South African aquatic sports, winning the inter-provincial Ellis Brown Trophy more than any other province.  Coaches like Ma Finlayson, Alex Bulley, Frank Gray, Doreen Hill, Alasdair Hatfield, and many other coaches have developed the strong swimming culture in Durban. 

Durban has produced champions in all the aquatic sports disciplines.

Durban schools

Durban schools have dominated the age group swimming scene in South Africa.

Durban Municipal Swimming Pools

The Durban Corporation, as it was called, built numerous swimming pools, including the saltwater pool at North Beach. Later known as the bEach Baths until renamed after coach Rachael Finlayson in 1963. 

Durban beaches 

Watersports on the beaches of Durban include surf lifesaving, which includes an element of swimming. More recently the ocean is also used for open water events like the Dolfin Mile series of races.


A part of swimming at Natal's beaches is the ever-present danger of a shark attack.

As early as 1907 the Durban City Council decided to erect a large semi-circular enclosure, approximately 180 m in diameter, to protect swimmers from the surf and strong currents and against shark attack. The enclosure was constructed of steel piles with vertical steel grids placed between them.

Since 1952 shark nets have been used to protect swimmers in Natal.

Read more about Damon Kendrick - Natal provincial diver and local surf life saver - who lost a leg in a shark attack.

Today there is some resistance to shark nets from conservationists.

Bluff ‘entitled’ to a public swimming pool


The loss of bathing facilities at Fynnlands Beach through harbour development and the council’s decision to build a public swimming pool in Durban North had Bluff councillor Spanier Marson fuming in March 1956. “What has the Bluff got? No (tarred) roads, no pavements and no halls. Now that the Tesoriere Bath is established in Congella, Bluff residents are entitled to the facility of their own swimming pool,” said Marson. “An ideal site would be the Lieut. King Park which would cater for the Bluff population of almost 8,000.”

The council’s beach committee subsequently prioritised a construction list of public swimming pools. The Bluff was second on the list after Durban North. The list included pools for coloured and Indian residential areas and formed part of capital expenditure for the 1956/57 budget (Mercury, 21 March 1956).


Fynnlands pool green, closed due to stolen pipes The pool was closed earlier in the year for an upgrade.

September 30, 2015

Lt King pool Bluff Durban

THE Bluff Alliance (BA) is querying why the Lieutenant King municipal swimming pool in Fynnlands has been left to ruin with no access for community members.

The pool on the Bluff, which was closed earlier in the year for an upgrade, is now green and community members have been told they can’t enter.
“I have heard the pool is in this state because copper pipes were stolen in July. Why have these not been replaced? The BA is disheartened by this and questions need to be answered.

The fences also have holes in them and you can see where people are sneaking in to steal pipes and other items. What if a child sneaks in through the fence and drowns? Is that what it will take for someone to stand up and take action?

Discussion about local hero Oonagh Whitsitt and Durban swimming pools


  1. Gerald Buttigieg

    Hi Arthur
    Having lived in the Sutton Park area, the name Oonagh Whitsett immediately rang a bell as the name of the swimming pool which was built in one area of Sutton Park. This was in the mid 60s if I remember correctly. At the time I also seem to recall that the pool was designed with diving in mind and that one end was particularly deep to cater for diving training. I did not know at the time who Oonagh Whitsett was nor her link with aquatic sport but this was revealed years later in a book I bought at a school fete. The book is called “Springboks Past and Present 1888-1947” . In it is a picture of Oonagh as Winner : Womens’ Diving Empire Games 1930. She also represented South Africa at the 1934 Empire Games. I then contacted a friend of mine who is a mine of information and he informed me that Oonagh married Edward (Ted) Shaw who was to become Mayor of Durban. Ted was well known in horse racing circles. A daughter was born of this union, Clodagh.
    As an aside, I stand to be corrected but all the swimming pools in Durban were named after women. The Beach Baths were called Rachel Finlayson who was the 1928 Olympic Swimming Team Coach. The other municipal pools I knew of was one in Montclair, another in Glenwood , one on the Bluff(?) and the City Baths near the Post Office. Can anyone fill in the names?
    I hope this helps.

    • Allan Jackson
      |

      Gerald, an interesting thought about the pools being named after women. I recall that our local pool, in Acton Road off Nicolson Road, was called Tesoriere. I wonder where that came from.

    • Gerald Buttigieg
      |

      Hi Allan
      That’s the name I was racking my brains to remember. Mrs Tesoriere if I recall was a City Councillor for that area and I do not know if she was not the instigator to get the pool built in the area. I will work on the name of the Montclair Baths which were in Kenyon Howden Road. As for the Bluff I am not sure if there was a public swimming pool and where it was but there is a vague recollection with the name Jenkins. Someone knowing the Bluff will have to come to the party here.

    • derek austin
      |

      The pool in Montclair was called Alex Bulley baths in Kenyon Howden Road and the pool on the Bluff is called LIEUTENANT KING PARK SWIMMING POOL 41 Smith Dve, Bluff, Durban, 4052.

  2. Arthur Gammage

    Thanks Gerald.

    The park was named after Sir George Sutton, Prime Minister of Natal from 1903. The Parks Department are working with Alliance Francais whose offices are opposite, on upgrading and introducing more community activity in the park.

    Tessoriere Garden, Deodar Ave, and the swimming bath were named after Mrs M Tessoriere, Councillor from 1946 (from “Street Names of Durban” by John McIntyre, 1956).

  3. Arthur Gammage

    Montclair is Alex Bulley, Springfield is Balkumar Singh. On the Bluff there is a pool at Lt King Park.

  4. Gerald Buttigieg

    Alex Bulley was into Swimming Administration and Coaching and in the same book I mentioned above, he is shown as A.R. Bulley, adviser to the 1938 South African Swimming Team at the British Empire Games. The Balkumar Singh Baths in Springfield were segregated as of the times. I have an idea they were in Tills Crescent off Brickfield Road Overport. They still exist. So there is a pool on the Bluff. Mrs. Jenkins was a City Councillor and it could be the pool is named in her honour. So we need to find out who Balkumar Singh was.

    • Peter
      |

      Hi Gerald,

      The pool at Tills Crescent was used mainly by the coloured pupolation in that area. The Balkumar Singh Baths were about 2km away, in the Indian group area known as Asherville. BB Singh and his brothers lived on the banks of the
      Umgeni River and were regarded as extremely talented swimmers and divers,
      diving deep into the icy Umgeni River before it was de-canalised, to fish for prawns and shrimps. There were several brothers, and the Balkumar Singh baths
      were named after BB Singh whom I think was the eldest brother.
      As a young high school boy, we used to take the bus from Sastri College in Winterton Walk to Asherville on a Thursday afternoon to have our swimming lessons. Hope that this is of some use. Rgds

    • Peter
      |

      Gerald, just to add that the Singh brothers, apart from being excellent swimmers, were also highly educated. One of them was a medical doctor, and his son is a world famous film producer, based in Durban. Another brother, produced 2 doctors as children and there would be several educators and businesspeople amongst the many cousins.

  5. John Taylor

    The swimming pool in Sutton Park was constructed and opened in either 1959 or 1960. I lived in nearby Gordon Road at the time and attended DPHS. We used to watch the pool’s construction with interest as a large area of the park was excavated. The pool was also the “home ground”of Cygnus Swimming Club of which I was a member – on Thursday evenings the pool was closed to the public so that the club swimmers could train – two of the coaches were Mrs. Rachel Finlayson after whom the Beach Baths was named, and Mrs. Barbara Dowell who would be well known in Durban Girls College circles.

  6. Mark Billingham

    Tesoriere swimming pool was the home of the Tech swimming club on a Friday afternoon/early evening. The head coach was Alex Bulley (late 60’s early 70’s) who was also coach of the springbok team at the time and Karen Muir’s coach. His wife was also a coach at the club and on a Wednesday used to come up to St. Henrys to coach/teach swimming in the school’s pool.

    • claudette
      |

      Mark just read your story above and you menitoned Karen Muir ,I thought I would let you know that she later became a Dr,Karen Muir in Canada but have just heard she has cancer and does not have long to live thought you would like to know

    • Beverley Smith Martin
      |

      After reading your info about Tech Swimming Club thought I would add that I and my sister were members of Tech Swimming Club during the 60’s and 70’s. We both participated in Synchronised Swimming and have Springbok Colours. Alex and his wife, Doods Bulley, were my Godparents and family friends of my parents who were both involved in coaching at Tech Swimming club as well. In those days it was a highly successful and busy club but, sadly, doesn’t exist anymore.

    • Gerald Buttigieg
      |

      Hi Beverley
      Thanks for that titbit. Perhaps you can list the names of the swimming clubs that were in existence at that time. I was not into swimming but do recall Cygnus as one which has been mentioned and was there not another called Seals or something like that?
      I have read as well that Karen Muir has passed away in Canada.

  7. Josephine Wallstrom

    Hi Allen, Recently I have been researcing my husband’s family. I found out that his great grandfather was buried at the West Street Cemetery. The only cemeteries in Durban that I knew were the Cathedral Cementery and Stellawood Road. However I have an idea that his mother’s family were Anglicans and I don’t think they would have been buried in a Catholic Cementery. Maybe Gerald can help. He is a fountain of knowledge. Thanks Jo.

    • Ian Jackson
      |

      Hi Jo
      There is also one of the oldest cemetery around in Ridge Rd where Allan Gardeners daughter is buried.
      Ian

    • Josephine Wallstrom
      |

      Thanks Allan, However I found the west street cemetery on line
      It was partially demolished when they built the fly-over. You can see the Cathedral from the fly-over. I found a lovely photo of my husband’s maternal great-grandfather on this site and most of the old graves their have been put on line.
      However, the mystery deepens. He lived in Durban but was killed on 14 feb 1908 in Umbogintwini. I remember there used to be an ammunitions factory there. Now I’m wondering if he was killed in an accident.
      Kind regards Jo

    • Gerald Buttigieg
      |

      Hi Jo,
      You mention Umbogintwini in your post. Another place that I have very tenuous links with in that my father when he arrived in Durban as an emigrant in 1947, found his first employment at the British Admiralty Naval Stores there. I do not know where the base was located exactly. However I seem to recall him telling me that AECI who made explosives had a big plant in Umbogintwini. AECI is/was African Explosives and Chemical Industries and there was another firm similarly associated with explosives called Kynochs. Kynochs later became well known as fertilizer manufacturers. So there are a couple of leads to follow up. As I said in my email, tracing family can become a slog.

  8. Josephine Wallstrom

    Hi Allen I wonder if anyone can remember the ss “” Unden”. She sailed from Gotenborg, Sweden on 15-6-1937 bound for Durban, South Africa, carrying a freight of timber. She caught alight of the coast of Mozambique and arrived in Durban on 18 October 1937. She was moored at the dry docks. Her crew were taken to Addington Hospital for smoke inhalation. My father-in-law Gunnar aka Sven Wallstrom was aboard this ship then. Well he stayed and married my mother-in-law. He used to frequent the Norwegian Club in Point Road. I have photos of this but don’t know how to put it on the website. Any remarks or help would be appreciated. Regards Jo Wallstrom

  9. Doug. Miller

    Mrs Tesoriere Lived with her Daughter and Son in law in Gray Park Road Brighton Beach where she passsed away approx. 30 years ago.

  10. derek austin

    Josephine Wallstrom you can now find Facts about Durban on Facebook where you can add your photos. The place you talking about in Point road was the Seamans Institute where my father showed movies twice a week on a Friday and Sunday evening. My memory is fading but I think the manager was Bruce Thorreson also a Norwegian.

  11. Clive Shaw

    Evening,

    Oonagh was my aunt and the swimming pool in Sutton Park was named after her. Clodagh was part of the opening ceremony and dived in to ‘open’ the pool.
    Clodagh later became involved in the horse show jumping and racing circles.

    Hope this helps.
    Clive Shaw

    • Bruce Shaw
      |

      Oonagh was also my aunt. Clive Shaw is my brother. Clodagh is well known in the horse racing, jumping and dressage circles.
      Bruce Shaw

  12. dominique

    Oonagh won a gold medal at the empire games in 1930, Diving still has a trophy named after her


     https://www.fad.co.za/2012/08/19/info-please/

HISTORY OF PROTECTION AGAINST SHARK ATTACK IN KZN

Warm water (19-26°C), a mild, subtropical climate and wave-lapped beaches have long attracted visitors and residents to the sea at Durban and the adjacent coastline of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN). Unfortunately the pleasure of such visits has occasionally been marred by shark attack.

1907

As early as 1907 the Durban City Council decided to erect a large semi-circular enclosure, approximately 180 m in diameter, to protect swimmers from the surf and strong currents and against shark attack. The enclosure was constructed of steel piles with vertical steel grids placed between them.

1928

In 1928 the enclosure was demolished as a result of the damage it had suffered from the often rough surf, extensive corrosion and the high cost of maintenance. In the next 11 years there was little evidence to suggest that shark attack was a problem in KwaZulu-Natal.

1940

his changed in 1940, when five attacks took place along an 8 km stretch of coastline to the south of Durban, between Amanzimtoti and Winklespruit.

1943

In 1943 the Durban beaches became the focal point for shark attack. Between 1943 and 1951, Durban experienced 21 attacks, seven of which were fatal. Desperate for a solution, the city authorities adopted a system that had been successfully used in Australia since 1937. There large-meshed gill nets anchored seaward of the breaker zone at several Sydney beaches not only trapped large sharks but also reduced the incidence of shark attack.

1952

In 1952 seven gill nets, each 130 m long, were laid along the Durban beachfront. In the first year of operation 552 sharks were caught in these nets, but, more importantly, the desired effect was achieved and no serious shark-inflicted injuries have occurred since at Durban's beaches.

Unfortunately the resulting safe bathing conditions did not extend to other holiday resorts on the KwaZulu-Natal coast, particularly those south of Durban, where a series of attacks between December 1957 (since known as the infamous Black December) and Easter 1958 claimed the lives of five people in 107 days. These incidents had a devastating effect on the coastal tourist industry because they led to a mass exodus of panic-stricken holidaymakers.

In response to the public outcry, and fearing financial disaster, several coastal towns tried erecting physical barriers in the surf zone to enclose their swimming areas. These unsightly structures, built from poles, wire and netting, could not stand up to the heavy wave action and were soon abandoned. Dedicated depth-charging by a South African Navy frigate is known to have killed eight sharks but probably attracted more sharks to the area to feed on dead fish.

1962

The logical solution was an expansion of Durban's netting operations and in 1962 shark nets were installed at some of the larger holiday resorts to the north and south of Durban. At that time the Natal Provincial Administration created a statutory body, known as the Natal Anti-Shark Measures Board, now called the KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board (KZNSB), which was "charged with the duty of approving, controlling and initiating measures for safeguarding bathers against shark attacks".

1966

By March 1966 there were fifteen beaches with protective nets, maintained either by commercial fishermen or municipal employees. At this stage the KZNSB field staff worked in a supervisory capacity, but in 1974 the organisation began to take over the servicing and maintenance of net installations and by 1982 it was solely responsible for all shark netting in the province of Natal (now known as KwaZulu-Natal).

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