Community, Featured, Local History

Aqua Profonda: A Brief History of the Fitzroy Swimming Pool

January 4, 2017
Fitzroy Pool Inner Circle Magazine

Despite a series of false starts, summer has well and truly arrived at Fitzroy Pool.

During winter months, hardy regulars chugged between the lanes in relative peace. But with the mercury north of 20, the pool is pumping again. The once barren, frigid steps of the concrete stadium are awash with tattoo clad, fun worshipers. Beyond race, sexual orientation, or status, it’s a distinctly visual expression of self – an artform as eye-catching as the murals in the surrounding streets. Swimming, playing or just people watching, there’s no better place to unwind on a long summer’s afternoon. Without the pretension of Prahran nor the austerity of an indoor pool, Fitzroy’s charm lies in its relaxed, ‘be who you want to be’ vibes.

Known for its iconic inscription ‘Aqua Profonda’ (Deep Water) at the Young St end of the pool, Fitzroy Pool’s history is just as deep running back to 1908. From conservative beginnings when walls separated a 50 metre men’s pool from a 23 metre women’s pool where the kids pool now sits, the vibe has steadily liberalised over the years. After a wave of migration in the early 50’s, a wider variety of cultures, particularly Italians, started using the pool. Apart from out-tanning the Aussies with their olive complexions, migrants brought about the ‘Aqua Profonda’ sign we associate with the pool today. In the summer of 53/54, after rescuing one Italian child too many from the deep end, Pool Manager, James Murphy, spelt things out for the kids in their own language, well almost. He spelt ‘Aqua’ in Latin rather than the Italian ‘Acqua’. The thought counted though.

“…the sign shows how profoundly richer life is when we embrace other cultures.”

The sign grew to further prominence after being filmed in Helen Garner’s much loved novel, Monkey Grip, and is now found on overpriced t-shirts and the like. To me, the sign shows how profoundly richer life is when we embrace other cultures. But before we get too deep, it’s time to stake your morsel of concrete and lay down that towel. See you at the pool!

Source: Heritage Victoria Database, 2016.

Artwork By: Stephen Baker  Feature Image: Brook James

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