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Gold life ring fob

Date: 1904-1905
Overall: 100 × 40 × 10 mm
Medium: Gold
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from Brigidine Sisters
Object Name: Gold Fob
Object No: 00054877
Related Place:Redfern, Coogee,

User Terms

    Timothy McMahon was a young adult when he joined the Redfern Swimming Club in 1904. He won this beautiful gold fob award at a club carnival, most probaly the annual carnival, which at this time it was usually held at the inground pool at the Coogee Aquarium Baths in Sydney.
    SignificanceThis beautiful little gold swimming award and the portrait of its owner Tim McMahon are wonderful keys to unlock the stories of Sydneysiders at leisure and engaging in sport at the turn of the 19th century. They can reveal the profile of sport, local baths and swimming in particular in local communities and by inference or comparison in the broader Australian populace.
    HistoryThis beautiful little gold swimming award and the story of the community competition circuit it represents are important in unlocking the stories of sydneysiders at leisure and sport at the turn of the 19th century, and by inference or comparison the broader Australian populace.

    In the late 19th and early 20th centuries the sport of swimming continued growing in popularity, in tandem with surf bathing at beaches. Local communities held competitions and carnivals to harness this interest, providing a leisure and sporting outlet especially for adults who took part after working hours. Clubs and societies held carnivals in the evenings and on weekends, (some with a good proportion of 'ladies' in the audience) while learn-to-swim classes were advocated for younger children. The venues for these events were varied and ranged from empty graving docks at Cockatoo Island, to inground baths at entertainment spaces like the Coogee aquarium to Harbour and beach side timber or rock baths.

    Tim McMahon is recorded as a member of the Redfern Swimming club in 1904-06. He doesn't appear in the handicap lists for the 1907-08 season. According to the donor at this time he would have been in his late teens, and classified as an adult. He was apparently a swimmer of above average ability who enjoyed mixed success although this gold fob award testifies to his ascendancy in the 81 yard event, raced in 1905 at the Coogee Aquarium Baths. He was listed among the prizewinners on 11 June 1906 (Sydney Morning Herald). The donor has a photograph alos on offer of Tim McMahon wearing the fob watch, which puts a face to the name, allowing ANMM to draw out the personal in this swimming circuit.

    Redfern Swimming Club was established in 1899 with 60 members. Competitions were held over various distances (45, 54, 60, 66, 81 yards plus the more standardised 110 and 220 yard long distance events) at different venues: Farmers Baths at the Domain, Coogee Aquarium Baths at Coogee, Cockatoo Island docks, Professor Pannell's St George's Baths in Cleveland St Redfern and also Redfern Baths.

    The Redfern club held its annual ball in the local town hall when it awarded prizes to its swimmers and chances are this gold fob was awarded to Timothy McMahon at this event (although proceedings of the presentation do not appear to have been published for 1905). It was a suburban community club. By the 1910s it had declining membership which one newspaper commentator put down to the 'narrow groove' of its club events, advocating the club broaden its range of events to attract the best swimmers with more spectator appeal. Further work is to be done in this area but the overwhelming popularity of bathing in the surf and the rise of the surf life saving club into the twentieth century had a significant effect on the organised formal suburban swimming baths and the clubs which competed in them, (along with factors such as home design, transport and so on).

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