In the late 1950s Slade and the Hook Peninsula saw it’s first divers. They were few in number, had very basic equipment, had no wetsuits and quite possibly had very little knowledge of diving in comparison to what we have and know today.
There were only two clubs in Ireland then, the Irish SAC and the Curragh SAC. The Irish Club was the first club in the country, founded in 1956 and over the next 20 odd years grew to be the biggest club with a membership of well in excess of 130 with members from all over Ireland.
As a result of its size and spread it spawned many new clubs over the following years, the Hook club being one of those clubs.
Denny and Elsie Lawlor were members of the Irish Club and lived in Newbawn. They were both qualified divers and in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s they spent their summer weekends exploring the underwater nooks and crannies around Slade and Churchtown. Unknown to them they were being watched by some of the locals.
In the summer of ’82 Denny was approached by Mick Dunne and MayB O’Leary with a suggestion to teach them to dive but was met with little success. The second approach was to set up a local club in the area and this too was laughed off as a non starter. They were not deterred and persisted and an agreement was reached, that if a number of people were truly interested in such a club he would consider it.
Following much canvassing of the locals over the summer months a meeting was called for the Friday evening, October the 8th, to be held in the front lounge of the Hotel Naomh Seosamh.
Present at that meeting was Mick Dunne , MayB O’Leary, Denny and Elsie Lawlor,
Robert Kelly, William Auld, Sean Chapman, Maura Hickey, Mary Dunne, Paddy Swan, Hearne, Joe Wallace, JohnPaul Hearne, John Kelly.
Mick Dunne chaired the meeting and outlined the reason for meeting. Denny then gave a broad outline of diving. He started with all the exciting parts, the exploring of unknown underwater areas around our shores, the wrecks that could be found, the beauty of the underwater world and so on and on.
But then he launched into the training, the fitness required, the knowledge of how being under water affected our bodies, the physics of diving and indeed the dangers. CFT and grades etc.
When he was finished the room was quiet and it was decision time. It was unanimous, for better or worse a new club was formed and it was called the Hook Sub Aqua Club
The first committee was elected.
Chairman Mick Dunne, Secretary MayB O’Leary, Treasurer Robert Kelly, Diving Officer Denny Lawlor, PRO Elsie Lawlor and CFT (now dive Ireland ) Delegates Declan Hearne and Denny Lawlor.
Then the work really started. The club had to be affiliated with CFT. A constitution had to be drawn up, a pool had to be found for training , the logo designed, a training programme set up and many other activities to get the club up and running.
The club took off with amazing popularity.
As news spread of its existence more and more wanted to join in the fun and quickly the membership in that first year grew to over 50. Some of that 50 never went to sea but truly enjoyed the pool training over the winter months.
The following year saw similar enthusiasm. Some of the first years recruits sought excitement in other areas and didn’t rejoin. But their places were quickly taken by new members and the club continued to grow and expand.
And so the journey began.
Air and transport. A dive club must have transport and a supply of air to survive under water. So the first big purchase was a compressor and for years the people of Slade had their peace and quiet disturbed as bottles were being refilled every weekend on the harbour. The first boat was a second hand assault craft and was launched in May ’83. It could not be compared to todays ribs but was very poplar in its day and served the club well for a number of years.
Christmas Swim. This was very much part of the club from the very beginning, in fact the swim took place before any of these potential divers entered the water as divers. Sometime in early December ’82 after pool training everyone went to Templers Inn for an early Christmas party.
It was a noted event in the Irish SAC that every Christmas morning most of the club turned up at the pool for a Christmas swim. As most of the influences in this new club came from the Irish club why not a Christmas swim also. On the night in question the DO suggested that maybe the club should do a Christmas swim for a PR stunt. Some laughed and said are you mad but a few others thought it was a great idea. As the night passed and the pints flowed the idea gained momentum and in the end promises were extracted from many and indeed many who didn’t agree were told that they did promise also. The venue was Baginbun on Christmas morning and it was to be a skinny dip. And the rest is history, we still do it every year for the past 40 years
Dive Rally. The dive rally was a much later event. By chance two members of the Hook club were on the CFT (Dive Ireland now) Executive in 2013 when CFT celebrated its 50th birthday. And by chance again Denny Lawlor was selected as part of the committee elected to organise the celebrations. One of the ideas he put forward was that to mark the occasion clubs around the country should run dive rallies as a way to create inter club relations.
In the Southeast Region the clubs came together and organised the SE dive rally which proved to be very successful. But in the following years only the Hook club carried the baton forward and today it is the biggest and best rally in the country with divers traveling from all over Ireland and the UK to take part.
Thank you Denny Lawlor for all the record keeping , information and photos’!