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Fascinating pictures of York scuba club’s early days found in New Zealand
Tom Allison with police divers: Written on the back by Tom is “Nov ’54, police divers training at Lake Cottage. Bottles 80 cubic feet, 18 lbs/square inch pressure.”
A PREVIOUSLY unknown cache of evocative photos unearthed on the other side of the world has brought the history of a York sports club to life.
Pictures from the early days of the York Sub Aqua Club, a branch of the British Sub-Aqua Club (BSAC), have brought back memories for club members after they were found by the daughter of one of the club’s founding at her home in Wellington, New Zealand.
Tom Allison was involved when the club began in 1956, but lost touch with his diving buddies when he and wife Noreen and their two children emigrated in 1971. Tom died in 2004.
When his daughter, Wendy, was going through some old family papers, she found a collection of photos of the York divers, and tracked the club down online to return the images.
For Bernard Wilding and Denis Moor, both founding members of the club, the photos have brought back many happy memories.
Denis said: “It was a great surprise to hear that Tom’s daughter had been in touch, and even more of a surprise when she sent the photos over.”
The photos include images of emergency repairs at Naburn lock, members training with police divers in a pond near Tom’s home, Lake Cottage at Elvington, and even a wintry scene of divers on an iced-over pond in 1958.
Tom’s handwritten note said they had cut through ten inches of ice to practice diving in freezing temperatures.
Denis said: “Tom’s photos really took me back to the early days when the equipment was very basic – things are so different today.
“Then it was just fins, a mask and a snorkel, without any weights. The breathing tanks were initially just small oxygen tanks, like the ones that pilots had on planes, which we refilled each time.”
Bernard Wilding remembers the club’s early days when it was known as the York Underwater Research Group and members met in pubs around York.
He said: “We needed ten members to become a branch of the BSAC and finally we got people to put the money up – and so we officially became the 50th branch in 1957.”
Denis has written a history of the club in which he notes Tom and a friend were early diving pioneers with extremely basic equipment.
“They donned their woolly jumpers and walked in (to the lake at Elvington) with a bucket on their heads, weighted down by heavy ploughshares. They took it in turns to pump air into the bucket with a war-time stirrup pump,” he wrote.
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