This "Christmas Day Swim" newsreel, now available to stream on the IFI's Irish Archive Player, shows the annual Dublin Swimming Club Christmas swim at the Clontarf Baths on a freezing December morning in 1961.
The crowd of wrapped-up onlookers cheered on the athletes as they braved the cold waters. The winner Neil Kennedy was awarded the trophy by Máire Potter.
The Clontarf Swimming Club was founded in 1884 and the Clontarf Baths were the original location for this annual swim. Records show that Clontarf Swimming Club held regular races and water polo matches at the location. The pool has recently been renovated and is still open.
"Christmas Day Swim" is a part of the Irish Film Institute's Gael Linn Collection.
About the Irish Film Institute’s Gael Linn Collection
Gael Linn was established in 1953 to promote Irish language and culture. Co-founder and first manager, Riobard Mac Góráin, immediately realized the importance of promoting the language through entertainment and popular media. Gael Linn’s initial foray into production was the first regular indigenous cinema newsreel since the Irish Events series of the 1920s.
In 1955, Ernest Blythe, Chairman of Comdhail Naisiunta na Gaelige, lent Gael Linn £100 to produce a short film for cinema and the Amharc Éireann (A View of Ireland) newsreel was born. From 1956 to mid-1957 Amharc Éireann consisted of short single-story items that were distributed to cinemas throughout the country on a monthly basis. Their popularity was immediate and by mid-1957, the Rank Film Distributors agreed to supply them to Irish cinemas along with their own newsreel, at which point they became issued on a fortnightly basis. By 1959, the success of this home-grown newsreel resulted in it being produced weekly and it expanded to include 4 separate news stories. The series continued until 1964 when the immediacy of television as a means of relaying news to the Irish population rendered the newsreel obsolete.
Produced by Colm O’Laoghaire, a total of 267 editions of Amharc Éireann were made. Although Gael Linn’s Amharc Éireann production ceased in late 1964 its influence is ongoing. The range of Irish interest subjects covered (from hard news stories to more magazine-like items) provide a vivid window into the development of modern Ireland at a particularly progressive point in its development and provide a first-hand insight into the moral, cultural, and economic development of the country throughout the Whittaker and Lemass eras.
IFI’s Christmas Crackers collection
"Christmas Day Swim" is featured in the IFI Archive Player's Christmas Crackers, a delightfully varied collection that will trigger all sorts of memories of Christmases past.
Short Christmas-themed dramas showcase the early work of filmmakers Cathy Brady, Geraldine Creed, and Orla Walsh and surprising endeavors from screenwriter and playwright Enda Walsh, journalist Hugh Linehan, and commercials producer Tiernan MacBride.
1960s adverts boldly promote booze and cigarettes as ideal gifts for friends and family, and Gael Linn’s cinema newsreel (1959 – ’64) capture the magic of the city streets lighting up, the simplicity of The Moving Crib, and the charm of Moore Street traders with their wind-up toys, while Kieran Hickey’s Moonmen celebrates the hardy swimmers of the Half Moon Swimming Club as they brave the elements on Christmas Day 1965.
This collection of films from the IFI Irish Film Archive is a gift to all those who are home and those who are thinking of home.
To watch more historic Irish footage, visit the IFI Archive Player, the Irish Film Institute’s virtual viewing room that provides audiences around the globe free, instant access to Irish heritage preserved in the IFI Irish Film Archive. Irish Culture from the last century is reflected through documentaries, animation, adverts, amateur footage, feature films, and much more. You can also download the IFI Archive Player Apps for free on iPhone, Android, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Roku.
IrishCentral has partnered up with the IFI to bring you a taste of what their remarkable collections entail. You can find all IrishCentral articles and videos from the IFI here
* Originally published in 2021, updated in December 2023.