Lifeguard oral histories

Telling it like it is

In this photo from a Sydney newspaper, late 1930s, the Lifeguards, then called Beach Inspectors, model their new uniforms on Bondi Beach. Left to right: James (Jim) Lapthorne, Aubrey (Aub) Laidlaw, William (Bill) Pugh, Thomas (Tom) Meagher, Roger Riley and Joe Dobson. 

The Waverley Council Lifeguard service started in 1913 and ths year celebrates its centenary. In 2001, realising that the history of the Lifeguard service was largely undocumented, the Local Studies Librarian and the then senior Lifeguard at Bondi Beach began conducting interviews with retired Lifeguards and their families.

It was obvious that these older Lifeguards had unique, irreplaceable memories and their stories of working on the beaches were in danger of being lost forever. It was imperative to capture these stories before it was too late.

This collection of oral histories is now a core part of the Lifeguard History Project, housed in the Local Studies collection, Waverley Library. As well as the interviews conducted by Waverley Council staff, the collection also includes an interview done by Diana Rich with one of the most famous Lifeguards to ever patrol Bondi’s golden sands, Aub Laidlaw.

This project is on-going. If you are a former Lifeguard (previously known as Beach Inspectors), or have a family member or friend who was, we would love to hear from you. Please contact:

Local Studies Librarian
Phone: 9083 8744

Below are the transcripts of the interviews conducted so far. If you would like to listen to the oral history tapes please contact the Local Studies Librarian to make an appointment to do so. It is not possible to copy these tapes. The copyright in these interviews is owned by Waverley Library, the exception being the Aub Laidlaw interview where copyright is held by Diana Rich.


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