The club was formed in 1962 by Jim Doyle, Peter O’Beirn, Tom McCarrick, Kerry McConn, George Ryder and Peadar Canavan as the University College Galway diving society. This society was quickly disbanded by the college due to safety concerns. Those involved formed the Galway Sub-Aqua Club.
The UCG diving club was formed several years later mainly by a number of staff members in the college. Prof. Paul Ryan from the Dept of Earth and Ocean Science was heavily involved in the early days of the club and CFT. He was one of Irelands first Mon **** and was president of CFT a number of times. He also sat as president of CMAS and was one of the creators of the CFT training curriculum.
In the late 80’s, due to a large number of cadets joining the club the UCG diving club formed an alliance with the Renmore army barracks. This alliance was short lived as the Army formed its own social diving wing.
In the mid 90s the UCG club formed an alliance with the Regional Technical College, Galway and thus formed the UCG/RTC sub aqua club. However early attendance from RTC students was very low.In 1997 UCG became NUI,Galway and in the same year RTC, Galway became GMIT and so the diving club had its third name change. The club became NUIG/GMIT sub-aqua club. The club kept growing from strength to strength. We changed our logo from a fat little diver man to the octopus in 2000.
In 2003 we were named as the largest training club in the country, responsible for more trainee certs issued than any other club. In that year we were the second biggest diving club in the country, Athlone being the largest. That year we also celebrated our 40th anniversary with a formal black tie ball in the Westwood house hotel.
– Mike Mc Caffrey
The following article is from a booklet the Galway SAC published in 1987 on the occasion of the 24th AGM of CFT. The Galway Sub Aqua Club has its origins in the university club and the article give an insight into diving at the time….
Galway Sub Aqua Club
Galway S.A.C. has, as its roots, the University College Galway Sub-Aqua Society, early in 1962, founded by a handful of enthusiasts with a common interest. Unfortunately this interest was not shared by The College authorities and Galway Sub Aqua Club was formed in 1963.
The first meetings of this new club were held in the Hotel Enda and later the Eagle Bar, both on Dominick Street. Membership of C.F.T was sought but as there were no qualified divers, this was postponed. Membership at the time was 10 snorkelers. Weekly trips to the Curragh pool were organised for training and lectures. A baby Prinz 4 was the mode of transport and this vehicle did stalwart work in carrying four divers and gear across the country many times. On a bad night after a puncture, the driver discovered that there were no tools, so the other three lifted the offending wheel off the road while the spare was coerced onto the hub.
Membership swelled to nearly twenty and the training paid off. The long-johns, geansies tied with string, which served as wet-suits , were replaced with home-made English Neoprene versions. Only one affluent member could afford a Typhoon suit and this served as a pattern for many others in the years to come, in suit manufacture in kitchen floors around the town. The first Aqua Lungs were bought in Hely’s in Dublin for £36 and this included, 50 Cu ft bottle, twit hose regulator, back-pack and tool kit, all Draeger of course.
The first attempt to dive at Blackrock, brought nods of disapproval from the older members who sought caution at this fool-hardy dip into the water, but time and experience brought confidence and the new skill was quietly enjoyed in the shallow waters. The first week-ends in Kelly’s cottage in Carraroe were not quiet affairs and tapes still exist of bawdy songs sung in “An Chistin” are recorded for posterity. At this stage a second Prinz car arrived on the scene. At these times, divers from the Curragh and the Limerick Club, now firm friends, joined in and these friendships have withstood the ravishes of time.
The Zoology Dept. of UCG sought the assistance of divers in ’64 and the first marine specimens to be collected for that Dept. were brought to the surface. Other expeditions were made from Kilkerrin pier on subsequent years and some of the specimens are picked to this day to baffle the unwary student. A survey of oyster beds of Clarinbridge to estimate the starfish infestation introduced the Galway divers to other delights of pints and those same oysters in Willie Morans establishment at quite an early age.
In ’65 GSAC was accepted as an associate to CFT with a fee of £1 payable. The first exams for Galway divers took place in Bulloch Harbour in May of ’65 and eight were passed as 3rd class divers on that day. The search for new dive sites was by now well underway and places like Killary, Kilkee and Valentia were common locations for week-end forays. The club sent motor cycle brigades to these areas throughout the sixties and the dogs of Knightstown probably still have pellets in the backsides, which originated from the open window of the Galway Caravan as they attempted to soil the gatepost of the yard on a rainy day. Later in ’69, the club made a trip to the Med, with van, boat, car and three motorcycles. The divers set off but returned to Galway in the middle of the 1st night to change boat trailers. But the diving around the Porquerolles and Giens was worth it.
Hardware for the club was increasing and two Alize 1 Cu ft/min compressors were bought. The deal also included some Tadpole bottles which were ex-aircraft equipment filled to 100psi and were adequate for training purposes. The problem of meeting in pubs is experienced by all clubs and the need for a base was felt to be a top priority subject. Eventually a basement in Cross Street was offered and work began in clearing the years of accumulated rubbish. Some refurbishment was done as pockets would allow, but carpets and seating were begged rather than bough and reasonable comfort was attained with a base to meet.
The “Ban” in ’66 was a milestone in club history as strong views on a personal bag-catch were expressed and this was unfruitful at CFT.
The fact that it was accepted at all by the executive of CFT, created much controversy amongst the club members who foresaw many implications for generations to come. This did not stop GSAC volunteering it’s services in other areas and recovery of bodies and rescue operations around the coast have been part and parcel of club activities from the very inception of diving. The bicycle lamps wrapped in plastic bags proved very useful in the mirky waters of the docks and a far cry from the powerful beams of todays halogen bulbs. The Corrib, Lough Inagh, Loughrea, Achill, Belmullet bring many memories to those who took part in diver operations.
Divers on recovery of McLead from Galway Docks on Dec. 24th ’66.
Left – Right. Doc Doyle, P. Canavan, P.O’Beirn, G.Ryder, K.McConn.
The mention of decompression chamber is minuted as far back as 1965 and a fund was started some time later. This did not progress at a satisfactory rate and the Western Health Board were approached, agreed to buy and install a chamber in Galway. This decision was a major step in providing the necessary facility on the West Coast, with the backup of voluntary divers to man it’s operation. Since that time all clubs receive an incitation to come and see for themselves, as well as experience a “dry” dive every year, to learn and hopefully avoid the real thing.
This short narrative brings us into things not deemed history as every club has come a long way from Alizes and Dunlop dry suits, to the very sophisticated equipment that is available to todays diver, or is it that time and memory gives a certain zip to the telling of adventures in the dim and not so dim past.