10 Fascinating Facts About How the Commie Became the Healthy Heart of the City

| Thursday 7th September 2023 11:54am

Nestled in the heart of Edinburgh, the Royal Commonwealth Pool, affectionately known as the "Commie," is more than just a place to swim. It holds a rich history and has evolved into a vibrant hub of health, fitness, and community activities. Let's dive into 10 fascinating facts that highlight how the Commie has become the healthy heart of the city.

1. Swimming in the City – Times Gone By

Long before the Commie's inception, organised bathing facilities were rare in Edinburgh. It wasn't until the late 19th century that the city began building indoor baths. These establishments provided not only swimming but also hot and remedial baths. In 1936, an outdoor pool was added in Portobello, offering salt and water bathing during the warmer months.

2. Steeped in History

The Commie's story begins in the 1960s when the City of Edinburgh Council, led by Lord Provost Sir Herbert Archbold Brechin, commissioned the pool as part of a larger project to bring the 1970 British Commonwealth Games to the city. Construction began in 1967 and was completed in 1970, making it an architectural gem designed by Robert Matthew Johnson Marshall.

3. In the Swim for the 1970 Games

The Commie played a pivotal role in the 1970 British Commonwealth Games, hosting swimming and diving events. Princess Anne inaugurated the pool on January 16, 1970, and the Games (16 – 25 July 1970) marked the first time the metric system was used for events rather than imperial units, as well as the adoption of the name "British Commonwealth Games." It was also the first time the games were held in Scotland.

4. Diver, Sir Peter Heatly

Diver Sir Peter Heatly, who won gold medals in consecutive Commonwealth Games, made history as the first to dive into the Commie's waters at its opening by Princess Anne. His legacy lives on through his grandson James Heatly, a prominent diver who continues to make waves in the sport. James dived in the 2014 Commonwealth Games cheered on by his grandfather.

A memorial plaque and The Sir Peter Heatly Meeting room were dedicated to Sir Peter Heatly at the Royal Commonwealth Pool on 16 September 2016 and James had the honour of cutting the ribbon.

5. Great Lengths – Splashing Out

The Commie's significance goes beyond being Edinburgh's only 50-metre pool. It has hosted three Commonwealth Games and underwent a major renovation from 2009 to 2012. Led by S&P Architects, the £37 million project included new diving and teaching pools, modernising the building for the 2014 Commonwealth Games, where it hosted the diving competitions.

In October 2015, the addition of a 1m platform to the world class diving facilities made it possible to specifically launch coaching for children with a wider range of needs. Part funded by Sport Scotland, the new 1m platform joined Olympic standard facilities including 5m, 7.5m and 10 m platforms, and three 1m springboards.

6. Who remembers the Commie Flumes

Installed in the late 1980s, the Commie's flumes were a beloved attraction for locals. These watery tubes twisted and turned throughout the complex, providing a thrilling experience until their removal in 2000, leaving a fond memory for many.

7. The Commie's Golden Celebrations

In 2020, the Commie celebrated its golden anniversary. The occasion was marked with joyful singing by the Edinburgh’s Got Soul Choir and a giant replica cake, with enough slices to feed 500 lucky customers, crafted by West Lothian Cake-tastic. The youngest granddaughter of Charlie Ramsay, the pool's first employee, blew out the candles.

8. On the Crest of a Wave

Today, the Commie has evolved into a multifaceted facility. It offers swim and dive coaching, recreational swim facilities, fitness classes including Aquafit and Hydro-spin, a café, a gym, and Clambers soft play. It also hosts swim competitions and major events, cementing its role as a cornerstone of health and community.

9. Five Great Pub Quiz Answers About the Commie

For those seeking trivia, here are some gems:

  • The main pool holds a whopping 2,457,000 litres of water.
  • The 10m diving board stands as tall as two giraffes.
  • The space that now houses Clambers Soft Play and the dry dive area was once a ballroom.
  • The original cost of building the Commie in 1970 was £3.8 million.
  • The arena boasts 849 seats for spectators.

10. Contact Information

Curious to learn more or take a dip in the Commie's inviting waters and facilities?

Address: Royal Commonwealth Pool, Dalkeith Road, Edinburgh EH16 5BB


As the Commie continues to thrive, it stands as a testament to the city's dedication to health, community, and the enduring power of sport.

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