1958 Spring. Dennis and Bob Wright, both Naval Divers, left the Royal Navy to set up a Diving School at Swanage. The only other school in existence was at Dartmouth Creek, but this closed down in the middle sixties. In August they received permission from the Pier owners, the Encombe Estate, to start their Diving activities from the Pier. The tool shed near the main gates (now gone)was to be their first H.Q and from there customers were taken for a 1 hour dive under the Pier.
1959 Courses were run over two and three days and in September an application was lodged with the council to build a Diving School where it is now.
1960 February. Permission was granted and by the spring, the first week long
Diving Courses were commenced from the new school. These courses continued throughout the following years.
1961 Spring. A diving tank was acquired from Ian Frazer who was using it to show off diving to the general public at fair grounds. The tank made the first days of the diving courses very easy to monitor. It also was a great attraction to people visiting the Pier. Here they could gaze at the divers. The tank stood around 8ft high x 10ft long with a ladder up to the top.
1962 Courses started in March through to October, this was the pattern of the School year.
1976 July. Bob Wright went to Lanzarote to start a Dive Centre there.
1983 Dennis was seriously ill and tried to take on qualified instructors, but the school declined as it became almost impossible to get sufficiently qualified instructors.
1988 The school was finally sold
During the 30 years that Dennis and Bob Wright had the school, there were no accidents or fatalities which was a excellent achievement.
At the time that Divers Down was up for sale, there were around 50 Divers from around the country who retained their BSAC membership through the Divers Down special Branch 1058. This could not continue and a new BSAC Branch had to be formed.
Quickly a committee was formed and with only 6p in the kitty, the Isle of Purbeck SAC was established. Jo Mosen thought up the name and also designed the Plesiosaurus logo, which 17 years on is even more appropriate now having a locally recognised Jurassic coast.
Dennis Wright, Jon and Jo Mosen established the club along with, Bob Campbell, and Tony Smith and this was the first committee. Although over 50 members on the books, the majority were out of the area, so the first action was to start local training courses. Local members were already using the pool at the Corrie Hotel (now demolished) and the pool at Spyways at Langton. This was a bit shallow, so for the new courses, Jon and Dennis approached Purbeck Sports Centre to use theirs at Wareham. They welcomed us, but we could only have it on Saturdays.
A diving course was advertised and 12 novices were taken through their paces from October to March. Jon and Tony doing the pool instruction and Dennis and Bob doing the lectures. That first year Tony and Jon both completed over 80 sea training dives each to get the novices up to Sports Diver. The second year was much the same with another 12 novices, but the burden was heavier as Dennis had now left the club.
During the 80s, Tony and his wife, Mary and Jo and Jon started going to Kimmeridge on Monday nights for a private BBQ and dive, but this privacy didn t last for long, it seemed the news had got round and most of the newly formed club turned up for a good nights feast and dive and it still continues 17 years on. Roger Wagstaff was a club member and often used his 31ft hard boat, Kyarra 2, for club dives and evening trips down the coast for BBQ,s at Chapmans Pool.
On Wednesdays the general pattern was to take divers out to two sites. First pairs going in on the Kyarra or outer mussels and when up, over to the cliffs for the others to do a close in drift dive or in and around the caves and ledges.
During the early nineties the club purchased their first inflatable and after a lot of preparation work the boat became very well used. After a couple of seasons this was replaced with a 5metre rib and regularly used for club dive nights on Wednesdays and weekend dives. Unfortunately this suffered considerable damage when attacked by an easterly on its Swanage mooring.
The tubes had badly separated from the hull, Robin, using his alligator catching tactics, tied a rope around the 'nose' of the boat to hold the two halves together and we managed to salvage the rib which was repaired and back in the sea for the new season and then later, sold in favour of another boat.
Several members who joined the courses in the early 90s remain in the club and are now highly experienced divers imparting their knowledge to new recruits.