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Saturday, 19 May 2012

The Main Event

As usual Mother Nature proved to be a fickle and callous mistress as the weather was absolutely atrocious this evening with driving rain and high winds.

It's not always like this, honest
However this did not deter the masses from desending upon the St. Abbs Visitors Centre to hear the tales of derring do and high adventure over the past six decades from the lips of Jack Law, Vice Chairman of the St Abbs & Eyemouth Voluntary Marine Reserve and representative of The Sub-Aqua Association.

The warm welcome and free drinks at the door certainly kept the evening chill at bay not to mention the pleasing sight of a packed room of diver, non-divers, locals and visitors alike. A fantastic turnout.
Happy hour!
Jack proceeded to keep us enthralled and entertained for the next sixty minutes with a glimpse of his life and diving experiences over the last sixty years. From his earliest memories of diving by making a mask and snorkel out of a converted gas mask and length of tubing to explore the depths of the bath tub as a lad, Jack had the audience hooked. 

I took a couple of pictures during the presentation for records sake, but deliberately left the flash off so as not to disrupt Jack or the audience, so no complaints about the dark shots.
Jack and gang in the early days

Some of the slides Jack showed us were incredible, especially the early days as when we think about what we use/need now to dive comfortably in the water, back then didn't exist. They just got on and dived. 

Could you imagine going for a dive around Seagull Rock in swim trunks? That's exactly what they did back in the day and I consider myself to be hardened for getting in 3 degrees of water but you'd never catch me in my Speedos going for a dive in the UK! (not least because I'd probably be arrested...).
Before IAHD was even thought of, these guys did it first
Another great tale was one of their number was afflicted with Polio as a child but that didn't put him, Jack and the others from facilitating his habit for diving. They made webbed gloves for him to propel himself through the water and they would just pick him up and carry him down to the water when he was ready to go, as you can see from the picture above. 

Thinking about organisations like the International Association of Handicapped Divers (who do a fantastic job by the way) who arrived on the scene in 1992, Jack and others like him were making the sport accessible for everyone regardless of ability, decades before these sorts of things became officially recognisable.
Ice diving for men....
The shot of the club chiseling their way into the water in a frozen quarry to go for a dive in Winter is one of my favourites though. As a devotee of ice diving, it's incomprehensible to think these days that you'd grab a pick axe to knock a hole in the ice to jump in wearing just a rubber wetsuit but that's exactly what they did. The mind boggles!

Jack the lad at St Abbs harbour in the good old days
Jack has many stories, not just about St Abbs diving but from all round the world with how Sharm and Egypt was 20-25 years ago (just a couple of sheds), how underwater photography has evolved, exploits in the Caribbean and Indonesia to his last ever dive.

A very poignant end to great evening's entertainment as Jack described that his dive on Black Carr in 2010 proved to be his last due to crippling back problems. But one thing Jack did say was that in all his years diving, he was glad that his last dive was at St Abbs as he couldn't think of anywhere in the world he would rather have ended his diving career.

That sums up St Abbs in a nutshell. There are so many nice places to dive around the world and we've done most of them, but I'll always be drawn back by the siren's song of St Abbs.