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Christmas Day Swim 2017

2017 Christmas Day will go down as a fairly mild day but wet with a constant drizzle until the Swim was finished and then it dried up. The rain had an obvious bearing on numbers taking part and attending this annual tradition officially begun in 1968. For a few years prior to that a number of local youths led by the Late Paddy and Gay Murphy, Pullis, had been having a Christmas Day dip but the late Benny McKenna, who became Scout Master of the Donagh Boy Scouts saw it as an opportunity to raise funds and he got some of the scouts to get sponsorship to do the swim and thus began the tradition that I'm sure Benny never thought would last for half a century at this stage. Originally the funds raised were for the Boy Scouts but Benny, being the thoughtful person he was, saw that others could be helped too and he began to divide the total raised between a local charity and the Boy scouts with a different organisation selected each year. This then widened out to the general public and others began to participate and then spectators started to come to the lake shore to witness the brave bodies, who immersed themselves in the cold, sometimes freezing, waters of Emy. Benny organised the event for many years until ill-health forced him to with draw and hand over to someone else. Dan Rogan stepped up and the swim continued and the money raised was used by the Parents and Friends of those with Disabilities. It was then Dan's turn to hand on the baton and Paul McGlade became Chairperson of the group and he and his committee have continued the tradition. 2017 was a special one as the Donagh Development Association decided to unveil a plaque in memory of Benny, who passed away in 1997. This was done by John Sherry, Pat McKenna, Aiden McKenna and Seamus McAree (for Donagh Development Association) and they were joined by Benny's widow, Veronica, and his son, Conleth. Paul McGlade and myself paid tributes to Benny and the work that he did in developing the event and the assistance he gave to so many charities. Seamus McAree had a medal with him which was presented by Benny to all swimmers in the early days. The recent death of Paddy Murphy was very much in peoples' minds and five of his grandchildren participated in his memory. Another great stalwart over the years was the late Mossy Devlin, who had the distinction of having the most sponsorship every year. His family were also present and Gregory was one of the swimmers. Tommy Bowe is a usual participant but this year he sent apologies as he, Lucy and Emma were spending Christmas in Wales with Lucy's family but the Bowe family were at Emy. It was then time for the Swim and when the official photo was captured the count-down was called out and off they went with a splash. Some ventured further than others but Victor Watterson and Joe McKenna were on hand in a safety boat just in case someone went too far. The Civil Defence was also on hand just in case and we thank them for their annual support. The 'swimmers' returned faster than they entered and grabbed the  towel. Sammy Leslie, who participated in the swim, and her brother, Mark, who is a regular, were there and Sammy brought with her the huge pot of very tasty and very welcome soup, which all enjoyed. As usual there did not seem to be any rush to leave the shore as people stood around chatting and wishing each other seasonal greetings. There were also some, who had come home for Christmas and they had to catch up with friends and the local gossip and so it came to a deserted shore and the turkey was ready for the onslaught.

Thanks to Edelle for taking the photos.

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