Sheena Paterson – 1954 – 2014
Words by Maureen McCoy
Photography by Paul McCambridge
Today Bangor Boats set sail to bid a fond farewell to one of the stalwarts of the Irish Long Distance Swimming Association, Sheena Paterson. Brian Meharg took two Oceans Seven swimmers, Darren Millar and Kimberly Chambers, and me out to lay Sheena’s wreath into the North Channel, the stretch of water she had such affinity with. Before we left the shelter of the harbour Brian read a poem and then we motored out, with the waves crashing against the prow of the boat and the spray whipping across our faces. Well out into the channel we stopped the engine and on behalf of Sheena’s ILDSA family, Brian and I faced towards Scotland and threw the bouquet into the sea saying our last goodbye to a good friend.
“This is my wee piece of water. I love it here.” Sheena told me of Donaghadee and the North Channel and as the first woman to swim the Copeland Islands to Donaghadee I think she could claim that for her own. Sheena had a real love for the sport and encouraged so many swimmers, giving back to the community more than her share.
Welcoming Michelle Macy on her North Channel record breaking swim.
ILDSA President Billy Wallace, Maureen McCoy, Michelle Macy and Sheena
Sheena was an inspiration to many and a friend to me, with always a hug and words of encouragement to greet me at the beginning of an event, then another hug and congratulations at the finish. Sheena’s was the face I would see at the end of every Lough Erne 17km, urging me to sprint into that wall, her finger poised over the stopwatch button. She showed me how, as an observer, to “never take your eyes off the swimmer. No matter how uncomfortable you are, they will be more so.” and she certainly practiced what she preached. Many times I would see her, coat zipped up tight against the wind and rain but she wouldn’t leave her post until every swimmer was accounted for.
Sheena, Kevin Murphy and Alison Streeter, King and Queen of the Channels
Anna Corin Nordin on her 1st Female Oceans Seven Swim
After yesterdays’ funeral service at Newtownards, where Sheena arrived in her own unique style in a beautiful woven coffin then had us smiling through tears, feet tapping to Status Quos “Rockin’ all Over the World!” the eulogy was so very her. Sheena’s family asked us to take the ILDSA wreath to do something with and so we thought one last trip into the channel was a fitting tribute.
My hat off to you Sheena, one of a kind, I will miss you and glad to have known you.
Thanks to Brian Meharg, Bangor Boats for taking us out. Jeff Wilson, ILDSA, for organising the wreath. Margaret Smith, a good friend of Sheena’s, who’s idea it was, and Paul for taking the pictures.