TORY ISLAND AND THE KING OF TORY – RÍ THORAÍ

 

 

 

180817 - Tory Island 1st edit 104a

By Maureen McCoy and Paul McCambridge

 

 

Tory Island lies 9 miles off the coast North-west Donegal. 3 miles long and 0.6 of a mile wide, it is a rugged and exposed outpost of Irish island life. The small population of 154, at the time we visit, had recently been swollen by 3 new babies, Patsy Dan, the King of Tory, proudly tells us. His vision and hope that the island will begin to regenerate seeing a flicker of life with these happy tidings.

180817 - Tory Island 1st edit 127a

In his Gaelic island lilt, Patsy Dan takes his duty as the King of Tory very seriously. All visitors are made welcome. Patsy, as far as his health will let him, comes down to the harbour to welcome the ferry each time it arrives. A striking figure, although not a large man, Patsy conjures an almost Pirate King image to me. A large gold ring in his ear, sailing cap on his head and sharply dressed in a dark double-breast pea coat with a gold “O” pin on his lapel he cuts a dapper stride. His silver car parked close by with the personalised plate; King of Tory.

211018 - Tory Island - Patsy Dan Rodgers 3a

Patsy Dan Rogers, the King of Tory, passed away Friday, 19th October 2018, after a long-term illness aged 74.

Having only met him last year over a few days on the island, I was struck by his welcoming manner. On learning we were there to explore the islands interesting swimming spots and the music and art that the island is famous for. He immediately insisted that we pitch our tent close beside the Dixon Gallery where he, Anton and other local artists exhibit their work, to shelter from the stormy weather due to hit that evening.

 

180817 - Tory Island 1st edit 109ab

 

Patsy Dan described himself as a primitive artist and his paintings in the gallery hang alongside those of other family members. Although not born on the Island Patsy Dan was a great ambassador for the way of life there and it seems to me that they chose well on electing him King. The island has had a history of electing artists as their King. Born in Dublin he was adopted and came to the island around the age of four. A gifted musician and a natural storyteller he regaled us with stories both historical and recent of the island. Patsy Dan was also a great friend of the English artist Derek Hill who kept returning to Tory for close to 50 years. He described how Derek would spend days in his little studio/ ‘shack’ on the exposed northwest cliffs. He pressed the key into my hand and said “Go up and spend some time there when the weather clears, follow the track up from the road, just leave me the key back before you leave Tory!”

180817 - Tory Island 1st edit 18aAfter a wet and windy night, the day was settled as we cycled out towards the light house then turned right up the rough path to the shack. Between the natural rock and sparse grass were great slabs of concrete, most with heavy and rusted metal hoops embedded in them. I guess a hangover from the old telegraph station.

180817 - Tory Island 1st edit 25a

Inside the shack is still as Derek had left it, a small table in the narrow entrance hall with a slate top, perhaps this is where Derek would place his camping stove to boil water as he worked. The one-roomed building has windows on 3 sides and a second table sits in front of the largest, looking inland. In the corner a cabinet houses a few collectables – an old soap flake package, Oxo tins, a kettle, tea pot and even his paint palette on a slate. Derek might have only just stepped out the door a moment ago.

180817 - Tory Island 1st edit 33a

180817 - Tory Island 1st edit 24a

Looking across this craggy coastline with its cliffs and inlets, the rocks flayed with lines as though the sea, wind or both had whipped them repeatedly creating scars. I can see the draw for an artist to return year on year. How the light must change on the rock, sometimes grey, sometimes brown and even pink in the evening light.  The Atlantic, even on a calm day beats against the shore, whirlpools and sea-spray surging around the base of the cliffs and, as you follow the shoreline into one of numerous inlets the water is calm, the outer rocks taking the brunt of the ocean waves.

180817 - Tory Island 1st edit 45b

A wooden bench painted bright red and tethered down to large rocks, a makeshift solution after the original bolts had sheared off, provides a perfect seat to watch the changing elements. Just below a curved metal barrier hangs over the edge of the inlet and from this a steep and narrow stone staircase leads down to the water. The sun lights up the sea-weed under the surface as it sways gently in the crystal clear sea – who could resist?

 

180817 - Tory Island 1st edit 90b

 

This northern shore of Tory Island has the high cliffs, taking all the battery of the sea and not far from Derek’s shack is a small walled graveyard called ‘The Foreign or Commonwealth Graveyard’. Still tended by the islanders this is the resting place of British sailors who’s ship the HMS Wasp sank here in 1884, with only 6 survivors from their 56 crew. Their mission was to vacate the island as their landlord owed over ten thousand pounds to the British government and HMS Wasp was going to collect rent and rates or remove the residents off the Island. As word filtered to Tory that the ship had left Westport, Co Mayo, two islanders carried the ‘Cursing Stone’ to the extremities of the island, praying that it would put upon the ship a curse from the heavens. The Gun Boat sank 23rd September 1884.

180817 - Tory Island 1st edit 06a

The island has had many years of battling to maintain its permanent residents, a fight Patsy Dan continued to struggle with as he tried to convince the government and others to invest in the islands infrastructure and improve access for tourism.

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual Media Tory Island. Picture by Paul McCambridge

A place for bird watchers, artists and poets, walking or off-road biking along this cliff top brings one past a series of inlets and inspiring rock formations. Approximately halfway along the island is a very narrow and extremely steep inlet that has two little gems for swimmers. The very steep grassy sides mean you must zig-zag your way carefully down to the waterside rocks. From here it’s a fairly easy climb down into the water, a large dark cavern gapes in the opposite wall. Swimming out of the sunlight into the darkness my heart beats faster, that nervousness of the unknown. My eyes take a moment to adjust to the dim light and I cannot stop myself from imagining all sorts of great sea creatures lurking in the shadows – quickly coming back into the safety of the light I spy a large rock near where I got in and I see a narrow gap behind. I slip through this gap into a tall circular chamber; an almost enclosed little pool.

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual Media Tory Island. Picture by Paul McCambridge

Tory has many swim spots to discover; on the east of the island at Port an Duin, right at the end of the road, two beaches frame the narrow land bridge leading out to Balor’s Fort and The Lovers’ Flagstone. Lying back to back, depending on which direction the wind is from, one or other of these can often be sheltered enough to swim.

180817 - Tory Island 1st edit 131b

Worth the trip and despite its small landmass, Tory has a lot to offer for a visit, music, art, swimming and bird watching.

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual Media Tory Island. Picture by Paul McCambridge

Thank you Patsy Dan, King of Tory for making us welcome.

180817 - Tory Island 1st edit 214a

Advertisements

Graduates Go to the Beach…

 

Ballyhornan Grads 13a

Words by Maureen McCoy, Photography by Paul McCambridge

Graduates Go to the Beach…

The blue waters of Lisburn pool may have seemed a little quiet last Thursday evening (14th June), the dwindling numbers were not due to a lack of enthusiasm though. No, a bunch of intrepid Graduates had in fact ventured outdoors.

Buoyed by the memory of previous such outings, a select few of us swapped the pool and instead headed to the beach at Ballyhornan.

After such a stormy Wednesday night and Thursday morning many feared the cancelation email would pop into their inbox. Do they not know their coach by now?

No wimping out!

Our little band of happy swimmers ready for their quest.

Ballyhornan Grads 11a 

Disclaimer: Had weather been truly bad, I assure you, I would have abandoned the swim in favour of the pub.

Ballyhornan Grads 10a

 

Despite the inclement day, the evening brightened and the wind eased. When we met at the beach at 6pm there was even a return of the sunshine we have grown accustomed to.

Soon the motley mad intrepid crew tootled their way to the water’s edge…

 

The Sea was crisp and fresh. Squeals of delight as we entered! Yes really, it WAS delight, NO ONE said it was FREEZING.

Ballyhornan Swim 1a

Ballyhornan Swim 6a

With a few acclimatisation practices we got underway – a short tester swim parallel to shore allowed us to settle our breathing and establish our beautifully relaxed and powerful strokes.

Ballyhornan Swim 2a

As our little party elegantly cruised along the bay we saw Terns swoop down to lift Fry from the water a little further out before soaring back up into the blue(ish) skies.

Ballyhornan Swim 9a

The briefest of squalls of rain allowed us to enjoy the magical experience and triggered a tuneful adaptation of a popular song: “We’re just Swimmin’ in the rain… what a Glor-ious feel-ing…”

Ballyhornan Swim 3a

As the skies cleared we retired from the water to later re-group at the Cuan in Strangford for a well-earned meal. Already planning next year’s outing!

 

Ballyhornan Grads 12a

Well done all with a special commendation to Adam and James, Waterpolo players who braved the elements sans wetsuit.

 

 

Ballyhornan Grads 14a 

  

Footnote: No Graduates were harmed during this adventure, all took part of their own volition. There was absolutely no intimidation, coercion or threats – coaches Mo and Paul deny any responsibility if anyone says otherwise.

Chunky Dunker’s New Years Swim 2018

Dunkers New Years 11a

Photos by Paul McCambridge, words by Maureen McCoy

Arriving at Donaghadee at a few minutes after 10am on the 1st day of 2018 and the carpark at the slipway was almost full. As more and more joined the gathering throng calling out “Happy New Years!” the festive atmosphere was buzzing at the water’s edge.

Dunker's New Years 3a

For several years Martin has been swimming regularly here, and the numbers of like-minded folk have swollen year on year. With flasks of tea, coffee or hot juice the regulars welcome all. We all pause rubbing our hands with a shiver in anticipation of the cold plunge to come.

Dunker's New Years 16a

A group photo and then the “Dunk” was open, encouraged to only swim as far as comfortable, 77 of us made our way down the slipway Mark Brooks’ Pink Flamingo provided a marker to follow.

Dunker's New Years 1a

Dunker's New Years 2a

Another swimmer towed a jolly Santa and the festive cheer was not dampened by the light skiff of rain that briefly flitted across the harbour.

Dunker's New Years 13a

Marrissa, the youngest Dunker enjoying a pre-birthday dip – despite having lost a tooth only a few hours before! I hope the tooth Fairy is generous!

Dunker's New Year 20a

Butterfly cap worthy of Hollywood’s great Esther Williams… real pearls??

Dunker's New Years 10a

Sporting a mixture of headwear; bright and flowery swim caps, woolly hats, even a christmas pudding hat, the Dunkers have once again managed to raise a great amount for charity on this the 12th of their Christmas Swims.

Dunker's New Years 8a

Happy New Year 2018!

Keep Swimming

Dunker's New Years 19a

Dunker's New Years 7a

Dunker's New Years 6a

Dunkers New Year 14a

Dunker's New Years 12a

Dunker's New Years 15a

UPDATED – “HO HO HO it’s CHRISSSMAS” – 2017 Festive Swims + Dips

Newcastle Xmas dip 1a web

Christmas Swims 2017

It’s time to dust off those Santa hats, shake up the Mistletoe and don the Festive Swim Suits as all over Ireland folks will be getting In the Swim to raise money for worthy causes… There’s bound to be a dip near you!

**********

Co Antrim

Portrush Santa Splash – 17th December 2017 – Arcadia Portrush
1.30pm

UPDATE – Photos of 2017 Santa Splash Below

**********

181216 - Santa Splash Portrush 11a copy

 

Co Down

Donaghadee – Chunky Dunkers – 12 swims of Christmas

A fun bunch who meet for daily dips

https://www.facebook.com/groups/319941478354115/permalink/486344695047125/

**********

Crawfordsburn Beach – Dare to Dip for Cancer Focus N.I. – New Year’s Day 11am
Every dipper will receive a free Cancer Focus NI t-shirt and hot drink after their swim.Fancy dress is encouraged- there will be a prize for the best outfit!

For more information call 028 9068 0788 or email challenge@cancerfocusni.org https://www.facebook.com/events/1677339799008125/

**********

Newcastle swim 2a web

 

 

Co Cork

Turkey Swims

https://myrtlevilleswimmers.com/category/events/

Sunday 26th November Sandycove 10am

Saturday 2nd December Sandycove 3pm

Sunday 10th December Sandycove 11am

Saturday 16th December Myrtleville 11am

Saturday 23rd December Fountainstown 10.30am

How the ‘Turkey Swims’ work:

** Swimmers Sign In and pay €2 on the day of Swim. (someone will have a money box and sign-in sheet – probably Carol, Angela or Eoin).

** Money Collected goes towards Prizes drawn on 23rd Dec at Fountainstown.

This is open to everyone who swims regularly in the Sea, no matter where they normally swim.  This is not exclusive to any club or group of swimmers

Info

Remember this is open to everyone who swims regularly in the Sea, no matter where they normally swim.  This is not exclusive to any club or group of swimmers, If you want to swim on a date, come along, find a swim buddy and join in, no matter where the swim is on! The Sandycove times are based on tides and at Myrtleville we can swim on any tide so there is a mix of Morning/afternoon times to try and suit all people over both days of the weekend.  Wetsuit, Skins, Fins, all welcome!

How the ‘Turkey Swims’ work:

** Swimmers Sign In and pay €2 on the day of Swim. (someone will have a money box and sign-in sheet – probably Carol, Angela or Eoin).

** Money Collected goes towards Prizes drawn on 23rd Dec at Fountainstown,

**********

Chunky Dunkers 1a web

Co Wexford

Carne Beach, Wexford – St.Stephen’s Day Swim – 26th December 12pm

In aid of Our Ladies Island N.S – Donations welcome on the day & sponsorship cards available from the school Tel: (053) 913 1113

Funds raised will go towards new playground equipment and painting the school.

**********

181216 - Santa Splash Portrush 12a copy

 

Polar Bear Plunge – Ireland and N. Ireland Venues

Special Olympics Ireland is a sports organisation for people with an intellectual disability, but we also provide our athletes with far more than the physical benefits of sport.

By taking part in a fundraising event like the Polar Plunge, you are changing lives.

Polar Plunge is one of our biggest fundraising events of the year thanks to the hundreds of plungers who take to the water across the country.

Registration fee is €20 and we ask that you fundraise an extra €50 to help support the programme and our athletes.

By fundraising for Special Olympics Ireland you are helping to change the lives of thousands of athletes all over Ireland.

 

 

**********

Co Monaghan

Hollywood Lake – Near Scotstown – 24th December 2017

Mucking Triathlon Club

Christmas Eve Charity Swim in Aid of – Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust

https://www.facebook.com/MucknoTriathlonClub/

**********

Photographs of Santa Splash 2017 in Aid of Aware NI – Portrush.

 

©Paul McCambridge/MAC Visual Media
Santa Splash 2017, Portrush.

Santa Splash in Aid of Aware NI

©Paul McCambridge/MAC Visual Media
Santa Splash 2017, Portrush.

The Wilson Family enjoying the festive splash

©Paul McCambridge/MAC Visual Media
Santa Splash 2017, Portrush.

The maestro of Santa Splash Stephen McConnell

©Paul McCambridge/MAC Visual Media
Santa Splash 2017, Portrush.

©Paul McCambridge/MAC Visual Media
Santa Splash 2017, Portrush.

©Paul McCambridge/MAC Visual Media
Santa Splash 2017, Portrush.

©Paul McCambridge/MAC Visual Media
Santa Splash 2017, Portrush.

©Paul McCambridge/MAC Visual Media
Santa Splash 2017, Portrush.

©Paul McCambridge/MAC Visual Media
Santa Splash 2017, Portrush.

 

 

 

Mermaid – Short Documentary

A Short documentary about wild swimmer Maureen McCoy. This film explores the origins of Maureen’s passion for outdoor swimming, and how it continues to influence who she is today.

Director: Kitty Camilleri
Producers: Kitty Camilleri and Natalia Witkowska
DP: Natalia Witkowska
Editor: Natalia Witkowska

Vico – County Dublin

Mo filming 1b webWords by Maureen McCoy, photos by Paul McCambridge

 

Dublin City has a great tradition of alfresco swimming and further south from the famous Forty Foot, on the Vico Road the pretty area of Dalkey boasts a similar bathing area, The Vico nestled along the cliff edge between Dalkey and Killiney beach, is popular with naturists.

 

Early March this year I travelled back to the Vico, invited by some documentary film-making students from Trinity College. We were lucky, the previous week had been grey and windy and yet the weekend brought with it sunshine, interspersed with the odd shower, perfect spring swimming weather. When I arrived I found the crew had already spent several hours before, setting up time-lapse cameras and planning the story. It’s a little un-nerving having someone new behind the camera, I’m used to photos, not so used to being filmed but variety is the spice of life! Several walks up and down the approaching path certainly warmed me up before I was to get into the water. As the day wore on the regular patrons filtered in and away, stopping for a quick chat, sharing more favoured spots around the country and commenting on the mild weather. “Have you had your swim then?” the constant question, “Not yet, but it’s coming!” As the day faded to evening and the sun sunk ever lower it was time to brave the sea. My last swim that week had been in a lake in the Mourne mountains and had been acutely painful it was so cold, I was now rather nervous that I may squeal and shiver uncontrollably, all to be documented on camera! Joy, the water was not as sharp as that mountain lake. As I swam under the craggy rocks of Hawk Cliff a seal popped his head above the swell some way further out. He’d spent the day milling around, a little curious but otherwise unconcerned with the small stream of swimmers who had been in and out of the sea all day as the tide rose and fell away again. He seemed much less interested in me than I in him.

 

Mo filming 2a web

 

Once dressed and just before I left the Vico I looked out to see a pod of porpoises gliding through the water, their dorsal fins slicing the small waves as they passed back and forth across the bay. Below me the final evenings swimmer, a lady around my own age, side-stroked along the shoreline, swimming with ease and un-encumbered by swimwear. I admired her bravery as she finished her swim, climbed out, dried and dressed, unabashed, then made her way back up the long flight of steps in the evening light.

 

A narrow gap in the wall along the Vico road walking up the hill away from Dalkey marks the entrance to the path which first goes across a high-sided footbridge over the railway and then down towards the shore. Surfboards line the railings and the small white-washed shelter built into the rocks stands out against the grey stone. Handwritten on a board the words ‘swimwear optional’ and the white painted shelter above the ladders welcomes you in. Steep steps with handrails lead you to the water and to one side a small sea-water pool mirrors the sky, a sharp contrast to the choppy sea.

Excerpt from Wild Swimming in Ireland 2016, ISBN 978-1-84889-280-4

50 - Dublin - Vico - 02 web

Getting there; by car from Killiney take the Victoria then the Vico Road past Victoria Park. At White Rocks Bathing Area there is a lay-by with car parking spaces. Frome here walk as there is no further parking along the road. Heading towards Dalkey as the road sweeps left and drops down look out for the narrow gap on the sea-ward side, take this path across the footbridge and down to the Vico Bathing Area.

 

Google Maps;

https://goo.gl/maps/rV6bUBTTKs82

 

Santa Splash 2016 – Portrush

181216-santa-splash-portrush-12a

Portrush’s East Strand was a hive of activity when I arrived. I did wonder where I should go to register for the swim but the steady stream of people all sporting various Santa hats assured me I was at the right place. It looked as though most of Portrush had turned up, all bedecked with festive regalia besides the customary hats. One chap had an extremely smart Christmas jacket, there were many woollen jumpers and in the crowd I spied a very fetching reindeer onesie, I may have to ask Santa for one of those myself… cosy after a swim.

I followed the surging crowd and we wound our way along the prom towards the Arcadia Gallery and small beach. Up the steps facing the beach at Café 55° North the queue condensed as we all pushed our way to sign up for the swim and pop a donation in one of the many buckets. This year, the 8th of the Santa Splash, the chosen charity was the Children’s Heartbeat Trust, a local charity.

Over the past 7 years the Arcadia Bathing Club have raised several thousands of pounds for various charities. Each year they choose a charity that someone in the club has links to.

181216-santa-splash-portrush-11a

The first Santa Splash was very low-key, just a few pals asking for sponsorship and taking a dip at the Arcadia beach. Each year the numbers grow and they have had to move to the East Strand because Arcadia beach isn’t big enough!

Little islands of discarded clothing soon formed on the sand and we crowded on the steps for a short pre-swim brief, I’m afraid I have no idea what was said but next I knew the hooter sounded and we all began to race down to the sea. Photographers braved the stampede of swimsuits and Christmas hats as several hundred charged, one aim in mind, hit the water running!

181216-santa-splash-portrush-13a-web

The Santa Splash is certainly the biggest Christmas dip I have seen with a massive crowd cheering from the side lines. Once dressed the party went on at 55° North with hot food and mulled wine being served to the swimmers, music and a raffle.

Stephen, chief organiser on the day, told me a little about the ABC. Formed as it was many years ago it was recently resurrected by Stephen and several pals. “We used to have silly rules, like no over-arm strokes in the summer months. In the winter you were allowed swim front crawl to keep a bit warmer. We’ve abandoned that as now we have so many swimmers!”

181216-santa-splash-portrush-2a

ABC swimmers meet every Sunday, 10.30am, all welcome but to get a member’s certificate and be eligible to buy their fleece you must swim a minimum of once a month for twelve consecutive months. I might just try that…I do like their swim cap!

Thanks Arcadia for a great splash see you very soon!