Northern Ireland news

Christmas charity swim celebrates 50th event

The charity swim was first staged in 1972. Picture form Facebook

A CHRISTMAS Day charity swim, which began during an anti-internment protest, will celebrate its 50th event this year.

Rostrevor's annual swim was first held on Christmas Day 1972, when a number of locals were on a 24-hour hunger strike, demonstrating against internment.

They were in a tent on the village square, sheltering against the weather.

Two of those present, Gerry Sloan and Sean Tinnelly, describe how the late Leo Murphy, Down GAA legend and twice all-Ireland medallist, put his head into the tent and asked if anyone fancied a swim.

“Leo swam throughout the year”, they say, “so we decided to go with him."

That marked the beginning of what is now one the biggest Christmas charity fund raisers in south Down.

The numbers taking part increased over the following years and a decade after it started, it was decided to use the event to raise money for charity.

In the first year they raised £100 for the local St Vincent de Paul.

Since then almost £100,000 has been collected for local charities, mainly those which help children, the sick and the poor.

A large amount of money has also been sent to help causes in Africa, Asia, Europe and South America, all through someone with a Rostrevor connection.

Local shops and businesses display collections tins which boosts the money raised by the swimmers' sponsorship.

Like last year's event, this year's will observe Covid rules. Swimmers can enter the water any time between 1.30 and 2.30.

This year's charities are Southern Area Hospice, Mourne Mountain Rescue Team and Daisy Hill Hospital Maternity Unit Comfort Fund.

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