A special seasonal swim
However, for many other hardy souls, the thrill of participating in a Christmas Day swim is as much a part of Christmas Day as eating excessive amounts of festive food.
One of the most established Christmas Day swims is the Michael Power Memorial Swim which takes place in Kilmurrin on the beautiful Copper Coast.
As somebody who participated in the event for the first time last year, I can wholeheartedly say that it was well and truly worth it.
There was fevered excitement as participants gathered at the picturesque stony cove and a huge sense of exhilaration once everybody made their way into the water.
The fresh air and cold water certainly contribute to the development of a hearty appetite so you will have well and truly earned your Christmas dinner and needn’t feel any guilty for overindulging in extra helpings of dessert!
The origins and development of the Michael Power Memorial Swim are particularly poignant.
In 1982, local man Michael Power and a small number of friends decided to go swimming on Christmas Day.
The following year, the swimming enthusiasts swam more frequently from summertime, throughout autumn and up to Christmas Day.
More people joined their endeavours and so the first official Christmas Day Swim at Kilmurrin took place in 1983.
The 13 swimmers who took part on the day were Michael Power, Lennie Bell, Tom Whelan, Mary Mooney, John Walsh, Ger Mooney, Darren Power, Buddy Mooney, Tom Power, Adrian Kirwan, Johnny Murray, Brendan Power and Tony Murphy.
Two weeks before Christmas Day, members of the group met a lady involved with the Waterford Asthma Society who suggested they raise some money as part of their Christmas swim.
And so, they set about making sponsorship cards.
The first swim, which consisted of just 13 swimmers, raised the impressive sum of £600.
In 1984, the event was geared up to be bigger and better and much effort had gone into its organisation.
However, tragedy struck on December 17th when Michael Power died suddenly aged 40.
“We had everything organised so we continued with the swim that year,” explained Michael’s brother Tom who is Chair of the Michael Power Memorial Swim committee.
The event has grown to become a beautiful remembrance of Michael’s life and an event which has raised a combined total of more than €600,000 for various charities and good causes throughout the Waterford area.
“Around seven or eight charities write to us each year and the committee meets and decides on which charity to work with,” said Tom.
“If we have been approached by, say, eight charities, we pick a final three and then we decide. All are doing great work so it’s very hard to pick one,” he added.
Last year, a total of €21,000 was raised for Waterford Autism Social & Sports Action (WASSA).
However, beneficiaries are not confined exclusively to charities as money has been raised for various other good causes such as the church and school in Kill, Knockmahon and Seafield National Schools, Dunabbey Hospital, Dungarvan, and the Order of Malta.
“It’s up to the charities themselves to also put the effort in to get the word out there and increase the amount which is raised,” said Tom.
In addition to the main beneficiary, €500 is donated to Bonmahon Lifeboats and €200 to the Kill Cardiac First Response Group.
“There has been a lot of negative publicity surrounding charities lately, but we ensure there is absolutely no waste,” said Tom.
“When you mention the Michael Power Memorial Swim, it is well-known and respected. People know what it’s all about,” he added.
Each year, participants come from all over the surrounding area and further afield with all age groups represented from young children up to those in their eighties.
“Last year two women pulled up in a car and said they wanted to do the swim but didn’t have any sponsorship cards,” explained Tom.
“They had driven down from Kilkenny specifically for the event.”
When the event began to take off in the 1980s, it became apparent that assistance would need to be enlisted.
“After the first five or six years, we realised we could no longer manage to supervise it ourselves,” said Tom.
He explained that PJ O’Shea of Bonmahon Lifeboats has been helping out ever since along with fellow volunteers.
“Each year, they go out and test the water and check for currents and we go wherever they tell us to go,” said Tom.
He also praised the Order of Malta, Irish Coastguard and everyone else who helps out on the day.
The Michael Power Memorial Swim truly is a fantastic community undertaking and highlights what can be achieved when local people come together in support of a good casue.
Tom explained that Nick and Lilly Doody from Dunphy’s Pub and Maureen Kirwan at Kirwan’s Pub (both in Kill) began providing ‘hot toddies’ in the early years – a much loved tradition which is carried on today by representatives from both pubs.
Dunphy’s and Kirwan’s also provide sponsorship cards between them every second year.
Tom also praised the work of Waterford City & County Council in widening the road at Kilmurrin Cove which was carried out in recent months and which has provided much needed additional parking space.
Thankfully, there has only been one year when the swim was cancelled – during the infamous storm at Christmas 1997.
However, the swim went ahead on a rescheduled date.
Tom advises that those intending to participate in this year’s swim arrive in Kilmurrin at 11.30am.
“We don’t mess about – we start on the dot at 12pm,” he said.
So, need any prospective swimmers be nervous about entering the icy cool waters?
“It’s not as hard as you might think. Once you get to Kilmurrin the adrenaline is flowing and you just do it. You go in and get wet and it’s over and done with,” said Tom who participated every year from 1983 up to 2007.
John Walsh has the honour of being the only participant to have taken part in all of the swims since the inception of this great event in Kilmurrin.
For more information on the Michael Power Memorial Swim contact Chair Tom Power on 086 3327175 or Secretary Joanne Lenihan on 292907.
For full story see The Munster Express newspaper or
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