Belfast Telegraph

Hundreds splash out in aid of charities

By Linda Stewart

It seems hardy souls aren’t in short supply in Northern Ireland, with several hundred marking the New Year by taking a plunge in bone-chilling waters around our coast.

On Tuesday brave swimmers stripped off as part of various charity fundraising events to take a dip in the deep.

At Portrush’s East Strand, a plucky group, some in fancy dress, strode into the cold waves yesterday afternoon to raise cash for the CLIC Sargent Homes From Home Appeal, which is backed by the Belfast Telegraph.

Meanwhile, 85 people took a dip in Carnlough harbour at noon as part of a sponsored swim for the Ballymena branch of the Association for Spina Bifida and Hydroencephalus.

Organiser Billy McIlroy said the weather stayed dry for the traditional New Year dip as swimmers were led into the water by Geoff Bell, taking the plunge for his 41st time.

Some dressed in wetsuits, some in trunks and there were even a few brave souls in bikinis — although the men who went for a swim in drag may have been the bravest.

Billy estimated that at least £3,000 was raised on the day.

Among the swimmers were a couple from Pennsylvania.

“There were quite a number of people doing it for the first time — I was surprised at the number of first-time swimmers”, Billy said.

New Year swims were also held at Cushendun and Portstewart and 41 swimmers took a dip in Lough Erne at Galloon Island, Co Fermanagh, in an annual fundraiser.

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