Belfast Telegraph

New Year's Day charity swims: super way to raise charity cash

By Joanne Sweeney

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's Superwoman (and super swimmer) Angela McClements.

The Ballymena grandmother was one of the colourful hardy souls who took part in several annual New Year's Day charity swims around Northern Ireland.

Angela and her 22-year-old daughter Megan joined a group of 81 swimmers who braved the waters at Carnlough Harbour in Co Antrim in the popular charity event.

The former lifeguard and swimming teacher said last night that she was "a mere novice" at the event, having taken part for over 22 years.

"I chose Superwoman, as each year we choose a different theme," she said.

"I've dressed up in Hawaiian costume before, I've been a Dark Angel all in black, and last year I wore a sailor suit.

"Megan and I tried to find SpongeBob SquarePants and Gary outfits, but we might do that for next year, you never know.

"I just love swimming, I love the water, it's a passion of mine, so jumping into the cold water doesn't faze me a bit," she added.

For founding swimmer Geoff Bell, it was his 43rd time.

He started off the event one year after his father Bill dared him to take a dip when he was just a teenager. Organiser Billy McIlroy reported that the water temperature at 11C degrees was "just right".

"It was actually a mild day for it and in fact the tide was on its way out so it was a bit too low for people to dive into," he added. He revealed that £2,750 had been raised on the day.

The Browns Bay swim at Islandmagee in aid of Marie Curie Cancer Care attracted 60 swimmers and 40 spectators, while Simpsons cartoon characters Marge and Bart were among those who took part in the swim off Magillian Point in Co Londonderry in aid of the Foyle Hospice.

While the New Year's Day events went off a treat, some concern has been raised about the fact that organised New Year's Eve celebrations seem to have gone by the board.

Neither Belfast nor Derry had any central celebration or fireworks display, meaning fewer people coming into town.

Pubs of Ulster said while business was slightly up on last year, it was still way down on previous years when there were public events organised to mark the passing of the year.

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