Channel conquerer Simon takes plunge again for charity
A gutsy Belfast man who last year conquered the Channel swim from England to France is preparing to take the plunge again on what the experts say is an even tougher challenge.
Simon Fullerton (39), who raised thousands of pounds a year ago for research into Parkinson's disease in memory of his grandfather, is planning to swim the North Channel from Bangor to Portpatrick.
He is taking on the gruelling 27-mile task to help a prisoners' charity in honour of an Ulster-based Australian who died in a tragic accident at his home two years ago.
The late Mike Moloney, who was the partner of comedy star Nuala McKeever, was the co-founder of the Prison Arts Foundation, which helped scores of inmates in Northern Ireland's jails to develop new skills and attitudes.
And Simon (right) is hoping to raise up to £10,000 for the Mike Moloney arts fund, set up in the wake of his death to establish bursaries for prisoners after they are freed from jail.
Simon said: "I first met Mike when he was helping to run the Belfast Community Circus School in 1991 when I was an awkward teenager.
"He took me under his wing for the next five years, teaching me skills both in performance arts and in life - skills which I have never lost. He gave me the confidence to break out of my box and nurture my own sense that nothing was impossible with hard work and vision.
"And it was partly Mike's ethics, my own grit and amazing crew that got me across the English Channel in August last year in 13 hours and 18 minutes."
After completing the swim, Simon vowed to make the North Channel his next target.
"It's reckoned to be the most difficult open-water swim in the world," he said.
"Only 29 people are on record as having made a solo crossing in this treacherous channel of water, notorious for the lion's mane jellyfish, unpredictable currents and being a touch on the cold side."
Simon said he hoped the money raised by the swim would be used by the fund to assist recently released prisoners to advance their arts skills with support from local professional artists.
"This is a cause close to my heart," he said.
"I am keen that the swim should add to Mike's legacy. He was a passionate believer in helping prisoners as individuals to reintegrate into society through creative engagement and to open new possibilities for them to make a valuable contribution to essential community development"
Simon - a former Campbell College student who is now a writer and performer in London - said that last year's 21-mile swim across the English Channel was arduous.
But when he was tempted to quit, he thought about the money he could raise for research into Parkinson's disease which blighted the life of his beloved grandfather John McCormick, who was also an avid swimmer.
Simon's training schedule is punishing with lengthy sessions in the sea as well as the pool and a drastic curb on his social life.
"But it will all be worth it if I can do it," he said.
"I'll take my inspiration from Mike if I start flagging along the way."