Bart Simpson and Superman were among at least 60 hardy souls who braved the icy waters at Magilligan Point on New Year’s Day to raise funds for charity.
The annual Leap of the Dog Swim in aid of Foyle Hospice enticed people from throughout the Roe Valley and Derry to the golden sands at Magilligan. From cartoon characters, to men wearing skimpy trunks and others donning their cosy onesies, the event attracted all ages.
The icy dash in and out of Lough Foyle is a decade old, but taking the plunge for the first time on Thursday was Limavady solicitor, David Brewster.
“It’s important we raise money for an excellent cause,” said David, shivering as pipers Brian McWilliams and Andrew Doherty played the traditional Auld Lang Syne.
David said he’d only decided to take part on New Year’s Eve.
“It’s for a very good cause, and where else would you want to be today when it’s so lovely and warm,” he joked.
Looking slightly warmer, and certainly more colourful, was Grace Magee from Limavady who was dressed as Marge Simpson.
“I’m nuts and, yes, I’m crazy but anyone who knows me knows I’ll do anything for a good cause,” laughed Grace.
Kimberley Devlin from Limavady was persuaded by Grace to take part.
“It’s my first time and I’ve raised more than £500. I am also a member of Limavady Rotary and they gave me great support. I’m doing it in memory of Mary Johnson who passed away in Foyle Hospice, a very dear friend,” said Kim who was dressed in colourful gear.
Marius Mullan, aka Bart Simpson, said it would be his third dash into the icy water.
“It’s freezing, absolutely freezing,” he said. “You feel good after, but not at the time but it’s worth it.”
Derry woman Janice Stevenson, living in Scotland, decided at the last minute to take the icy dip with her sister.
Wearing a T-shirt promoting Prader-Willi syndrome, Janice said as she emerged from the water: “I’m glad I did it, but it was quite scary actually. I lost my breath a couple of times it was so cold. My daughter Ellie has a condition called Prader-Willi syndrome so any chance we get to wear the T-shirt and raise awareness we take it. Happy New Year to all my family, and especially my daughter Ellie.”
Rachel Bruce from Foyle Hospice said the New Year fundraiser is always well supported.
“We had about 60 people take part, but it’s hard to know with so many coming at the end to register. Usually this event brings in about £1200-£1500,” Rachel told the ‘Journal’. “All money goes to Foyle Hospice which covers the entire North West region, and it’s through our in-patient team, our home care team and our day-care unit and our bereavement services. It’s very much a local service for local people. It’s fantastic people get out of their beds and come here on a day like this and support it.”
Organiser Brian McNicholl has been involved in the event from its inception. Due to a heavy cold, Brian would have been taking the plunge as he had done other years, but this year he was in charge of overseeing proceedings.
“It has been a good turnout. Conditions were hard with strong winds, and rain. There has been a lot of money raised for Foyle Hospice here today,” he said. “It’s an annual event for Foyle Hospice and it gets bigger and bigger each year.”
Brian thanked the Irish coastguard, Greencastle, for providing safety boat cover, HM Coastguard, Castlerock for providing shore cover and assistance, and the PSNI.
Brian made sure to plug next year’s event, adding: “Happy New Year to everyone. See you all next year. Magilligan Point, 2.30pm.”