On September 1 Eileen and Heather Maxwell, and Toni McGlynn Made a small bit of history when they became the first ladies to swim the length of the River Shannon – all 245km of it.
This was a charity swim raising much needed funds for A Lust For Life and The Irish Cancer Society.
It was with a great sense of achievement, pride and relief that the ladies swam into the slip at Curraghgour Boat Club at Merchant’s Quay in Limerick City – to be met by family, friends, and Leitrim neighbours who had travelled to witness the finishing of this amazing swim.
The ladies started from Dowra on the Cavan / Leitrim border on August 1. The calm sunny days over the first 10 days made for perfect swimming conditions with the ladies making great progress through Lough Allen to Drumshanbo, Leitrim Village, Carrick on Shannon, Jamestown, Drumsna, Tarmonbarry, and on to Lanesborough at the start of Lough Ree.
The weather for the rest of August proved to be frustratingly windy which made for choppy water which was unsafe for swimming. This was especially true on Lough Ree and Lough Derg where large open water stretches with no shelter
become particularly rough during windy weather.
Rather than waiting for calm weather to cross Lough Ree the ladies and safety team decided to skip ahead to complete the river stretch between Athlone and Portumna. There was some very enjoyable swimming to Clonmacnoise, Shannon Bridge, Banagher, and onto Portumna at the start of Lough Derg. Again the weather was against the ladies and after several attempts to cross Lough Derg the Fló Beo team decided to take a break at home in lovely Leitrim.
This was a lovely opportunity to catch up with family and friends. Toni was able to see her daughter Sinikka start her
first day in Carrick Community School.
They returned to Lough Ree which was much more welcoming the second time round and was easily swam over two days. The return to Lough Derg was not so smooth. With wind everyday progress was frustratingly slow and the swimming was challenging. It was a wonderful feeling to swim into Killaloe where the flow of the water carried the ladies as far as the Headrace at Parteen Weir.
The Headrace signals the start of a stretch of very fast water that feeds the hydroelectric station at Ardnacrusha. Swimming is not allowed in this water for obvious safety reasons. The next entry point for swimmers is at the Tailrace in Corbally, Limerick City where they were accompanied by Pat Lysaght and the Limerick swim masters for the short swim to the finish line at Curraghgour Boat Club. At the finish the swimmers received a fantastic welcome from family, friends and amazing
people that far and wide to be there.
On arriving home to Annaduff, Co. Leitrim the swimmers were blown away by the number of people from the local community who came out and shown their support at a fantastic homecoming hosted by Annaduff GAA club.
Eileen, Heather and Toni are aware that their dream to swim the River Shannon would not have been possible without a very strong support crew with them every stroke of the way. They wish to take this opportunity to formally and publically acknowledge their gratitude to all the people who came on board to make Fló Beo a safe and enjoyable swim.
Mother and Daughter duo Eileen and Heather were accompanied by husband and Daddy, Frank; and by other daughter and sister, Cora. Cora provided safety boat cover. She kayaked alongside the ladies for the entire journey; and in so doing has kayaked the length of the River Shannon.
Frank provided safety boat cover in a RIB that was also used by the ladies to enter and leave the water.
The following is a list of the many people who generously gave of their time and services:
Joe Clear who provided kayak cover from Dowra to Drumshanbo. Thanks also for the use of a Kayak for the rest of the journey. Other Kayakers who provided safety cover were Rebecca Murphy, Vincent Earley, Lorcan Kirwan, and Denise Coffey.
Kieran Walsh and his daughter Debbie Murphy who very kindly supplied their cruisers (Setanta and Boston Rose) for rest and comfort breaks, and accommodation for a period of three weeks. Kieran is a font of knowledge about the ways of the Shannon which proved invaluable on the swim.
Sincere thanks also to Kieran’s friends Betty Carroll and Brendan Conlon who helped to drive the boats. Thanks to Brendan and his friends who bought a meal for Fló Beo Team in Athlone Golf Club.
Dave Price with Shannon Queen who provided safety cover and also helped with cruiser driving on the last leg.
Longford Scuba Divers very generously supplied a safety RIB for the duration of the swim.
Thanks to all Club Members with special thanks to Seamus Duignan, and Rose Kane Pat Lysaght in Limerick who provided safety boat cover and brought the swimmers on the final swim into the Quay in Limerick. Pat is renowned as a support of kayakers, and swimmers on this dangerous stretch of water.
Limerick Swim Masters who accompanied Fló Beo Swimmers to make the final swim very special.
Curraghgour Boat Club in Limerick City who welcomed the swimmers out of the water and hosted a finish party for the swimmers and supporter who travelled to Limerick. Shower facilities were also provided for the swimmers.
Many people all along the Shannon offered support and advice. Fló Beo wish to especially thank Richard Cleary and Ray Beare.
The Fló Beo team availed of many tasty meals generously provided free of charge by restaurants: Lough Allen Hotel in Drumshanbo; Vittos in Carrick on Shannon; Keenan’s in Tarmonbarry; Aidy’s in Lanesborough; Hodsun Bay Hotel in Athlone; Flynns in Banagher; Lukers in Shannon Bridge; Chamber of Commerce in Portumna; and The Half Barrel in
Aldi in Carrick on Shannon; Flynn’s Supervalu in Banagher; and Smith’s Gala in Newtown Forbes sponsored food shopping for hungry swimmers.
Fló Beo received financial support from a large number of sponsors:
REA Ireland; Brady’s REA, Carrick on Shannon; and REA Limerick; Irish Contract Seating, Dromod; Laya Healthcare; Vistamed; Landmark Hotel; Crumbs; Esquires Coffee House; DPS Design and Print; Avant Card; Percy Whelans; O’Rourkes Garage; Mulvey’s House of Gifts; Sign Warehouse, Drumshanbo; Vittos; Feely Stone, Boyle; Bernie Glancy Neuromuscular Therapist; Carrick Craft; Core Timing and Lough Key Tri Club.
Annaduff GAA Club Annual Family Fun Day made a very generous donation to Fló Beo Charities. All the swimmers are from Annaduff. An emotional homecoming celebration was held by the Annaduff GAA Club to welcome the ladies back to Leitirm.
Last but by no means least Fló Beo wishes to acknowledge and thank committee members Jo O’Brien and Siobhan Doran for trojan work done behind the scenes. Without these two very busy ladies the swim would not have gone ahead. Thank you.
In gratitude to all the people above and for the support shown by the local community Fló Beo wishes to invite everyone to attend a Thank You Function to be held in Coxes Steakhouse, on Friday, September 20 at 9pm. Come along and join the Fló Beo swimmers. There will be light refreshments, a few speakers, some music, and spot prizes.