Frances Thornton
Memorial Galway Bay Swim


The Frances Thornton Memorial Galway Bay Swim, from Auginish in County Clare to Blackrock Diving Tower in Salthill, County Galway, is the most popular marathon sea swim in Ireland. It has been instrumental in allowing long distance swimmers to complete their first marathon swim (10 km and above) and for many it was a steppingstone to even longer marathons.

Successes during 12 years of the Frances Thornton Memorial Galway Bay Swim:

319 solo (male)

96 solo (female)

154 relay (swimmers)

As expected with any marathon on the west coast conditions are often rough.   Add in jelly fish, average 15 C water and tides which do not always follow predictions and this marathon forces swimmers to be physically, mentally and emotionally prepared.  Good training for marathons like the English Channel.  

In earlier years there were several marathons in Connacht:  Inisbofin, Clew Bay and Killary Harbour.   These all fell away leaving The Frances Thornton Memorial Galway Bay Swim as Connacht’s contribution to the Ireland marathon calendar.  Because the event attracts a high percentage of first-time aspiring marathoners there is a mandatory qualification swim. This is typically in the same waters a few weeks before – but in rare cases other recent swims are evaluated.  This unique safety measure has been critical in forcing swimmers to be really prepared and lessened the safety issues on the day.

The Thornton family have all completed the solo swim:  Kevin, Fiona and Claire (the youngest ever swimmer at 16) and their father Brian swam as a member of the Thornton family relay team.  Kevin and Fiona are the driving force while Brian is a driving force behind the fundraising and is a director of Cancer Care West.

The swim is the biggest annual fundraiser for Cancer Care West and has raised more than €750,000.  That money goes towards supporting the many patients and families that are suffering through cancer in the west of Ireland.