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Honour Swimmers

Conor Gunn (Right) with ILDSA President Billy Wallace

Conor Gunn (Right) with
ILDSA President Billy Wallace

Conor Gunn has completed most of the major swims in the UK and Ireland.

Among his many achievements he won the 17km Men’s Irish Open Water Swimming Championships 10 times in a row between 1992 and 2001.  He has also completed this swim 3 other times, most recently coming 3rd in the 25th Anniversary swim in 2015.

Conor completed the English Channel, completing the crossing in 9 hours and 11 minutes in 1994. This is still the fastest time by any swimmer from Ireland.

He has also completed Windermere (classic 10.5 miles) coming second in the race in 1993 and swan Manhattan Island (28.5miles) in 2001.

Owen was the youngest swimmer (aged 16) from Ireland to swim the English Channel 21 miles/34 km in 2009 in 10 hours and 19 minutes. This was the second fastest crossing by a swimmer from Ireland until bettered 3 years later.

Owen pioneered several swims and remains the only swimmer to have completed these solos: Cork City to Myrtleville 16.2 miles/26 km in 2009 in 5 hours and 47 minutes, around Sherkin Island 9.9 miles/16 km in 2011 in 3 hours and 58 minutes, to Tory Island 7 miles/11.3 km in 2012 in 4 hours 21 minutes (others have swum the other direction) and Fermoy to Youghal 37.3miles/60 km in 2013 in 12 hours and 8 minutes with stages completed in preparation the year before Fermoy to Ballyduff (11.6 miles/18.6 km), Ballyduff to Cappoquin 9.3 miles/15.0 km and Cappoquin to Youghal 16.4 miles/26.4 km.

Other solos include: around Jersey 33.6 miles/54 km in 2013 in 9 hours and 35 minutes (fastest male at the time), around Cape Clear 8.2 miles/13.2 km in 2012 in 3 hours and 47 minutes (first ever), Lough Erne 17km in 2009 in 4 hours and 11 minutes (fastest from Ireland), Strait of Gibraltar 8.9 miles/14.4 km in 2010 in 3 hours 52 minutes and Crosshaven to Blackrock 11.2 miles/18 km in 2008 in 5 hours 37 minutes.

He also contributed over the years as the organiser of the Martin Duggan Memorial Swim in Fermoy to honour the memory of a local boy who drowned tragically in the river. In 2012, he crewed on a number of English Channel crossings including Trent Grimsey’s world record swim of 6 hours and 55 minutes.

Colm was the second swimmer from Ireland, after International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honoree Ted Keenan, to complete both the English and North Channels. The English Channel in 2002 in 11 hours 42 minutes and the North Channel in 2004 in 11 hours 25 minutes.  Colm was the 8th solo swimmer to have conquered the North Channel in the years when it was rarely attempted. Only recently has this become a popular swim and with each success the pilots become more skilled and swimmers more knowledgeable. Colm’s status in the world of marathon swimming after the North Channel was extraordinarily high.

Colm completed Manhattan in 2008 in 7 hours 56 minutes.

In Ireland he was 2nd overall (fastest from Ireland in Lough Erne in 2003 in a time of 3 hours and 46 minutes), swam Inishbofin (7 miles) four times and holds the speed record for almost 20 years, completed Blackrock to Cobh (7 miles) and completed an Ice Mile in 2018.

He was part of “The Swim” – a relay across the Irish Sea in 2011 organised by Richard Branson which raised more than £300k for charity.  In addition, Colm was an active mentor to the Cork “aspiring” marathoners in 2004/5 and helped to kick start their success.

Fergal Somerville would be the one of five in the Hall to have accomplished both the North and English Channels and in faster times: 12:40 and 12:21. In addition, his North Channel swim set the record for the earliest swim. He has pioneered two marathons in the Aran Islands: Inis Meáin to Connemara (14km) and Round Inis Meáin (12km) and two marathons in Dublin Howth to Skerries (26km) and Dublin Bay Two-Way (15Km Dun Laoghaire – Howth – Dun Laoghaire).

Other marathons include Cork to Cobh (16km); Lough Sheelin (15km) in 2010, 2011 and 2012; and Cleggan to Inis Bofin.

Over more than a decade Fergal has earned the respect of the sport and acquired the nickname “The Channimal”.

Fergal is a contributing figure in Ireland marathon and extreme swimming: crewed for many marathoners in both the Channels and major Ireland swims, hosted many visiting international marathoners to Dublin, organised 7 years of ice swimming and appeared in several televised documentaries: ‘Get Off the Couch’ as mentor of swimming to participants on the programme and ‘ExTreme’ which focuses on six extreme sports.

Honour Contributor (Organisation)

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.

Honour Contributor (Crew)

Imelda crewed for 7 different English Channel solo swimmers from 2006 to 2010: Danny Coholan, Ray Terry, Eddie Irwin, Liam Maher, Finbarr Hedderman, Rob Bohane and Lisa Cummins over and back (35 hour) swim. All were successful on their first attempt except for Rob who returned later to conquer the channel.

She also crewed for Carmel Collins Myrtleville to Monkstown in 2015 (10 km) and the Allez Les Verts English Channel relay in 2015 (13 hours and 37 minutes).

For her first swimmer Danny Coholan, she planned, inspired and accompanied him on several first ever local training swims: multiple times Sandycove to Speckled Door 4-way (20 km), 3-way (15 km) and 2-way (10 km) plus Kilmacsimon to Speckled Door (23 km). She also swam with him to Inisbofin.

Imelda was a trusted observer as on several marathons:

Stephen Redmond: Fastnet to Schull – First Ever
Anne-Marie Ward: North Channel unsuccessful swim
Carmel Collins: Ballycotton to Ardmore (25 km) – First Ever

All three of these swimmers went on later successes. Redmond the first Oceans Seven and induction into the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame, Ward competed the North Channel and was the World Open Water Swimming Association Female Swimmer of the Year and Collins completed the North Channel and set a world record for the longest Ice Swim of 3 km.

Imelda is an accomplished marathon solo swimmer as well:

English Channel (second from Cork) in 2005 in 14 hours and 34 minutes
Strait of Gibraltar
Clew Bay
WakenitzMan from the Ratzeburger Lake to Luebeck Germany (14km)

Her relays include:

English Channel – over and back and single
Fastnet to Schull (24km)
Lake Zurich (26.4km)
Windemere – over and back (34km)

Imelda played a large part in the success of the Sandycove Island marathon swimmers over the last decade and a half.
Her rookie swimmers didn’t make typical mistakes which contributed to an amazing success rate. She is one of the local “knowledge repositories” for marathon swimmers and crews”, often consulted well in advance and held in very high regard. Imelda never took pay for her time.

The 2020 Event