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In 2015, 59 swimmers attempted an individual crossing with also seven relay teams. In total there were 82 swimmers supported by over 80 boats and 100 crew in the bay. For the final 250 metres into Blackrock diving tower, paddle boards and kayaks guide the swimmers home along with many more supporters and volunteers on the land. The swimmers safety is co-ordinated and managed by a team of local boatmen, sailors, fishermen and the RNLI.
History of the Frances Thornton Memorial Galway Bay Swim
In 2006, two great friends, Kevin Thornton and Ronan Collins decided to swim the famous Galway Bay. Frances Thornton, Kevin's mother, whilst apprehensive about the huge task, suggested that it could be an opportunity to raise some money for charity... A charity close to her heart. You see, Frances had cancer and her suggested charity was Cancer Care West. Kevin and Ronan agreed and so got busy training. Frances and Judy (Ronan's mother) who both had a passion for the sea, for swimming, and for their children and so got busy organising things for their boys - permits for bucket collecting, bag packing in Dunnes stores, providing the lads with soups, sandwiches, drinks, bananas and Mars bars from O'Connors shop in Salthill. Frances and Judy left no stone unturned in support of that first swim on Sunday July 30th, 2006. The boys swam their hearts out and Fran and Judy were there to welcome them onto shore. Hugs all round. Fran was always a fan of a good hug! The post swim party was pretty good too! Without the help of the two mums, the lads would have struggled to make it across and so when the boys decided to go for round two in 2007, the 'A team' support crew was put in place, but this time they had 8 more mouths to feed. The swim was starting to grow! Again, Fran and Judy canvassed the shops and the streets, a few bottles of Lucozade here, a few Nature Valley bars there, a cheque here, a €50 note there... all in the name of the swim and for Cancer Care West. €3,000 raised in year one, €16,000 raised in year two, lots of happy swimmers, lots of money raised, lots of cancer patients helped and supported.
"All you can do is try your best and be happy doing it"... a favourite saying of hers.
2007 was to be the last year that Frances would watch those happy swimmers arrive into Salthill and the last time she'd be there to hug Kevin and Ronan as they made their way up the Palmer's Rock slipway. She died on April 21st 2008 and the swim was renamed after her. The Frances Thornton Memorial Galway Bay Swim is entering its 10th year in 2015. In the 10 years of the swim over 250 people have made the crossing, including Frances's two daughters, Fiona and Claire. Fiona has taken up the mantle of organiser extraordinaire and is following in her mother's footsteps, whilst Claire became the youngest swimmer to make the crossing at age 16. Kevin, Fiona and Claire's dad, Brian Thornton is a huge driving force behind the fundraising and is a director of Cancer Care West. He has yet to do the swim! The event has now become the biggest fundraiser for Cancer Care West. That money goes towards supporting the many many patients and families that are suffering through cancer in the west of Ireland. Fran would be glad of that no doubt... and happy knowing that the hugs are still going around.
(Photo: Brian and Fran welcoming Kevin ashore in 2007.)