About Jim

Surrounded and encouraged by friends and family

Jim’s journey was filled with courage, determination, boundless enthusiasm and relentless training.

His remarkable solo swim saw him become the first and only swimmer to conquer Lough Ree's formidable length without a wetsuit.

Joanne's View

As a family, we have very fond memories of the months before and after Jim’s swim. Once he was committed to it, the gruelling training regime started and on a typical day, he swam anything from 3000 metres upwards before 8am. As training intensified, he was back to the pool again in the evening or out to the lake for more punishment.

Looking back, I am not sure now how he did it all, because after his morning sessions, he was home to roll in with busy family life of school, work and, in the evenings and at weekends, to be on the sideline for every sports training session and match the kids were involved in.

Later into his training he took to the lake and then myself and the kids could help out a bit more. Hannah did some kayaking, I continued helping in the kitchen with food and diet, and the boys helped him with the gear and prep work from home. Our eldest Niamh was on a J1 in New York when we received a call from her to say that she was in a coffee shop and had seen a photo of her dad in Outlook magazine, taken during the Cork Distance Swim Week. He was famous!

Jim loved that distance week spent in Inchydoney, Cork where swimmers from all over the world come to train for open water distance swims such as the Irish Channel. Once he got over the imposter syndrome, he loved to hear the stories of their swims and all their big water ambitions — and to talk about the challenges, fears, and joys of it all.

In those months, Jim took every bit of training, guidance, and advice that was going. I remember him thriving on the challenge and his enjoyment at being exposed to so many new experiences, not least yoga, massage, aromatherapy, all of which he embraced with gusto and good humour.

On the day of the swim, the kids said their best wishes to their dad in what they recall as the middle of the night, and he and I set off for Lanesboro, Co. Longford. Lanesboro Bridge was to be the starting point and where we would meet up with the swim team. He had been steeling himself for so long for what was ahead and he felt both nervous and excited. He was eager to just get going. I knew he could do it because of his sheer grit and determination, and I just hoped that the day would be good to him.

It was great to see the familiar faces in Lanesboro; Olaf and Grainne, Dave, Liam, Matt and more. It's only looking back that I fully realise the amount of work that was happening around Jim to make this a success. Everyone had their role to play in those months before the swim and on the day. On that morning, we were all both nervous and excited.

My heart was in my mouth as I watched him set off on his swim out of Lanesboro. Dawn had not yet broken, the water looked still and dark, and I was glad the team were around him by boat as he swam away. Driving home, I said a silent prayer, one of many that day, that he would come home safe and happy with what he had achieved. My mind and heart were with him every step of the way that day. Thanks to his coach, Dave Warby, there were regular phone updates on his progress. It was a day like no other.

Thoughts of the day bring to mind the great team Jim had behind him, supporting him in every way they could over the months to make this day a success – all of them giving their own time and totally immersed in what was unfolding. His friend Olaf told me many years later that Jim made him promise he would not let him out of the water no matter what.

His friend, and Olaf's sister, the late Grainne O’Neill was also there every step of the way, she stood with me at Lanesboro to see him off and again at the finish to see him in. She was such a great support and friend to Jim and we miss her. It was Grainne who suggested Westmeath Hospice to Jim when he wanted to choose a charity for the swim. Jim’s parents, his brother and sisters and extended families and my own mum and extended family were fantastic support all the way too.

I remember too that Local “Viking Mike '' carried a group of people down river on his Tour Boat to meet Jim as he swam. Jim said that the crowd’s shouting and cheering for him from the boat buoyed him as he swam the last few kilometres into Athlone Castle.

He was so grateful to his fellow swimmers and friends who got into the water to swim the final stages with him back to his hometown.

By evening, we were part of a massive crowd gathered at the Castle and Sean’s bar to see him finish. The mood was light, then as time went on, pensive, with everyone waiting in anticipation. Then awe and euphoria as we could see Jim coming in the distance.

Word was travelling that he was feeling good and had given the thumbs up to the crowds lined along the river bank as he swam. To me, the crowd felt like a massive gathering of family and friends – everyone there for a common purpose, to see Jim in, to see him home. There was a sense that something amazing was happening, something we could all draw strength from.

As he came to the slipway, he waved to the crowd and stayed for a few seconds in the water. As Charlie and Grainne helped him from the water, I could see Jim was mentally and physically shattered. After 13 hours and 34 minutes in the lake swimming a distance of 34 kms, he was emotional and almost overwhelmed by the crowd and the welcome he received. He had not expected it. For me, it was wonderful to see him, to hug him and hold him close. He had done it and he was home. It was almost unbelievable!

Jim’s untimely passing on 19th November 2018 leaves us as a family with a depth of sadness and a loss that no words can adequately describe. We miss him everyday and he lives on in our memory and in the legacy of the person he was to us. We are grateful for the joy that swimming brought to his life and of this phenomenal achievement where after almost 11 years, he is still the only solo swimmer to swim the length of Lough Ree without a wetsuit.

We are very proud to be a part of this memorial swim for Jim. It promises to be a fantastic event for the town and for the Midlands to come together again, shout for the swimmers, remember Jim, and most importantly, fundraise for the amazing charity Pieta.

The Coach's View

“I had the pleasure of coaching Jim for 16 years, he started swimming for rehab on a back injury and in the early days struggled to swim 100 metres. With persistence and hard work, he made his way up through the groups to make it into the top lane and was the life and soul of the group. Everybody in the lane had to be on top of their game or Jim was there ready to take over the lead. Jim was a swimmer with a diesel engine who could go all day at a steady pace.

In August 2011 we were at a mutual friend’s wedding and the conversation came around to swimming. No one had ever swam Lough Ree solo in skins, a swim on par if not more difficult than the English Channel. This was the challenge Jim needed and so the journey began.

We put a plan in place and Jim set about preparing for the mammoth challenge. Jim never missed a session and my job as a coach was made easy by his positive attitude and hunger to do more. At the peak of his training Jim was swimming twice a day and covering 50km a week, pushing the boundaries and showing all of us what could be achieved. With a strong mind and a positive attitude failure had not been an option for him. Jim was at his happiest in the open water, at one with nature and with no black line to follow or walls to stop him, Jim loved the freedom.

In August 2012 we had the pleasure of being on the lake to witness Jim becoming the first swimmer to swim solo from the bridge in Lanesboro to the bridge in Athlone, a total of 34Kms in 13hour 34mins.

"Jim was an ordinary swimmer who achieved an extraordinary feat”

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