Hardy souls brave the elements for annual New Year’s Day swim

A total of 81 hardy souls braved the cold waters of Carnlough harbour for the hugely popular annual New Year’s Day swim.

The event, which raises money for the Ballymena branch of the Spina Bifida Association, was taking place for the 43rd year.

Freezin' for a reason! Late comer Stuart Gilmore makes a spectacular entrance as he jumps into the freezing wate rat the Spina Bifida Hydrocephalus New Year's Day charity swim at Carnlough Harbour. INBT 02-118JC

Freezin' for a reason! Late comer Stuart Gilmore makes a spectacular entrance as he jumps into the freezing wate rat the Spina Bifida Hydrocephalus New Year's Day charity swim at Carnlough Harbour. INBT 02-118JC

On a damp but mild day, and with a favourable tide, as 12 noon struck, Geoff Bell - who has competed in all 43 swims - aided by Bert Kernohan, Hugo Carlin and Angela McClements ushered a total of 81 hardy souls into the water.

There to keep a watchful eye on everyone were members of the Larne Branch of the Saint John Ambulance and in front of a record number of spectators to raise funds for the local branch.

What a day it was for the number of new first time swimmers and in particular the young people taking part along with the usual stalwarts. The full list of those who took part was:

Gemma Taggart; Natasha Taggart; Raymond Abram; Trevor Ashcroft; Scarlett McCutcheon; Jasmine McCutcheon; Blaze Lambert; Caitlin McCutcheon; Rob Lawrence; Katie Morrow; Julie Morrow; Stephen Gracey; Arthur Chatfield; Alastair Neeson.

Rita Stevenson; Mark McConnell; Tom Ward; Bert Kernohan; Neil Kerr; Richard Gault; Dana Kernohan; Josh McCrory; Anthony O’Rawe; Paul O’Rawe; Stefan Armstrong; Andrew Kernohan; Ryan McFadden; Jemma Willans; Julie Hanna.

Aimee McCully; Audrey Moss; Andrew Moss; Craig Moss; Jamie Moss; Geoff Bell; Sean Harvey; Marie Harvey; Stuart Gilmore; Blaithin O’Kane; Nicola Rock; Laura Marshall; Rachael McKinley; Niamh McKinley; Zara Surgenor.

Marin McAleese; Alan Traynor (Cavan); Anna Hasson; Ashley Surgenor; Shiels McAleese; PJ McAleese; Clodagh McAleese; Aidan Gillan; Paul Hardy; Scott Gilmore; Eddie Gilmore; Gregory O’Kane; Montel Gilmore; Megan Turtle.

Lydia McAuley; Hugo Carlin; Steven Penny; Simon Paine (England); James Paine (England); Nigel Law; Darren Donnell; Curtis Donnell; Barry Smyth; Grace Smyth; Barney Rea; Daniel Gillan.

Stefan Wills; Mark Smith; Stuart Smith; Tara Bruce; Claire Picken; Sarah Rainey; Angela McClements; Megan McClements; Michael Surgenor; Deborah Surgenor; Charlie Gillan.

With everyone back on terra firma and changed they made their way to the Bridge Inn to get fed and watered prior to the social festivities taking place. They included Irish dancing, as well as the annual men against women choir singing, in which the ladies were adjudged the winners.

Mementoes and certificates were presented by Mrs Joan Linton and daughter Ray to the swimmers who had taken part on the day with all the swimmers being warmly applauded.

After a few hours of entertainment and as the evening drew to a close Billy paid very special thanks to the following people:

Gerry Burns and staff of the Bridge Inn for their courteous service and use of the facilities

Aidan Canning who provided the music for the singing and Dancing

James Henry and Staff Broughshane Street Ballymena who provided the transport and chaperoned the swimmers from the Seven Towers Leisure Centre. Ballymena

Larne branch of the Saint John Ambulance for their attendance

Robert McHenry and the Carnlough Rowing Club for the use of the boathouse

Mr Peter Mairs, proprietor of Presentation Trophies, Ballymena, who supplied the swimmers’ mementoes

The following newspapers for their coverage - Ballymena & Antrim Guardian, Ballymena Times, Belfast Telegraph and News Letter.

Caprice and Sabrina Donnell for the Harbour Collection which raised £217.00

Sabrina and Darren Donnell who organised the raffle, and to Mrs Joan Linton and Friends who donated prizes which raised £284.00

In closing Billy paid tribute once again to Bert, Choirs, Dancers and General Public and by no means least “The Swimmers” without whom the Swim would not be the success it is today. Billy wished everyone a prosperous new year and hoped they would all meet again in 2016.

* A pair of glasses was found on the slipway at the harbour on the day. Anyone who wishes to reclaim them can contact Billy McIlroy on 07718 809314.