ARRANMORE Island native Paddy Conaghan was taking it easy this week having completed a second marathon tour around the Irish coast on Sunday.
The sprightly 82-year-old undertook 515 swims in 98 days. He slept in his van for 97 nights before making the final leg of his sea journey home with a Garda escort.
The veteran swimmer was congratulated by singer Daniel O’Donnell and members of the RNLI, before taking the Blue Ferry to Árainn Mhór and a great welcome home by neighbours and friends. Among them was Elaine Grady who has been doing all the social media for Paddy’s challenges.
Having decided not to do the final swim, Paddy has turned it into a challenge for the next hardy soul to take up and continue raising funds for good causes.
Speaking to the Donegal News the pensioner said he has now left the door open for someone else to take up the mantle.
“It’s about the journey, not the end. I only thought about the challenge for someone else the other morning. It would be the right thing to do. It will take me a couple of weeks now to get back to normal,” Paddy said.
So far this year Paddy’s Ducking and Driving event anti-clockwise around Ireland has raised over €11,000 for a number of mental health-related charities and the RNLI. He stressed that it was not about being the best or first but it is about the experience and just getting up and getting on with it and doing what you can.
“It is more important now than ever before to raise awareness of mental health and help these charities to continue to do the amazing work that they are doing.”
This is the second time that Paddy has driven around the coast of Ireland in an open water swimming challenge. His first journey in 2021 raised over €100,000 for the Donegal-based charity Gemma’s Legacy of Hope.
Last month the Arranmore native won the World Open Water Swimming Association (WOWSA) Man of the Year Award for last year’s challenge. The awards, announced in San Francisco celebrate “individuals and offerings that embody the spirit of open water swimming and have positively impacted the community, showcasing their determination, fortitude and sense of adventure”.
Last month Paddy celebrated his 82nd birthday and according to local RNLI member Nora Flanagan he is as fit as can be.
During his working life he worked in tunnels in Thailand, Hong Kong, Denmark, the Channel Islands, Isle of Man and every place from Lands End to John O’Groats, but claims his greatest achievement was driving and ducking 515 times at beaches clockwise around Ireland as he celebrated his 82nd birthday in January. Paddy set off on his latest quest on December 4 2022 having previously faced the challenge of diving off as many piers as possible anti-clockwise around Ireland.
His chosen charities this time continues to support mental health and a charity close to his heart – the RNLI.
“I chose the RNLI because I am very familiar with the work they do in saving lives at sea, we have a lifeboat on Arranmore since 1883 that has saved many lives and I thought the RNLI would be a safe bet if I got into bother in my ventures around the coast. They also rely on fundraising by the public so I hope I can raise some money for them.”
Paddy was supported at every swim by people who turned out to join him and who supplied him with food, towels and the odd bottle of whiskey to stave off the cold.
Owners of the Arranmore Blue Ferry Seamus and Louise Boyle supplied him with a van and kitted it out with bedding and cooking appliances. Paddy chose to stay full time in the van despite many offers of bed and breakfast. He felt it added to the challenge to stay in the van, enduring temperatures of minus two degrees at times.
“I would really like somebody else to continue this challenge on a yearly basis, always leaving Maghery beach for the next challenger. I am so glad to have completed the circuit twice, it gave me a great sense of satisfaction to do something for the various charities, I wasn’t doing much else with my life.”
Speaking having had a long chat with Paddy, Nora Flanagan said he was “the most unassuming, modest man I have the pleasure to know”.
“We are so proud of him. He is incredible,” Nora added.
To donate to Paddy’s charities follow the link www.idonate.ie/fundraiser/paddysadventure