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Connacht Tribune

Women on crest of a wave with daily swim for 35 years

Dara Bradley



The Blackrock Lady Swimmers pictured recently (front, from left) Mary Wade, Muriel Silke, Pauline Henry, Alice Parsons and Pamela O’Donovan, with (back) Monica Sweeney, Patsy Callinan, Maureen Farrell, Anne Grete Gormley, Frances Daly and Mary Nee. PHOTOS: JOE O'SHAUGHNESSY.

Lifestyle – A group of women who began taking a daily dip in the Atlantic more than three decades ago have formed firm friendships as a result of year-round swimming, sharing each other’s joys and sorrows and being there for each other through thick and thin. They tell DARA BRADLEY about its benefits and how they welcome the new people who’ve taken to the beaches during Covid-19.

When a series of swimming lessons given by Sr Noelle, a Mercy Sister, finished at Leisureland one summer many moons ago, a group of women on the course decided they’d go sea swimming the following week at Ladies’ Beach.

That was 35 years ago this year – and the group is still going strong, swimming daily in Galway Bay at Salthill.

In the beginning there were about 15 of them, who swam every Wednesday. Then they upped it to three times a week, and now it’s a daily endeavour for a hard-core group of a dozen women who are affectionately known as the Blackrock Lady Swimmers or BLS for short.

The twelve are Alice Naughton, Alice Parsons, Francis Daly, Mary Nee, Mary Wade, Muriel Silke, Monica Sweeney, Pauline Henry, Anne Grete Gormley, Maureen Farrell, Patsy Callanan and Pamela O’Donovan.

“Some of us had never been to the beach and certainly never swam at the beach,” recalled Pamela O’Donovan, who hails originally from landlocked Boyle in County Roscommon but has lived in Maunsell’s Road for 50 years.

“It was an off-shoot of swimming classes we were doing with Sister Noelle. From there we got a love of the sea. Some of us were only beginner swimmers and some were quite good swimmers. Some of our group have gone on to get teaching certificates in swimming; they’re qualified and teach swimming in Leisureland,” she said.

Initially, the women used to stop sea swimming for the year in October. But one year, possibly 1990, a ‘brave heart’ among them suggested a Christmas swim – and 2020 marks their 30th dip on December 25.

“I remember the first Christmas we were down there, we had our hats on, and musician Benny O’Connor, who plays melodeon, serenaded us down to the tower!

“We were only one of a few groups there on Christmas Day that time and now you can hardly make your way down to the tower, it’s become so popular,” Pamela said.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Compliant Galwegians are keeping their distance

Francis Farragher



Checkpoint...Garda warning for those who stray too far from home.

BOY racers, cyclists, gym users and young people attending house parties are among those in Galway who have been issued with Fixed Payment Notices (FPNs) for breaching the Covid-19 travel regulations over the past week.

However, Gardaí in Galway have reported ‘a very high-level of compliance’ from the general public as regards the travel restrictions that are a central part of the Level-5 ‘Stay Home – Stay Safe’ Covid campaign.

Over the weekend, Gardaí issued FPNs to so-called ‘boy racers’ in two separate cases on the Tuam Road outside Galway city and in the Craughwell area.

FPNs – involving a €100 on-the-spot fine – were also issued last week to a number of young people attending house parties in the Galway city area, after Gardaí had been called to the scene.

Two cyclists stopped in the Cornamona area of North Connemara last week, who were 19 kilometres from their homes – and outside their own county boundary – also faced Garda censure.

The cyclists weren’t from the same household; they weren’t wearing masks; and also, were in breach of social distancing regulations.

Gardaí also came across a case of a gym in South Galway being used by a number of people last week – also a breach of the Covid-19, Level-5 restrictions.

While Gardaí also received a number of calls about possible ‘pub-opening’ violations, on investigation, they found no sign of activity on the premises they checked out.

Galway Chief Garda Superintendent, Tom Curley, told the Connacht Tribune that overall, there was ‘a very high level of compliance’ as regards the travel restrictions which was ‘very encouraging’.

See full story – and comprehensive Covid-19 coverage – in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download our digital edition from

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Connacht Tribune

Lessons learned on home-schooling

Denise McNamara



Cathal Moore, principal of the Presentation Athenry.

Home-schooling is working better this time round with many teachers conducting live classes and more students actively engaging than when schools closed suddenly last March.

But virtual education is a poor substitute for the experience of the classroom with students sorely missing social interaction, according to teachers, while parents are still struggling to balance working from home with ensuring their children keep up with the school work.

The sooner that schools can reopen safely the better for everyone – although most agree that it’s looking more likely to be after mid-term than at the beginning of February.

“Everybody is in a better place this time round – schools, teachers, parents and students. Everybody expected to be back at school. It’s no secret last time we got two hours’ notice but this time round we’re better prepared,” remarks the principal of the Presentation Athenry, Cathal Moore.

The mixed secondary school is doing a mix of live and recorded classes as not every student has good broadband.

After the first week, there was feedback from students that they felt there was too much homework in addition to the virtual classes while teachers reported that they would prefer more live communication from their charges.

“It is more tiring – fatigue is definitely a factor when on a screen all day and if this goes on for a prolonged amount of time it will creep in for a growing number of students.”

Read the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download our digital edition from

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Connacht Tribune

Hard-pressed hospitals down 450 staff over Covid

Dara Bradley



More than 450 staff – including nurses at UHG and Portiuncula – are now out of work due to Covid, as staff shortages threaten the public hospitals’ ability to cope with the crisis.

The upsurge has seen UHG deal with a record number of Covid-19 patients, and the hospital had to escalate its surge capacity plan and add extra beds in ICU.

The latest CSO figures reveal that the first week of the New Year was Galway’s deadliest yet on the pandemic front, with five lives lost over those opening seven days of 2021.

That brought the total number of virus fatalities in Galway to 25, and it’s understood there have been further deaths locally since then, which will be confirmed later.

From March to the end of November there were 20 deaths notified in Galway, and no further deaths were recorded in all of December.

News of Galway’s deadliest week comes as local leaders in the HSE, Garda, and local government joined forces to warn that Covid-19 was still spreading rapidly in the community.

Nationally, between January 5 and 18, there were 263 Covid-19 deaths recorded, according to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HSPC), which does not give a geographical breakdown. Of these deaths, 119 were hospitalised and 14 had been admitted to ICU.

The median age of all of Galway’s Covid fatalities is 83; the median age of the confirmed cases in Galway is 31 – the lowest of 26 counties.

See full story – and comprehensive Covid-19 coverage – in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download our digital edition from

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