Once the alarm sounds, I grab the phone to hit the snooze button. Same as every day, but then I remember this isn’t ‘everyday’ is it? Nope, it’s December, 25th. It’s Christmas morning! Its been a long tough few weeks, my back hurts and I wear my exhaustion on my face, but today; today is one of my favorite days. Gotta get up!
It’s not raining. Yet. Although the ashen sky outside whispers to me that it may be on its way. I don my weatherproof trousers, coat, scarf & hat and the little waterproof cover for my camera. Driving this early on Christmas morning is always very pleasant. Galway is sleepy and quiet as she sighs a huge sigh of relief that the shopping madness is over. As if the streets themselves were resting.
As I reach Salthill, I see the early birds have already been in the ocean. The COPE Galway team are there, together with their other volunteers setting up the registration desk, laughing and smiling and trying to ignore the cold. Neil and Munchie working away on getting the PA system working as well as readying the teas and coffee machines for the shivering masses who indulge post-swim. The Galway Lifeguards and RNLI are in attendance also, taking time out of their Christmas too, to keep everyone safe.
Soon after, the first swimmers arrive, then more and more. Now in its 28th year, the COPE Galway Christmas Day Swim is my favorite tradition. Throughout the morning, literally hundreds of people arrive at Blackrock for their swim or just as spectators.
Tradition is important. Rain or shine, they’re always here. Families, individuals, children and dogs! Swimmers and non-swimmers, they all come down to pay tribute to their traditions. To meet and greet, to wish Happy Christmas. To spend time with others. To feel less alone.
This year, something new happened. For the first time, people started to seek me out. ‘You took our photo last year!’ they say, ‘Will you take it again this year but with my sister too?’. Needless to say, this made my day! People who I have photographed every year for the last few years started to, in a little way – count me into their traditions.
I hope you enjoy the photos and please feel free to share. As always, if you’re photograph is included here and you would like it taken down. Please just drop me an email.
For 28 years the people of Galway have supported the work of COPE Galway by signing up to take part in the Christmas Day Swim and raise funds to help vulnerable and isolated men, women, children and families in Galway. The aim of this event is to raise money to help fund Galway’s local services in homelessness, domestic violence and for older people.
Read about some of the past COPE Galway Christmas Day Swim events here.
If you would still like to donate to COPE Galway and help them out in the work they do, text COPE to 50300.
Every year at the COPE Galway Swim, I try to photograph the amazing crew of people who also do the swim in aid of the Galway Cystic Fibrosis Hospital Project. This charity is so very close to my heart, having lost someone very near to me who lived with CF herself. My brothers also did the swim for CF Galway and raised over €300 for this very worthy, local charity who work to look after the kids and adults in Galway City & County living with Cystic Fibrosis.
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