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Swimmers complete 365 dips in a year to raise cancer awareness

A group of swimmers has completed 365 cold-water dips in a year in memory of a father who died of a rare form of brain cancer.

The Dunmurry Dippers swim every day at the Colin River in Dunmurry, and over the past year their exploits have attracted a growing following on social media.

Margaret Gilgunn travelled to the river from her home in Downpatrick on Saturday to see her son Peter and his friends dive into the icy waters in tribute to her husband Tom, who died of glioblastoma in May.

Members of the Gilgunn family travelled to the river (Dunmurry Dippers/PA)
Members of the Gilgunn family travelled to the river (Dunmurry Dippers/PA)

She said: “It is a superb achievement. I am sad but still so proud of Peter and his friends.

“All of the publicity will bring glioblastoma to the public attention because people won’t be aware of it unless it affected them personally.

“It has raised the profile so it can only do good. If it can help someone not go through what we went through, then it will have been worth it.”

The Dunmurry Dippers have now raised more than £2,500 for The Brain Tumour Charity doing their daily early morning swims for a full year.

Peter Gilgunn, who started the cold-water endeavour after his father was diagnosed with cancer in November 2021, was overwhelmed by the turnout of well-wishers.

“It has been amazing. The response has been phenomenal. The main thing is there is going to be a real awareness of glioblastoma now,“ he said.

The swimmers in the icy cold Colin River (Dunmurry Dippers/PA)
The swimmers in the icy cold Colin River (Dunmurry Dippers/PA)

When Mr Gilgunn found out about his father’s illness, he did research and discovered that it receives very little funding and survival rates are below 1%.

“I was determined to raise awareness of this terrible disease and hopefully encourage more funding into finding a cure,” he added.

“When I first got into (the swimming) I thought it would be very difficult and a real physical and mental challenge but I didn’t realise that there would be so much camaraderie. The wee group has morphed into a men’s shed.”

Dessie Aughey, one of the founder members, said the daily swims helped to bring him back to health after an accident.

“It’s a miracle story. I broke my back when a horse fell on top of me in 2015.

“I could hardly move then I found this place.

“That pool saved my life and brought me back to full fitness.

“I spent a full year on my own in the river then I was joined by the rest of the group.”