On Wednesday 21 February, Bangor Rotarians enjoyed a very informative and, at times, amusing account from Brian Meharg MBE, of efforts in the early 20th century to swim the North Channel between Donaghadee and the Mull of Galloway- some 18 miles.
Brian, who is a renowned sailor and recognised ‘channel pilot’, in support of such swimming attempts, described how one ‘celebrity’ swimmer of that era, Mercedes Gleitze, a London typist, made several brave – but unsuccessful – attempts to swim the North Channel. Despite the help of a local member of the RIC, Constable McDevitt, who bravely applied copious amounts of grease to Mercedes’ body, the cold was so extreme that she had to abandon the crossing on each occasion. Her earlier achievements at swimming the English Channel (first English woman) made her a celebrity and such was her fame that her attempts on the North Channel attracted thousands of well-wishers to Donaghadee. Following these unsuccessful attempts she retired and spent the rest of her life in relative obscurity. Happily, as a result of Mr Meharg’s interest in her life story, BBC Northern Ireland is intending to make a programme for screening early next year.