'My friend powered her way across the Channel, through jellyfish and the dark'

The first of the entries to our Friendship Week competition is a watery tale of endurance

I met Bronagh Carey in an ordinary classroom in UCD in 2011 whilst we completed our Masters. Of course I didn’t realise at the time I had met the one of the most extraordinary people I will ever know. Back then, our friendship began by helping each other survive a stressful year.

Bronagh’s career then took her to Heidelberg, while I stayed in Dublin. Like so many friends of our generation, we stayed in touch via Skype, and the distance fell away when we got together in Dublin or Heidelberg to grab coffee and browse book shops.

Then in 2013, Bronagh told me that she had decided to swim the English Channel. Dover to Calais, whatever it took.

What it took was intense training and sacrifice, steely determination and true grit. Not to mention a heart of gold. At this time my Dad, who was diagnosed with mixed dementia a few years prior, began to deteriorate. Bronagh, seeing the effect this was having on me and my family, decided to raise funds for The Alzheimer Society of Ireland.


Swim sponsorship, charity bake sales and badminton matches were only the beginning and soon thousands of euro started to pour in.

When she asked me to be part of the boat crew I was hesitant as I can’t swim but as soon as Bronagh explained that she really wanted me there, a herd of wild (sea)horses couldn’t have kept me away.

I’m unable to describe the privilege of watching Bronagh power her way across the Channel; alongside tankers, through smacks of jellyfish and into the dark as we reached France. The photo shows me on the left and Bronagh on the right. It was taken around 4:30am in Folkestone, just before she jumped in the water

17 hours 44 minutes later, she reached the shore. An unbelievable achievement.

Bronagh is an incredible athlete, a remarkable person and a truly great friend. I am so lucky to know her.

If you would like to enter this reader competition, send your uplifting, amusing or poignant story of friendship to friendship@irishtimes.com by Wednesday the 10th of February. The entry should be no more than 300 words. Attach a high-res photo if you have one. The prize is a two night break in The Meyrick Hotel in Galway for you and a friend.