Then & now Rosie Swale, adventurer


IN 1971 SHE sailed around the world in a catamaran. More than 30 years later, she circumnavigated the globe again – in a pair of trainers. Rosie Swale became a 1970s celebrity when she embarked on a round-the-world trip with her first husband, Colin Swale, their daughter, Eve, and the most basic of navigation equipment. The media followed her journey very closely, not least because she spent much of the trip naked. Sunday tabloids regularly ran pictures of her nude
in the ship’s rigging.

Sailing around the world had its hazards – she fell overboard 1,450km (900 miles) from land and the family suffered arsenic poisoning from unsoaked beans. But running round the world (fully clothed, we hasten to add) was no less dangerous: Swale nearly froze to death in Alaska, was stalked by wolves, and got hit by a bus in Russia. However, her round-the-world jog – which she set off on in 2003 and completed five years later – was just the latest in a list of incredible feats of stamina and endurance. In her career as an adventurer, Swale has crossed the Atlantic solo, ridden through Chile on horseback, and run through Iceland, the Sahara, Albania, Romania, Cuba, South Africa and Nepal.

Compared with these super-marathons, running 380km (236 miles) along Ireland’s east coast from Rosslare to the Giant’s Causeway in 2009 was a doddle (although she did find the Wicklow Mountains a bit tricky).

Swale was no stranger to Ireland, as she grew up in her grandmother’s cottage in Co Limerick. She was born Rosie Griffin in Davos, Switzerland. Her father was an Irish soldier who served in the British army; her Swiss mother died when she was two, and she was sent to live with her grandmother, Carlie, in Askeaton.

Young Rosie’s early childhood was spent looking after her sick gran, along with several donkeys, goats and a cow. When she wasn’t being schooled at home, she was out riding her horse in the countryside. Her taste for adventure manifested itself in her late teens, when she hitch-hiked alone to such places as India, Nepal and Russia. She met Colin Swale in her early 20s and they had two children, Eve and James. After they divorced, she met and married Clive Pope while preparing for her solo transatlantic trip. When Pope died in 2002 of prostate cancer, Swale Pope, as she is now known, made her round-the-world run to raise funds to fight the disease.

Throughout her very active life, Swale Pope has been a tireless fundraiser for various causes. These days, her constant companion is a cart called Icebird, her “home on wheels”, which she pulls behind her on her super-marathons. In January, the 62-year-old set off from Paris to Rome in aid of cancer research, although a knee injury just days into the journey has forced her to finish it with the aid of crutches. When she’s not out adventuring, she lives in the town of Tenby in Wales.