A PENSIONER dedicated two months to swimming the equivalent width of the English Channel in aid of a charity for people with paralysis.

Maureen McDermot, 89, learned to swim aged 10 in the Irish Sea near Dublin where she grew up and is still swimming regularly 79 years later. She said she has “always had competitiveness” after performing at club level in the 100 metre front crawl, though she takes it easier these days.

The mum-of-three moved to Ruthin about 13 years ago to live near her son and grandchildren in the town and continued to swim at Ruthin Leisure Centre. It was there that she saw a charity challenge by Aspire, which supports people who suffer spinal cord injuries, to swim the 22-mile distance of the English Channel.

The spinal cord, about as thick as a finger and twenty inches long, is a part of your nervous system and when damaged can disconnect the brain from parts of the body.

“I have always been enthusiastic about swimming and it is wonderful to be able to do it at this age,” Mrs McDermot said. “I saw the poster and thought ‘why not?’ It was good to be able to set a goal and have an incentive each week.”

Mrs McDermot swam an impressive 40 lengths each week in the 25-metre pool from mid-September to November, varying from front and backcrawl to breaststroke. While she may not be as young as she used to be, her dedication has not wavered.

“I learned to swim in the Irish Sea because we didn’t have pools growing up,” she said.

“Swimming is a sport you can do on your own and it is a form of meditation because you are in the water in your own bubble, concentrating only on your stroke.

“I have always been enthusiastic about swimming and it is wonderful to be able to do it at this age.During the challenge I kept adding a few lengths at the end of each swim so I was able to finish a bit ahead of schedule.”

Ruthin Leisure Centre staff member Glenda Williams said Mrs McDermot’s “is a bit of a legend” at the centre.

“Maureen swims most days, and despite having a car, always walks there and back. Her swimming is graceful and effortless, and her cheery and friendly personality makes her popular with her co-swimmers. She is one of the most inspiring people I have ever met.”

A spokesperson for Aspire said: “Every four hours someone is paralysed by a spinal cord injury and there is currently no cure. Maureen has done something incredible to help people with spinal cord injuries and their families to support themselves.”