Mercedes Gleitze – 1929

Mid-Ulster Mail – Saturday 13 July 1929

Lough Neagh for long-distance swimmers

Miss Mercedes Gleitze first to attempt it

Mercedes Gleitze

Much interest was created at the weekend by the announcement that Miss Mercedes Gleitze, who has swum the English Channel and made four attempts to swim the Irish Channel last year, has arrived in Antrim to undertake the task of swimming across Lough Neagh.

Miss Gleitze, accompanied by Mr H Muir, her Irish Channel pilot, and two friends, arrived in Antrim on Saturday afternoon and was met by large crowds. She was given a cordial welcome. After being introduced to a number of the leading people of the town, Miss Gleitze was kept busy adding her name to autograph books and posing for amateur photographers. She soon made a host of friends.

Amongst those who waited to receive Miss Gleitze were Mr WT Cooper, chairman of the town commissioners; Mr RJ Kirk, JP CCr; Mr NE Clarke, secretary; and Mr Joseph Barr, engineer, Lough Neagh Cruisers Ltd, of which Mr RJ Kirk is a director. Miss Gleitze was introduced to Mr and Mrs Murphy, who said they would be delighted to have her as their guest during her stay in Antrim. Miss Gleitze is staying at the Massareene Hotel.

Having partaken of refreshments, Miss Gleitze and her friends proceeded to the Six Mile Water (which runs into the lough) where Mr Clarke had a large motor boat waiting to take a party on a cruise, and at the same time introduce Miss Gleitze to the lough. Mr Kirk, Cooper, and Mr Barr were on the boat. Mr Barr, who is well-acquainted with the lough, produced an excellent map and, after careful study, courses for a preliminary swim and a big attempt on Wednesday were decided on.

Mr Barr suggested a course which is about 13 miles from point to point but Miss Gleitze said she was anxious to attempt the widest part, and selected a course which will mean a swim of about 22 miles. It was pointed out to Miss Gleitze that the undertaking was a big one but she replied that she had swum for a distance of 27 miles in fresh water. In reply to a question, the swimmer was informed that there were no currents.

On her return from the enjoyable cruise Miss Gleitze was greeted on the bank by the 2nd Bangor Girl Guides who are camping close to the shore, their commandant being Miss Absolam, who was for three years Irish diving champion. Miss Absolam, like the girls under her care, was more than delighted at meeting Miss Gleitze. Miss Absolam introduced Guiders Miss Clapham QM; Miss Percy and Miss Polson, who are assisting the commandant.

Mr Kirk’s palatial motor yacht, Vandora, was lying alongside and the owner told Miss Gleitze she could have the use of the yacht on Monday and Wednesday. Mr Kirk extended an invitation to the Girl Guides to come on board on Tuesday. Needless to say the joy of the young folk knew no bounds. Motor boats and a rowing boat have also been placed at the disposal of the swimmer by Mr Clarke, who is arranging for a pilot.

On her return to the hotel Miss Gleitze was loudly cheered by a large crowd and, when it became known that she had decided to make her attempt to swim across on Wednesday, those of her admirers who were within speaking distance wished her “Good Luck”.

Mid-Ulster Mail – Saturday 13 July 1929

Swimming Lough Neagh

Miss Mercedes Gleitze’s New Feat

Miss Mercedes Gleitze, the famous Channel swimmer, swam across Lough Neagh from Ardboe to Whitepark on Friday 12 July.

She swam for a distance of about 18 miles and was 13 hours and 48 minutes in the water.

Miss Gleitze left the Massereene Arms Hotel, Antrim, where she was staying, and travelled by motor car for Ardboe. She was greased, and entered the water at 8.37am. She was accompanied by a motor boat and a rowing boat. The motor boat had on board a doctor, a solicitor, and a pressman, all of whom saw her enter the water and leave it. When she had been 5 hours in the water Miss Gleitze had covered at least 7 miles. She was swimming very steadily and chatted freely with the boatmen.

Mr B Dyer and Mr RA Dickson provided vocal and instrumental accompaniment to the swimmer, and records selected by Miss Gleitze were played. Her favourite records were Ave Maria by John McCormack; The Wedding Dance Waltz by Linckey, and Hawaiian Melodies. Two songs she repeatedly requested: The Dear Little Shamrock and I Dreamt that I Dwelt in Marble Halls.

The conditions could hardly have been better. There was a strong sun during the greater part of the day. During the day boats filled with passengers came close to the swimmer, who was loudly cheered from time to time.

Except when she was taking refreshments, Miss Gleitze kept using the breast stroke until the seventh hour, when she floated for a minute after taking her milk. When she had been 10 hours in the water, Miss Gleitze was forced by a stiff breeze to alter the course arranged beforehand. It had been arranged for Miss Gleitze to make for the Antrim landing stage but a strong breeze sprang up and the lough became rather choppy with the result it was decided to make for Whitepark, which is on the opposite shore from where she started.

Miss Gleitze touched bottom at 10.23pm, and scrambled on to the shore at 10.25pm. She collapsed. She was wrapped up in blankets and taken to a house nearby. After treatment she was conveyed to the Massereene Arms Hotel where hundreds had gathered to cheer a plucky girl. Still wrapped up in blankets, she was carried into the hotel and she acknowledged the deafening cheers with a pleasant smile. She was taken to her room and no one was allowed to see her until Saturday evening.

Swimming for 18 miles in fresh water must be regarded as a remarkable achievement.

The solicitor on the boat was Mr James P Murphy. The motor boat had on board Mr J Wallace, engineer, and Mr B Wallace, navigator. The arrangements for the swim were made by Mr John J Murphy, Massereene Arms Hotel; Mr S Ashworth, of Messrs Waters & Ashworth, Northern Ireland Tours, and Mr J Barr, Antrim.

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