Loony Dook: Fundraiser to brave freezing River Forth on New Year’s Day

Posted: 19/12/2017 |

A dedicated fundraiser will take a daring dip in the freezing River Forth on New Years Day to support Royal Blind – for the fourth year running! 

Robert Kelly, of Dumbarton, will be one of around a thousand people to take part in the Loony Dook, a Hogmanay tradition in which participants plunge themselves into the icy waters from South Queensferry High Street. 

Robert stands with the sea and Forth rail bridge in the background, wearing a Royal Blind tshirt The 52-year-old solicitor first took part in the chilly challenge in 2013. We caught up with Robert to find out what inspires him to support Royal Blind - and how he handles the ice-cold temperatures. 

Click here to find out more and sponsor Robert.

What events have you taken part in for charity? 

I have involved myself in many things for charity. I have done the Kiltwalk a few times, and I always do the full 26-mile walk. I have also grown a beard for Decembeard and taken part in the Dryathlon. I am a member of Amnesty International and have done fundraising for them as well as for CHAS.  The first fundraising activity I ever took part in was in the pre-internet days of 1980 when my parents drove me around Glasgow to get my sponsorship sheet stamped at Glasgow's landmarks when I was doing Oxfam's Get To Know Glasgow.

Why did you decide to become a Royal Blind fundraiser? What inspires you?

I am a reader of The Scotsman and first found out about Royal Blind when I saw the advert in the paper in November 2012 for volunteers to do the Loony Dook on behalf of Royal Blind. I got my name down that very same day.

I am always willing to do anything for charity but I am very willing to help Royal Blind. From childhood, when I first read about Louis Braille, I thought it must be a terrible thing to be blind and never be able to see all the wonderful things there are in this amazing world. People can lose their sight for many different reasons, be it old age, disease, accidents, the result of a physical assault or combat injuries. Regrettably, even in the 21st Century, people are still being blinded in wars and the increase in news reports of acid attacks, which can permanently deprive a person of their eyesight, is unsettling.

There are many things that inspire me but I admire people who do things for a good cause. I take my hat off to celebrities who use their celebrity status to promote good causes. I was inspired to participate in helping UNICEF after attending the first of two Q & A's in Glasgow with Sir Roger Moore. I have been a fan of the Bond movies since I was 10 so it was great to actually meet Sir Roger. Prior to the first Q&A, I read Sir Roger's autobiography My Word Is My Bond. What I thought was admirable that unlike many show business autobiographies, Sir Roger didn't just talk about his life and career in the book, he also devoted a sizeable part of the book to publicising UNICEF.

What is challenging about the Loony Dook, and what is your favourite thing about the event?

I was a member of Strathclyde University Windsurfing Club so naturally I am used to freezing cold water. I therefore don't find the Loony Dook that much of a challenge from the point of view of getting into the water. Whenever I am in Ireland I go swimming at the Forty Foot Pool in Sandycove which is just south of Dublin. Swimming in the freezing cold Irish sea is something I can cope with no bother. The Forty Foot Pool is incidentally, where they hold what you could say is Ireland's equivalent of the Loony Dook. Every Christmas Day, thousands of people plunge into the sea at the Forty Foot Pool although I have never yet done the Christmas Day Swim at the Forty Foot.

I like the cheerful atmosphere of the Loony Dook and the typically upbeat feeling of a Scottish New Year's Day. It's also nice to mix with people and I have met some very interesting people at the Loony Dook. South Queensferry is also a very good place to spend New Year's Day.

What do you enjoy about fundraising for us?

I enjoy any kind of fundraising and like it when it's doing something out of the ordinary, whether it's jumping into freezing cold water or walking 26 miles in a kilt. 

What is your favourite memory of a Loony Dook event?

I have many fond memories from doing the Loony Dook but this year, a girl from New York who I'd never met before (she was wearing a I ❤ NY t-shirt) asked her friend to take a picture of her with me. I have had the same experience after leaving Murrayfield in my kilt so I must be acquiring a legendary status. In May this year, when I was in South Queensferry filming the Flying Scotsman crossing the Forth Bridge, a barman in the Hawes Inn recognised me from when I'd been in the pub prior to doing the Loony Dook. You get to know all kinds.