The Mike Harris Trophy

So, how did we end up with THE MIKE HARRIS TROPHY?

Mike arrived in Cork, as a Doctor, with a reasonable background in outdoor sports.

In his youth (early 1960s) Mike combined trekking with an attraction to cold waters:

  • Akureyri just south of the Arctic Circle
  • Reykjavik and taking the lead to find a belay point for the rope when fording icy rivers
  • The rivers and lochs while climbing the Monroes in Scotland

At medical school in St. Andrews he joined in the pier diving, sea bathing, inner harbour waterpolo society and the occasional Sunday sprint across the snow covered west sands.

Once a respectable House Doctor in Dundee in the late 1960s, Mike joined Ye Amphibious Ancients Bathing Society. The annual swim was the 9 miles from Invergowrie to Broughty.

In the 1970s Mike was at Brompton Hospital in London and a regular at the famous Serpentine Club in Hyde Park.

Cork benefited from his move over in the 1980s where he participated in Masters Swimming and triathlons. Real, consistent open water “distance” swimming didn’t really catch on until the late 1990s. Then it was Mike, Steve Black and Imelda Lynch (plus the odd visitor) swimming round Sandycove Island. In the first year the three logged a combined total of 201 laps – which was massive at the time!

Mike kept up the pace of 60 to 120 laps annually while joining every other local swim: from 1.1k to Glandore to 8k from Portmagee to Knightstown. He journeyed afar as well taking in the famous swims: Alcatraz, Robben Island and Hellespont. Other trips with Swimtrek and back to Scotland were simply holidays with a dip.

By 2005, Mike’s health was poor and his joints were giving out. Before he become fully the bionic pensioner (metal hips and knees), it was decided to honour his massive contribution to Cork open water swimming. So, more than 20 swimmers bunked off work on a Thursday in December and surprised Mike for his birthday lap around Sandycove Island. The following letter was delivered and the magnificent trophy unveiled over a hot lunch.

8 December 2005
Cork Masters Swimming Club and the Sandycove Swimmers would like honour your contribution to open water swimming. We recall a few of the highlights:

  • Sixty plus laps around Sandycove Island each and every year
  • 120 or so laps in the last twelve months
  • Lee Swim Winner
  • Robben Island Solo Swim
  • Some reported successes in Scotland (or some such place)
  • The same pair of distinctive red togs
  • Never coming to a swim with less than tea and biscuits for ten
  • Gently encouraging swimmers in wet suits to embrace the elements
  • Refusing to acknowledge a “summer season” for open water swimming
  • Inventor of the “Harris Shower”
  • Swimming in conditions you describe as: “It’s a bit lumpy chaps”
  • Never swimming without your most competitive spirit

A group will join your birthday swim and lunch to congratulate you on your record breaking year. Even for this key date you didn’t stick to the agreed plan to do your 100th Island lap in 2005 – you just had to overachieve, again!!
To capture our respect in a more permanent way we have taken the liberty of commissioning a Mike Harris Perpetual Trophy for the Annual Sandycove Island Challenge.
Please enjoy it and guard it well these next months and we look forward to a spirited defence in 2006.
Barry Humphries – Chairman, Cork Masters Swimming Club
Steven Black and Ned Denison – For the Sandycove Swimmers

The winners of this annual trophy are not selected on the basis of fittest or furthest. Instead, they are people who exemplify the spirit, ethos and commitment to open water swimming. Past winners:

  • 2013 – Ciaran O’Connor
  • 2012 – Rob Bohane
  • 2011 – Ossi Schmidt
  • 2010 – Owen O’Keefe
  • 2009 – Mags Buckley
  • 2008 – Joe Donnelly and Eilis Burns
  • 2007 – Imelda Lynch
  • 2006 – Danny Coholan