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A Swim – Cooraghy, Rathlin Island, Co. Antrim, Ireland. by Susan Hughes

Under the Fjord VII, Oil on Paper, 21 x 15cm

Under the Fjord VII, Oil on Paper, 21 x 15cm

I’m scared of the idea of the well in the cave down at Cooraghy Pier, the source of the “nicest water on Rathlin” I am told.  When I get there it’s not so bad.  The golden light hits the mossy moist rocks like a spotlight making the cave colourful and inviting.    The well is a bit like a holy water font.  Or the spring in Lourdes without the perspex cover and the snaking queue of pilgrims.  I drink from it.  It is indeed very nice.

The cold drips from the roof of the cave are dripping on my head.  I go back into the light outside.

I remember coming down here when the grass was up to our chests.  We got ticks.   Today I am well sealed into my clothing and the grass has been manicured by Flowery Mary so its ok.  No ticks.

I scout about analysing my situation for swimming.  I get that rush of excitement you get just from the thought of being totally immersed, floating, brushed by soft seaweed, smelling the sea.

Cooragh cliffs

Cooragh cliffs

On the crumbling ledge I don’t go all the way into the water for fear that my pathetic upper body strength will fail me when I need to hoist myself back out.  So I sit with my legs over the edge, the swell sometimes heaving around my thighs, the seaweed caressing my feet. The water is so clear here.

Being alone down at Cooraghy doesn’t scare me as much now.  The white cliffs and concrete don’t lean in on me like they used to years ago, my eyes aren’t looking around to check if anything is coming to get me.  Instead it is thrilling and private and powerful there.

After my near swim and my hot drink from the flask I head up the many steps.

At the top I edge towards the underground bunker which houses the big chain that used to pull the stuff up the cliff when they were building the road and lighthouse.  It is totally terrifying and I do not go inside, instead looking and looking into the darkness and listening to the drips.  It crosses my mind that there is nothing to be afraid of in there and if I did go in it would probably be amazing.  But I dispel this thought promptly, stay out safe in the light and head back down the road.

Under the Surface, Cooragy, Rathlin Island

Under the Surface, Cooragy, Rathlin Island

inside-the-well

inside-the-well

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