Dublin’s Forty Foot over Fourteen Years | Cassandra Voices

Dublin’s Forty Foot over Fourteen Years

For the past fourteen years I have been a daily swimmer at the Forty Foot in Dun Laoghaire – my home town.

Seven years ago I began documenting this life down by Sandycove, particularly those summer days when the sporadic Irish sun comes out, a signal for Dubliners everywhere to descend on this place to cool down, socialise, get intimate and, above all, have fun. 

In winter’s past this small enclave around Sandycove harbour is deserted, bar myself and a few other hardy swimmers and misfits from modern society.

This winter – the year of Covid – things have changed.

The so-called ‘Dryrobes’ crowd have arrived to join our old motley crew this year, as more ‘normal,’ well-heeled Dubliners have come to soak up the magic water, and enjoy, or endure, our icy secret, that used to be the preserve of those of us considered mad by the rest of society. But in the new normal of our world today, what is normal?

The only normal people I know, are the ones I don’t know very well !

The Forty Foot is special to me; three years ago it nearly took my life, when a wild storm hit as I was swimming out by the rock.

But the sea water has helped heal me spiritually, physically and mentally. Every day however cold I swim. Sometimes alone, sometimes with my crew. Nearly always I come out refreshed and feeling alive, even normal. 

When the first days of summer arrive, along comes the rest of Dublin to bask by the Irish Sea.

Teenagers come to celebrate the end of school; to have their first drink or maybe first romance – just as I did, decades ago.

The regulars come to top up their all year tans, and take longer swims.

Lovers come to be alone and get intimate; families congregate at the back of the Forty Foot wall, on the small Sandycove beach – the quiet side.

All of this happens around one big rock on the southern tip of Dublin, a place that makes Dublin so special to me, and many others.

These fourteen images from my fourteen year pilgrimage give an insight into this unique Forty Foot life and style, that comes so alive in summer, and even now this winter. 


About Author

Inspired by the colour, energy and the DIY attitude of punk, Barry Delaney fled the grey Dublin of the early 1980s, to travel the world. Along the way he fell in love with film photography. Twenty years on, after quitting alcohol he began making pictures again, beginning on the streets of Dublin, a place well familiar to him. Since then he has moved on to other parts of Ireland and across the ocean to America. In 2008, Barry won the TG4 Irish photographer of the 21st Century. He has had six solo exhibitions in Dublin, including an historic show in the GPO in 2019, where he also launched his first book Stars and Souls of the Liffey. Last year he launched a book on Modern America, with poet John O'Donnell - Americans Anonymous. He aims to complete the trilogy with a book on the Forty Foot next year.

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