Tweed swimmers dip in to help our heroes

Intrepid fundraising River Tweed swimmers John Ediey (front) and Alistair Smee at the Tweed's Junction Pool, Kelso
Intrepid fundraising River Tweed swimmers John Ediey (front) and Alistair Smee at the Tweed's Junction Pool, Kelso

IF you spot Tillmouth boatman John Edey swimming the River Tweed later this month, he hasn’t fallen out of his row boat.

Instead he was so inspired by the servicemen severely injured in the war in Afghanistan that he took fishing last year that he wanted to raise money for the charity Help for Heroes to help them and others.

A ghillie for 31 years, Mr Edey, also known as “Wee John”, said: “I was so overwhelmed with the spirit and camaraderie of the boys. Some of the stories they told us...There were three or four ghillies every day and we all had tears in our eyes and lumps in our throats.”

Sprouston’s Mr Edey and asset manager and fisherman Alistair Smee hope to swim 35 miles down the Tweed from Kelso’s famous Junction Pool to the lifeboat station in Berwick over the weekend.

The pair have been training with Mr Edey, who served for seven years with KOSB Territorials in Galashiels, swimming three times a week in the Berwick pool. And they’ve already raised about £3,000, but expect to reach £5,000.

The ghillie and fisherman came up with the idea as they took a dip at St Abbs on New Year’s Day. “We just discussed it on the beach: I said ‘Do you fancy doing the Tweed?’,” said Mr Edey.

They went to a party in a nearby pub afterwards and quickly announced their plans publicly.

Asked what he thought might be the tougher bits of the swim, he said: “I know the river, but once we get to the tidal stretches it will be different – at least in the shallow bits you can see the bottom, you can adjust and know what speed you are doing, but not further down.”

And he said he was looking forward most to arriving at the lifeboat station and completing the task.

The pair have given themselves two days to factor in variables such as water temperature, rapids and catching the tide at Horncliffe as they get nearer the sea.

Two friends and Mr Edey’s son 11-year-old Andrew are providing support in boats and kayak.

Mr Smee, who is currently serving with the Territorial Army 7th Battalion the Rifles, said: “Whilst John and I are undertaking this adventure for ourselves we are also hoping to raise money for Help the Heroes. We have both been involved with taking injured soldiers fishing on the Tweed, in particular John, who was so impressed by their wonderful spirit and lack of complaint, despite injury.”

The swimmers leave Kelso at 10am on Saturday. Anyone wanting to donate should visit www.justgiving.com/TweedSwim