Cub, 8, set to swim ‘the Channel’ to raise Selkirk scout hall roof

Ivan Burt-Smith (8) who will be swimming 22 miles (1416 lengths)  at Selkirk Swimming Pool to raise funds for a new roof for Selkirk Scout Group hall
Ivan Burt-Smith (8) who will be swimming 22 miles (1416 lengths) at Selkirk Swimming Pool to raise funds for a new roof for Selkirk Scout Group hall

AN EIGHT-YEAR-OLD in Selkirk is going to swim the equivalent of the English Channel to raise money for the local scout hall.

Cub Ivan Burt-Smith will start swimming 1,416 lengths of the town’s pool later this month to help raise some of the estimated £25,000 needed to reslate the roof of the hall in Mill Street.

Proud dad Graham said: “It was his idea. It’s a pretty big effort for an eight-year-old to be making.”

The family – environmental consultant Graham, wife Jan and children Olga, 10, and Ivan of the town’s Murison Hill – had gone to London to watch water polo and fencing at the Olympics in the summer.

“Since then the children have been quite captured with everything involved with the Olympics, and swimming particularly, and Ivan came up with the idea of swimming ‘the Channel’ himself, ” said Graham.

Sister Olga is a member of the Selkirk pool’s swimming club and Ivan joined this week. Both children learned to swim locally and have been regulars at the pool for some time.

Ivan is now swimming about between three and five times a week as he gears up for the self-imposed challenge. He was having swimming lessons once a week until joining the club which meets twice a week, and he is going along with Olga to swim on other evenings.

Full-time Mum Jan said: “I think it’s amazing he’s doing this. He’s a very, very competitive little boy.”

She explained Ivan had seen an advert at the pool for a swimathon for another charity and said ‘I want to do that’ and decided, since the scout hall needed a new roof, that he would do a long swim for that.

And she explained the logistics: “At its narrowest point the Channel is about 35.4km or 22 miles which is equivalent to 1,416 lengths of Selkirk swimming pool (25m per length). Ivan will swim three to five one hour sessions per week depending on how he can fit it around his homework and other activities.

“He will swim approximately 50 to 55 lengths per session, hoping to finish in a little over 24 hours in total (we’re hoping 28 hours absolute maximum) so, effectively, he will be swimming the Channel in just over a day! He plans to complete his challenge on Tuesday, March 12 at some time between 6.30pm and 7pm so that people can come and cheer him on to the finish if they want to.”

She explained Ivan’s decision to support the local Scouts.

“The Scouting organisation, particularly so in the Borders, give so much of their time and effort to making children’s lives exciting and giving them tastes of and opportunities to do so many things that, without them, they’d never even think of doing, and they do it all voluntarily.

“Not only that, they regularly help raise funds for other causes as a matter of course. It’s about time someone did something to help them out. So, that is Ivan’s intention, and (it is also a) ‘thank you’ to them,” she said.

Local cub leader and acting group scout leader Graham Coulson said of the plucky eight-year-old’s effort: “It’s fantastic, he obviously enjoys being a Cub Scout, so if he wants to do this, it’s great – and he’s done it off his 
own back.”

The local Scout committee is just getting under way with fundraising for the roof now and also plans to apply for grants, Mr Coulson said.

Dad Graham said: “We really have no idea how much Ivan will raise. We would like to raise as much as possible. I think he’s going to be excited if he can raise anything.

“He’s really looking forward to it. He’s motivated by challenges – whenever you give him a challenge it’s just something to be overcome. This is something that he’s decided to do and he’s really looking forward to actually doing it.”

Ivan, who attends Kirkhope Primary School, also plays tennis, does judo and turns out for the town’s junior football club.

Selkirk’s Cubs, Brownies, Scouts and Beavers, and swimming club members will have forms for sponsoring Ivan and he hopes to put a sponsor form in Halliwells Butchers in the town.