In pictures: Retired college tutor completes epic 60-mile swim for charity

A retired Boston college tutor has dodged curious seals and ‘green river gunge’ to complete an epic 60-mile swim challenge for charity.

Amanda Skayman having fun during the final swim with fellow Bluetits Karen Fuller and Gail Bevan. Photos by Leanne Donohue Photography.

Amanda Skayman took on the feat at Boston’s River Witham and Anton’s Gowt to raise money for Cancer Research UK in memory of friend Paul Donohue, who died from kidney cancer earlier this year.

The 61 year-old, who taught at Boston College from 1998-2019, began her challenge in July - swimming for a few miles each session.

She said: “After Paul’s funeral in July I came out thinking I wanted to do something to help as it was such a cruel illness and he was taken far too young at age 60. So I came up with the ‘60for60’ challenge - swimming one mile for every year Paul was alive.

Amanda and her fellow Boston Bluetits with Paul Donohue’s wife Carol Donohue. Photos by Leanne Donohue Photography.

“I had only ever swum on holiday before this and was not a good swimmer, so I started swimming at Horncastle, building up my distance with each session.

“I then joined the Boston Bluetits outdoor swimming group - and they have been absolutely fantastic. Members Gail Bevan and Karen Fuller joined me on my swims and thought it would be apt if we wore ‘60s-style flowery hats.

“On the final swim loads of them came to support me and hung bunting and the Bluetits flag - it was quite emotional.”

Amanda had a couple of goosebump-inducing moments during the challenge - and not just from the cold water. Some days she had to swim through thick surface weed, which she said was like ‘green gunge’. But one particular swim saw an altogether more lively encounter.

Amanda with Paul's wife Carol Donohue. Photos by Leanne Donohue Pohotgraphy.

“One day we had a curious seal that bobbed its head up near us - causing us to panic and swim as fast as we could away from it,” she explained.

“We were absolutely petrified. Gail and I got to the jetty and then I let out a loud scream when I felt something nudge my back - which just turned out to be my tow float.Then my foot caught Gail’s and she nearly leapt out the water like a synchronised swimmer thinking it was the seal. Thankfully it didn’t even follow us,” she laughed.

Having only initially expected to raise £250 - Amanda has seen her target increase ten-fold, to £2,390.

“It’s been brilliant how many people have donated - we even had sponsor money coming in from the US and Ireland,” she said.

Paul Donohue.

Paul’s daughter, photographer Leanne Donohue, was there to capture Amanda’s final leg of the 60-mile swim. She said: “It was great to see her finish the final swim of the challenge along with the other Boston Bluetits. Well done to Mandy.

“The disease dad fought was cruel, devastating and suffering to go through and watch. All cancer is evil, but kidney cancer is particularly hard to detect. Sadly, most people who are diagnosed are very lucky to survive long after diagnosis due to the nature of how it spreads.”

To donate to the cause, visit Amanda’s Justgiving page.

Amanda braces herself for the cold waters of the River Witham. Photos by Leanne Donohue Photography.
And she’s off! Amanda swims out for her final leg of the swim challenge. Photos by Leanne Donohue Photography