In the movie of his life, “plump, stately” Donal Buckley will dramatically played by George Clooney, with swimming stunts by seven times world 50 metre champion Mark Foster, a platoon of Irish Army Rangers, and a seal. A real seal. A Common Seal.
Born in 19whatever, Ireland’s year of Independence and nine months after his mother went for a swim in the Shannon river estuary, it was obvious that Buckley would unite the lands and the seas of his newly forged country. He grew up in the landlocked centre of Ireland, far, far from the Atlantic, destined as both his spiritual and temporal home. The modern incarnation of Ireland’s ancient sea-god Mananaan Mac Lír, he was born with the sounds of seagulls and breakers in his ear, and sand in his butt-crack. His first words were said to have been the interrogative cry’ “how stands the wind for France“? But perhaps more unusually, his new-born infant toes displayed both the lacerations most commonly associated with barnacles and a mild verruca infection that was to plague him his entire life. His mother reported that when he smelled of rotten seaweed she knew it was time to change his nappy, after which procedure he usually smelled of chlorine. The contents of said nappy remain undisclosed.
His largely unrecorded teenage school years are reported as being terrorised by Christian Brothers and various ball games, and he has admitted to being perennially haunted by nightmares of a never-ending (Gaelic) football game for which he was the last picked but the first and most regular recipient of illegal tackles. A deeply deeply religious child, a summer mystery coach trip with his grandparents to see the Moving Statues of Ballinspittle in the ‘sixties went astray and he first cast eyes on the Atlantic’s steel grey immensity at the legend-shrouded reefs of Spanish Point on the west coast, where the last ships of that doomed invasion force had foundered, but whose Latin ghosts called to the young future mariner from the roar of the peeling waves.
He reached maturity and we glide over his many maritime adventures during the next decade and a half, which include serving as an expatriate rescue swimmer on a Russian submarine and becoming Ireland’s greatest ever average marathon swimmer, first ever Ten Times Ice Miler and one of the countries best 100-metre-freestyle-with-one-leg-in-the-air-swimmers∗, he moved to North Korea in 2010 as the personal swim coach of noted hydrophobe Kim Jong Un, partly because they will make easy bad guys in the aforementioned movie, and partly with the aim of ending the USA’s Olympic medal dominance at Rio 2016 as part of the Korean Dear Leader’s plan for world
peace domination peace domination but he was betrayed by the regime due to its despotic insistence on using Total Immersion as an open water swim coaching technique.
The central set piece of the movie will feature how he was incarcerated in a labour camp, which he only survived due to his virtually superhuman ability to withstand the North Korean winter cold. He eventually escaped the camp by swimming naked through a seemingly endless sewage pipe after which for a record-breaking 74 hours he swam around the shark-infested demilitarized zone connecting North & South Korea, the short one mile direct route requiring an 86 mile diversion, without a support pilot or pre-mixed feeds. Or even goggles, since he had lost his personally hand crafted ivory and sapphire goggles (another story that’ll be in the Special Edition DVD) in the raid by North Korean special force ninjas which resulted in his incarceration.
Returned to Ireland he soon became the face of L’Oreal’s new Winter Swimmer cosmetic range (“sheep fat, because you’re worth it“) and in honour of his and the nation’s shared birth year, was granted Honorary Admiral and Commander-in-Chief positions in the country’s coast guard (and thus waiving the costs of any future helicopter call outs). In memory of his outrageous escape and the team he
abandoned left behind, he also founded the North Korean Channel Swimming and Escaping Federation and hopes one day to coach the first ever North Korean Channel Swimmer.
When the wind blows hard from Biscay, where ever salty dogs share a cup of grog and reminisce of Force 6, it is whispered of The Lone Swimmer that his bones are blackest reefs and his skin of toughest kelp. That his blood isn’t just same salinity as brine like normal blood, but is actual brine. He urine has warmed the Atlantic by one degree. Celsius. He laugh is loudest when the winds and seas are highest and can be heard in the pounding of the surf and the roar of the gale. His diet is plankton, jelly fish, jelly babies and more jelly fish. The wind blows from out of his eyes, whose blackgreen depths are deeper than the Porcupine Trench. Strong men whisper at his swimming grace and his seed is like onto the spawning of the largest school of mackerel, (which he always has to spell-check). He is brother to the salmon, father to the shark, beloved of the albatross.
The Lone Swimmer is to be found where the sea meets the sky and all hope is both lost and found. He is wind and ocean, storm and cloud, horizon and harbour. (And that nasty kind of sharp grit that you get instead of sand at some beaches that doesn’t pair with anything. Or the annoying shingle on Dover “beach”. There’s an inappropriate, incorrect and stupid name if ever there was one).
LoneSwimmer who is nevertheless perplexed by other’s insistence on calling him The Lone Swimmer as he only refers to himself in the third person when he is at least two-mile offshore and suffering hypothermia and lack of jelly babies, feels the time is right to become the Tom Cruise of the open water swimming world. He is after all, the right height.
Based on a true story∗, LoneSwimmer The Movie, expects to be greenlit for production by the end of today. It simply requires someone in Hollywood to be an open water swimmer who claims some tenuous Irish connection and who will get hammered for St. Paddy’s Day.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day to you all, and remember, it’s NEVER St. Patty’s Day.
∗ The bit about the one-leg in the air freestyle is the true bit. I’m good at that, maybe because it’s such a useless swimming skill.