HUNDREDS of brave souls are set to start the new year with a jolt as Scotland’s oldest open-water swimming club leads its annual plunge into the icy waters of the silvery Tay.
IIn a tradition that has been taking place for more than a century, a crowd of hardy – or perhaps foolhardy – souls in Broughty Ferry will celebrate the first day of 2016 with a bracing “dook” in the harbour.
The custom was begun in 1891 by keen open-water swimmer John Barrowman, who founded Ye Amphibious Ancient Bathing Association (Yeaaba) after encouraging the town’s fishing community to join him in a daily morning dip in the Tay.
Yeaaba, known locally as the Phibbies, is believed to be the first – and only surviving – swimming club of its kind.
Today the organisation runs a variety of open-water events for everyone from juniors to veterans, with a summer programme of routes that attract swimmers from around the UK, Europe and beyond.
The club has a strict dress code – no wetsuits, because it spoils the challenge of swimming in the sea, and stricly no mankinis.
In 1984, I think, when we went down to celebrate the tradition the Tay was iced over. We got a stick and broke it up so we had enough water to have a dook. Then we went home for a cup of tea.Joyce McIntosh
Today’s New Year’s Day dip has come a long way from its humble beginnings more than 130 years ago. It has grown into a massive community event, with crowds of up to 5,000 onlookers expected to turn out this year to witness around 400 dookers of all ages who have signed up to take part.
Many will be in fancy dress, raising money for various good causes.
Water temperatures for swimming club events held during the summer swimming must be above 14C. On 1 January this can plummet into the minus figures.
Phibbies chief ancient Joyce McIntosh has only missed one New Year’s Day dook in 36 years with the club. She will once again lead bathers as they take the plunge, regardless of weather conditions. In 1984, I think, when we went down to celebrate the tradition the Tay was iced over,” she said. “We got a stick and broke it up so we had enough water to have a dook. Then we went home for a cup of tea.”