Octopus Swimming Club celebrates 35 years

Octopus Swimming Club celebrates 35 years supporting people with disabilities

A local Galway swimming club who support people with disabilities are celebrating 35 years in the water.

The Octopus Swimming Club help people with disabilities such as amputees, head injury, spinal cord injury, stroke, spina-bifida, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis and visual impairment, to become “water free” or independent in the water.


The Halliwick technique, which guides the ethos of the club, means no buoyancy aids are used to help disabled swimmers.

Mary Arrigan-Langan set up the club in 1981 after being introduced to the Halliwick technique during her time nursing in England.

The first of its kind in the country, Ms Arrigan-Langan has been the key driver of the club over the past three and a half decades.

“I get a great thrill and a sense of achievement when I see the swimmers progressing. I have an instinct to hold people with severe disabilities in my hands. If somebody comes to me with a severe stroke or an amputated leg, I see the potential in them,” she said.

Despite retiring from her career as a Clinical Nurse Specialist in Osteoporosis in Merlin Park recently, there’s no sign of her pulling back from her volunteer work.

The Octopus Swimming Club meets every Monday night at Kilcornan swimming pool in Clarinbridge with anywhere between 30 and 40 people in the water on any one night.

According to Ms Arrigan-Langan, the club brings a number of benefits to members, including social interaction, a chance to exercise and respite for family members and carers.

“Being active is tremendously important for anybody but for somebody in a wheelchair they don’t get that exercise at all to the same extent and when you take somebody out of a chair they’re able to stretch out their body in the water,” she explained.

“It’s a great benefit for them and there’s also a sense of achievement and independence if they’re able to conquer some of the positions or swim independently.”

Barna native David Kennedy is a member of the Octopus Swimming Club.

A paraplegic confined to a wheelchair for the past nine years, he was introduced to the swim club six years ago and is now one of two of the club’s swimmers who competes in the open sea swims with Galway Triathlon Club.

As well as providing a good support network, Mr Kennedy said there are many benefits of swimming with the Octopus Club.

“It allows you to stretch muscle that you wouldn’t be able to stretch in a wheelchair or using conventional equipment. It also is a great social aspect because you’re meeting quite a number of other people with varying disabilities from strokes to people with cerebral palsy and there’s just such a variety of people there and then you also meet all the volunteers and it’s the volunteers that really make the club.”

If you are interested in getting involved with the Octopus Swimming Club contact octopusswimming@gmail.com





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