Brothers Gerald and Anthony Buggy grew up on the banks of the River Liffey in Dublin, jumping into the wild water behind their house to cool off on hot summer days.

They plunged back into the chilly river that runs through the center of Dublin on Sept. 11, two of about 350 participants in the Liffey Swim, in its 90th year.

"We were born on the banks of the River Liffey, so we decided to do it together just this once," said Gerald Liffey, 52, who shivered in the breeze after finishing the swim.

"We forgot to take our tablets this morning," quipped Anthony, 48, admitting that some people in the family thought it was a crazy idea. Others were all supportive.

"I think it's a brilliant achievement to do," said Gerald's wife, Helen, who brought her husband a towel and a hug. "They always swim. They always loved swimming. The Liffey went through their back garden. That was their swimming pool in the summer."


The Liffey Swim first took place in 1920, and the race was for men only until 1991, when women were allowed to join in the plunge.

The two races are divided by gender, and each race allows the slowest swimmers to begin first, with the next level of swimmers diving in every five minutes.

Swimmers entered the river at the Watling Street Bridge near the Guinness Distillery and swam 2.2 kilometers through the heart of Dublin, passing below such landmarks as Four Courts and Liberty Hall, under several bridges, including the famous Ha'penny and the O'Connell bridges, finally stepping out of the water at Custom House.

This year's race included 231 men and 114 women, ages 12 to 70.

Throughout the swim, families and friends of the swimmers ran along either side of the river cheering on the competitors. Tourists and locals alike stopped to applaud and take photographs.

At some points along the route, vehicle traffic crept along as pedestrians darted out in front of cars and buses to stay abreast of the race.

Weather was clear for the men's race, but the clouds burst open during much of the women's swim as umbrellas popped open above the race.


One young swimmer who took on the Liffey for her first time said it felt great to do something so unique to Dublin.

"It's grand," said Rebecca O'Reilly, 13. "It's kind of mad, though. It is mad."

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The teen was happy with herself for finishing the swim.

"Like, everybody's looking at you, and you feel all, you know, like, special," she said. "And it's true."

One Brazilian swimmer was on his way to swim the English Channel, but came to do the Liffey Swim after threatening weather in England kept him out of the water there.

"But I go back to England tomorrow and wait for good weather," said Tiago Sato. He said he found the Liffey's start times confusing, but other than that there was only one word that described the river.

"Cold, cold, cold," he said, standing in just his tiny swimsuit outside Custom House after finishing the swim.


Participants in the Dublin swim must complete four open-sea swims before taking part in the Liffey swim.

Would the Buggy brothers, who said the showers afterward were colder than the river, do it again next year?

"No!" Gerald said firmly.

"Yeah," Anthony declared.

"You liar," sputtered Gerald, the family breaking up in laughter.

"Yes, absolutely," argued Anthony, turning to his older brother. "I'd do it again. But only if you do it."

"All right," conceded Gerald. "We'll do it again, yeah."

The swim is sponsored by the Dublin City Council, which reported that Dublin is the only European capital city that holds such a race.

Painter Jack Yeats, brother of William Butler Yeats, in 1923 memorialized the swim in his painting The Liffey Swim that hangs in the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin.

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