Learning to swim - with alligators

As a way of learning to swim, diving head-first into water has its merits. But when there are two hungry alligators awaiting your arrival, it could well have a downside.

Yet later today, 58-year-old Josephine Fitzgerald from Callan, Co Kilkenny, will learn the hard way whether the swimming lessons she has taken have worked or not.

The mother of one will dive into an alligator pool in Co Kilkenny in a bid to raise funds for Breast Cancer Ireland. Josephine is undertaking the feat as a tribute to her daughter Cathy, 35, who is battling cancer a second time.

“I can’t really swim at all,” says Josephine.

“I have been taking lessons. I’m not great, but I’ll tell you one thing — if those alligators don’t like me, I’ll set an Olympic record on my way out of their pool.

“James Hennessy, the guy who owns the Kilkenny reptile centre where I will be taking the plunge, has told me that normally they are very docile in cold water, and tend to shy away from humans. However, he also said that if they feel under threat they are capable of killing.

“Being honest, I don’t think I am being particularly brave. I am fighting for my child and, because of that, I have no fear.”

“Look, if they do decide to have a bite at me, there’s plenty for them to sink their teeth into.”

Josephine says her daughter, Cathy — who has two sons, Daniel, 13, and Andrew, 2, — is an inspiration to anyone who knows her. “Her courage and bravery know no bounds,” she says.

“I have never heard her once complain in the past six years since she was diagnosed with this awful disease. She is my heartbeat.”

Josephine will take one little precaution before she enters the water.

“I have told James that I want to see the two alligators being fed before I jump in. It might not be a great idea if they were starving hungry when I arrived in beside them.”

But with a battling mum like Josephine, it might well be the alligators biting off more than they can chew.


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