Kerrera pals’ epic charity swim

Olly Vollum and Eachann MacGregor-Louw get ready to enter the water at the start of their challenge.

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Two plucky pals have swum the Kerrera sound raising more than £4,000 to improve island life for their tiny community.

Olly Vollum and Eachann MacGregor-Louw, both nine, braved darkness, cold water and a wintry squall to swim 900 metres back home from Gallanach on the mainland on Saturday.

The epic swim hails the boys, born and bred on Kerrera, the youngest ever swimmers to make the crossing.

So far their Justgiving page has brought in donations from more than 120 well-wishers  in aid of an ambitious project that will turn the island’s old school into a thriving community centre.

Money has also been pouring in from impressed family and friends boosting funds beyond the boys’ wildest dreams – their original target was just £100.

On the day, the tide took the boys off the straightest route, adding another 300 metres onto their courageous challenge.

Their mums Sheila MacGregor-Louw and Gill Vollum swam behind with dads Tim Vollum and Corrie Louw on a paddleboard and in a rib as back-up.

Supporters, including The Oban Times, also travelled alongside on the ferry cheering them on with a welcoming-party of islanders waiting on the island’s jetty.

Despite all their practise in the run-up to Saturday, there was still a few nerves just before getting into the water, said Eachann.

‘We were a bit nervous just before we got in the water. We’d only ever swum half-way across before then turned back. It’s brilliant we’ve done it, absolutely brilliant,’ he added.

And Olly said: ‘It feels amazing.’

Aideen Shields who is co-ordinating the old school community centre project said: ‘The boys are incredible. They’ve given the project the best Christmas present ever. Their passion and determination to take on the challenge is so inspirational. We have been working on the project for so many years and the boys have given it a tremendous boost. It’s wonderful they’ve done this.’

Ferry skipper Phil Salvadore was also impressed.  He said: ‘It wouldn’t have been easy for them in the water. They are a couple of little heroes. I’m so proud of them. You get triathletes swimming this Sound who couldn’t do it as fast as they did.’

The swim took just over 30 minutes.

In July this year, Kerrera’s 68 islanders bought the old primary school with a plan to renovate it and turn it into a multi-purpose community centre.

With no facilities on the island and the last public ferry at 6pm, giving islanders limited opportunities to socialise or take part in any classes or events.

Donations can still be made via justgiving.com/fundraising/kerrera-kids-swim

Olly’s younger brother Rory is now planning to jump the equivalent distance of the Kerrera Sound on his BMX.