Memories of Tommy Baker

By | March 16, 2021

The Blackwater Triathlon Club would like to extend its condolences to the family of Tommy Baker, a stalwart of the Fermoy swimming community, who passed away last week. Tommy was well known to most people from around Fermoy and especially to anyone who ever swam in the River Blackwater. He was also the uncle of one of our current members, Brian Baker, and the grandfather of one of our former members, Owen O’Keeffe, another renowned swimmer. For many club members, Tommy was the man who introduced them to the joy of swimming in the Blackwater River. Dave Mulcahy, one of the club’s most enthusiastic swimmers, remembers Tommy from when he first moved to Fermoy: “It was a lucky day back in the mid-1990s when I called in for a haircut on the Main Street in Fermoy. The barber was Tommy Baker and in the course of conversation he mentioned swimming in the river Blackwater. Within days I was introduced to the nearby river and, along with Leo Bartley, joined in the daily ritual each evening at 6 o’clock. Hail, rain or shine they would show up and swim for 20/30 minutes. Even if the river was in flood they would get in up river and shoot downstream. I will always remember Tommy’s routine after a swim was to squeeze out his togs and conceal them up on a wall behind the ivy for the next day. Following on from this a few casual swimming events started. At the time you could rock up, sign in and participate, but as time went on races became more formal and competitive. These events had a few different incarnations, one being the Martin Duggan memorial swim organised by Tommy’s grandson, Owen O’Keefe, and many triathlon events run by BTC including the annual races and The Great Blackwater Swim. Over the last twelve months of lockdowns open water swimming has thrived and as swimmers we owe much to Tommy for his pioneering work and enduring influence. He will be greatly missed.”