An RAF officer from Wigan conquered a beast of a challenge to raise money in memory of his mother.
Flt Lt Ian Smith swam the length of Loch Ness - Scotland’s most famous loch rumoured to be home to the Loch Ness Monster - covering 23 miles in 13 hours.
He was raising money for charity Ovarian Cancer Action after his mother Kathleen Smith died in February after battling the disease.
Ian, who was brought up in Winstanley and attended The Deanery High School, trained regularly for the challenge with lengthy swims in the River Spey and Moray Firth.
It was not just the distance that he had to tackle, but also his almost phobic fear of dark water.
Ian, who joined the RAF in 2000 and is now the media and communications officer at RAF Lossiemouth, said before the swim: “I know the distance is more than I’ve ever swum before, but the depth of the water, and not being able to see what’s in the water, means this is more of a ‘mind over matter’ challenge for me.”
The challenge began at Fort Augustus when the water was calm and the sun was just beginning to rise.
A two-man support team kept an eye on Ian’s route and health during the swim across Loch Ness, which contains more fresh water than all of the lakes in England and Wales combined.
He had regular food and drink stops to keep up his energy-sapping effort and by noon he was passing Urquhart Castle.
After around 14,000 strokes, Ian reached the north end of the loch at 6pm where he was met by his wife Helen and eight-year-old daughter Amelia, as well as his sister Alison Long.
Despite swimming for 13 hours, Ian was able to gingerly walk out of the loch on to the pebbly beach alone.
After recovering, Ian, who used to play for Orrell Rugby Club, said: “I’m feeling not too bad, but I’m so glad it’s done.
“Getting in to the loch before sunrise and getting under the water for the first time really was one of the hardest parts of the swim.
“A lot of it came down to mind over matter and just having a conversation with myself about what isn’t in the water.
“There were a few times when the water magnified leaves and bubbles in the murky water and that really focused my thoughts for a little while.
“But it was all worth it. Ovarian Cancer Action is very close to my family’s heart and raising almost £3,000 for research into ovarian cancer is much more than I’d expected.
“I’ve had so many messages of support and donations; I’d just like to thank everyone for that.
“Helen has said I’m not allowed to do any more challenges for a while, so I might just take it easy and stick to swimming in the pool with Amelia.”
Donations can still be made through Ian’s fund-raising page www.justgiving.com/Ian-Smith139.