Bridge-jump crowd falls silent in memory of event-founder Jim, 69
HUNDREDS of people observed a minute's silence at the annual Mapleton Boat Race and Bridge Jump in memory of the "great" man who founded the event.
Jim Breeze, who had run the popular New Year tradition since the 1980s, died last month after a long illness, aged 69.
His funeral on December 21 was packed with mourners – many of whom gathered again yesterday to see 40 people take part in the boat race, followed by a 30ft bridge jump.
But before the event started at midday, crowds fell silent to remember Jim and followed it up with a 30-second applause.
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The sombre moment was observed by his widow, Pat – who started the race – and his three sons, Shaun, 48, Andrew, 45, and AJ, 42.
After the 700-metre boat race and jump, the brothers themselves took the 30ft plunge into the River Dove, as a tribute to their dad, who died on December 9.
Moments after climbing out of the extremely cold water, Shaun, the eldest brother, said: "When you hit the water, it is devastating.
"The water is so cold it blows your socks off. It's really tough but we did it in memory of our dad. It's great to see so many people here supporting an event he started all those years ago.
"There's not a charity he didn't donate to. Everyone here will have been helped by a charity he gave money to."
Ashbourne Lions ran the event for the first time this year after Jim fell ill, with help from Ashbourne Sub Aqua Club.
Shaun said they had done a sterling job. "My dad would be chuffed. The organisation has been unbelievable."
Also taking the plunge in memory of Jim was his step-granddaughter, Adelle.
The 19-year-old, who in 2009 became the first girl to win the women's boat race, said: "The jump was horrible. It doesn't get any easier the more you do it. I'm wearing a Pink Floyd t-shirt because my grandad loved them."
The river was about 9ft deep yesterday – a foot deeper than normal – because of the recent rainfall.
Twenty pairs took part in the boat race and first into the water to claim victory were locals George Hellaby and Matt Fernihough.
Ralph Walker and Jennie Clapperton came second, while Alex Milburn and Mark Allen finished third.
The occasion was also a memorable affair for PC Ian Cooper, as it was his final policing job ahead of his retirement.
PC Cooper, who is taking up a job as a teaching assistant, said: "I really enjoy policing this event.
"It's a great way to end my policing career."