History was made this week by 19 year old Meghan Chisholm of Swift Current. She joined the select group of people who have managed to swim the English Channel. Meghan is the first from Saskatchewan to do it. As far as I know, Claudia McPherson of Winnipeg was the only Manitoban to swim the channel. She was only 17 when she made the crossing in 1963.
Among those who are filled with pride about Meghan is Denis Chisholm, her 90-year-old grandfather. I am honoured that Denis is a friend of mine. During my first Regina life in the late 1970’s, Denis was the Deputy Police Chief. More recently, during my second life in the Queen City, we were neighbours.
Denis grew up in Prince Albert. In 1940, he lied about his age and joined the Regina Rifles. On June 6th 1944, he was among the thousands of Canadian soldiers who landed on Juno Beach. He told me it was as horrible a day as anyone can possibly imagine. He won’t talk about it in detail, and Saving Private Ryan is a movie that Denis Chisholm will never watch.
I should mention that Denis himself has been a fabulous swimmer all his life, and when the shooting finally stopped on that blood-soaked beach 70 years ago, he and his buddy looked across the channel and thought about what that swim might be like.
“I said Johnny, do you think we can swim, swim across? You could see the white cliffs of Dover, it was a beautiful day, I remember. Yeah, we were in the middle of a war and England looked very enticing you know, about twenty miles away.”
How wonderful that Denis has lived to share the joy of granddaughter Meghan. And how fortunate we all are that Canadians and others can swim the channel without fear of gunfire, thanks to those who landed on that beach so long ago.
I’m Roger Currie