In memory of Lynne Rivers Roper; the mermaid that broke the mould
Date: Thursday 18th August 2016
This week the world had to say goodbye to the inimitable, irreplaceable Lynne Rivers Roper. Ella Foote and her friend Emma write tributes to the mermaid that broke the mould.
"There was chocolate for breakfast, amazing words, brilliant photos shared, tributes written and of course swims dedicated to our dear friend and swimmer Lynne Rivers Roper this week.
Lynne died peacefully with her mother Jenny at her side in the early hours of Saturday (13 August) morning after her battle with cancer fought with gumption and spirit only our Lynne could have summoned. Lynne was diagnosed with a brain tumour early this year, which she famously named ‘Hunt’ and wrote passionately and painfully honest accounts about in her blog https://outofmybrains.org/
Lynne lived on Dartmoor with her wild swimming dog Honey and was a well-loved, respected and spirited member of the OSS team. Lynne made so many significant contributions to the OSS community many paid tributes to her who hadn’t ever had the chance to meet her. “I never met Lynne, but she would be on the guest list for my dream dinner party or more likely, swim,” said OSS member Clare Nestor. “She did fantastic work promoting the joy of all year round outdoor swimming.”
Lynne regularly arranged wild swims for local swimmers and visiting OSS members from further afield, she ran the warming tent at the Dart 10k looking after chilly swimmers, took on the role of Press Officer, founded swimming groups, a champion of swim safety, worked on Inland Access, wrote OSS content and book reviews and so much more. “Even if you didn't know Lynne chances are that your swimming world has been influenced by her, that a ripple she set off has touched your shores,” says OSS Founder Kate Rew. “The laughing, swimming, not afraid to scrap on Facebook Lynne who we valued, loved and miss so much. The unique, direct, intelligent, opinion-rich, spirited woman who did it her own way that we admired, enjoyed and learnt from. Gone too soon!”
Lynne often described the swimming community as her tribe and inspired many to plunge into unknown waters – with or without a costume – having only just met her! “Lynne’s approach to swimming was never about how far, how fast, how cold or any sort of tribalism within swimming,” says close friend Emma. “It was the chance to connect with the outdoors, nurturing and life affirming and she hated bloody tow floats!” Lynne’s warming nature was just what was needed after a cool dip and if that wasn’t enough many were lucky to enjoy a homemade soup in her colourful cottage – door always open to friends and swimmers.
It was this kind, infectious and full-colour personality which made Lynne a brilliant friend to many. She would be your biggest cheerleader, hilariously honest critic, hot witted wing woman and lead you facing your fears with a goofy smile on your face. “I wonder if you have any idea how much of a void you have left behind in the hearts of so many,” says friend and swimmer Gilly Robinson. “They broke the mould when they made you. I think the sirens and wood nymphs whispered into your ear, ‘Let’s do it!’ when you tumbled out into this world.”
Lynne’s last weeks were spent at St Luke’s Hospice on Plymouth Hooe. Friends, family, old colleagues, swimmers and similar souls flocked to her bedside to plan and plot escapes. Last week Lynne made it to a hydrotherapy pool for a dip and from friends it sounds like it was quite the event.
Lynne’s biggest legacy, which will live on in the communities she has created and influenced, is the way she connected people together. Either through her love of the water, politics, her writing, her work and sense of adventure – she brought like minded spirits together, “one of life’s troubadours” says Gilly. Her contribution to the OSS and swimming community far and wide will live on through those she injected her joy and presence into. She will swim onwards, as will we, with her wisdom in the winds wherever and whenever we chose to slip into wild waters."
"Lynne Roper’s love of water was cemented during her Devon childhood, and it never left her. He early career was in the RAF and academia; when she moved on to become a long serving and well respected paramedic she fitted wild swimming around the shift patterns, saying that water washed away the stresses of that job.
She immersed herself in wild swimming several years ago, turning to it to regain her physical and emotional health after a double mastectomy. She immersed herself in rivers, the sea, and the friendships formed through water; for Lynne, the two were inseparable. Her ability to connect with people, to see the best in them and draw that out was remarkable. She was a strong advocate for the inclusivity of wild swimming, for her it was never about how far, how cold, or how fast. It was always about the experience itself, and the connection with the wild environment.
She gave many people the confidence to start wild swimming, to overcome fears and set aside anxieties about how they might look in a swimsuit. Her infectious smile, her ability to listen and her calm patience never faltered. Everybody who swam with her felt safe, and learned from her; she readily shared her ability to read water, her knowledge and her judgment.
Lynne also shared that knowledge more widely. She became a key part of the wild swimming movement, developing and sharing safety advice and liaising with the media to ensure the joy of wild swimming was not lost to exaggerated stories of danger. Kate Rew, founder of The Outdoor Swimming Society, described her as ‘the best press officer we have ever had; a free-spirited, no-nonsense thinker who fought for what she thought was right.’
Lynne’s determination to fight for what she thought was right was never more in evidence than when writing her blog about her brain tumour. When she learned she was terminally ill she stepped up her efforts to highlight the impact of funding restraint on acute front line health services and social care, and she was fearless in relating that directly to her own situation. Her writing was sensitive, frank, funny and clever. As was she.
She died on Saturday 13th August 2016, and will be missed by all who knew her. She is survived by her parents, brothers and extended family; all of whom she loved very much."
Lynne's friend Emma