FAMILY and friends paid tribute to Mappleton Boat Race and Bridge Jump founder Jim Breeze on New Year’s Day.
The annual event was preceded by a minute’s silence before the race was started by Mr Breeze’s widow, Pat. Family members and friends all jumped from Mappleton Bridge in his memory with a trio jump from his sons Aj and Sean and friend, Barrie Wright raising the biggest cheer of the day.
When Mr Breeze fell ill late in 2011, doubt was cast over the future of the bridge jump, an event which has grown into an annual spectacle attracting hundreds of people and which originated from a pub bet more than 25 years ago.
The organisation of the boat race and bridge jump was taken over by Ashbourne Lions with the help of Ashbourne Sub-Aqua Club. Charles Wimbush has been at the forefront of organising the 2013 event. He said: “I’m pleased it went well. It was a good day.”
The Brass Monkeys Trophy was presented to the winners of the race, George Hellaby and Matt Fernihough by Sir Andrew Walker Okeover at the Okeover Arms.
First-time competitor, Steve Allman, 32, from Newcastle-under-Lyme said: “It was a wonderful experience and a great way to start the new year, although it was so cold I wasn’t really thinking that straight after the jump. It looked a lot higher than I thought once I was stood on the bridge.
“I realised during the minute’s silence that it was a great tradition that had been going for some time.
“There were lots of regular characters who do it every year and it was great to be a part of that.
“It’s the first time I’ve done anything like that to see in the new year and I’m tempted to do it again next year in fancy dress.”
Regular bridge jumper, Joel Hicks travels to Mappleton every year now as part of his fund-raising efforts for Always With A Smile. He took part in a dashing powder blue tuxedo and top hat. Mr Hicks said: “It was refreshing a little bit wet, but not as cold as last year.
“It was nice for people show their respects to Mr Breeze.
“It’s sad but this is a great event and I hope they keep it going.”
PC Ian Cooper policed the event, as he has done for many years, and for many it was an opportunity to say thank you and goodbye to the popular policeman who has retired to take up a post as a teaching assistant. The Mappleton Boat Race and Bridge Jump was his last event as a police officer before retirement.
He said: “I feel its a nice way to finish off.
“There’s a lot of faces I’ve come to know from Ashbourne, in a good way, and it’s nice to be here and wish people a happy new year.
“The Lions have been fantastic in organising this and working with us and the sub-aqua club as well as raising money for charity.
“The bridge jump has been fantastic year on year and I think it’s important that it carries on.”