“I remember him!” I said gleefully to Mr Word Loft when we turned a corner of a coastal promenade heading out of West Looe, Cornwall. The statue of Nelson the Seal is a fond reminder of the real character who swam up and down Looe River for approximately twenty-five years around the millennium.

“Was it really that long ago that he was famous,” he replied, as we read a plaque situated by the bronze sculpture sprawling on Pennyland Rocks. It surveys the harbour where the original animal with only one eye had feasted and unwittingly amused seafarers and landlubbers with his playful antics. Although frequently spotted in the waters, Nelson’s home was only a mile away on Looe Island – a nature reserve.

The bull Grey Seal was lovingly known as the ‘Grand Old Man of the Sea’, so it was a sad time when he died in 2003. Therefore, it’s not a surprise that the story was reported on the local TV news; I recall watching it with a lump in my throat. Then when the life-size figurine memorial was unveiled in 2008, there was a flypast by 849 Naval Air Squadron.    

Thank you to the Cornish sculptor Suzie Marsh who crafted this work of art which has weathered beautifully, the verdigris-patinated metal’s colours being in tune with nature’s hues.

It was a wonderful and unexpected burst of nostalgia to see the seal look-alike, even though it made me feel exceedingly old, as it only seems like a few years back I stood on the opposite quayside, hoping for the marine celebrity to pop up through the waves.

All the best,
Sue. X