Chapter 1: Funghie
No one can bear too much reality. To look at life without illusion is like looking at the sun without a filter.
It was early March 1990, and the Morecambe Dolphin Campaign was about to officially launch the campaign to close Morecambe dolphinarium with a rally and march in the town. In the early beginnings of this campaign the hope was that Rocky, a solitary male dolphin, would be liberated from incarceration from his tank, a stone’s throw from the Irish Sea. Around three hundred people attended the rally and there were speeches from Doug Cartlidge and Dr. Horace Dobbs, both of whom were a year or so later to become much more prominent in this story. Doug was an ex-dolphin trainer now disillusioned with his past profession, and was later to become a useful ally in the campaigns to close UK dolphin shows. Living in the south, he played a more concerted role in the Brighton dolphin campaign.
Along with friends I attended the rally organised by Beverley Cowley and her student friends. She was Sheffield born and after living in Manchester and becoming active in the Manchester animal rights movement, she had moved to Lancaster to study. I knew her from days and actions with the Northern Animal Liberation League, in fact we had both been imprisoned along with twenty-five others for a raid on Unilever labs in 1984.
I knew little or nothing about Morecambe dolphinarium, in fact little about dolphins generally. I think it was 1984 when I attended a lecture at Altrincham library given by Dr. Horace Dobbs about his encounters with wild dolphins off the UK coast. The effervescent doctor was another whom I was later to meet more personally. At the time his tales of giving up his professional career to swim with dolphins in their environment seemed wonderful, if slightly eccentric and middle-class, not for someone like me, solid working class, but without the proletariat work ethic of choosing to sell one's daily life to the capitalist system. Perhaps that's why even with my limited experience and knowledge of dolphins, I felt an affinity with the lives of dolphins and their apparent freedom, free from the chains that so constrain many people in the human world - jobs, money, houses, marriage and children.
My first experience of a dolphin was in 1988 or 1989, I had travelled over to Eire to see and try and swim with Funghie, a wild dolphin that had inhabited Dingle Bay for a few years.
The group trip had been organised by Robert Barnes. I had seen the advertisement in a New Age magazine, Kindred Spirit, and at the last moment decided to go. I didn't own a wet suit at the time and the couple of times I got in the cold water were with a thinly insulated borrowed one.
I remember being distinctly apprehensive about this wild grey torpedo of an animal lurking underneath me, travelling at speeds which reputedly could kill a shark, or you if it preferred! There was an eccentric boat man called Paddy who was paid by those hopeful of a dolphin encounter to charge about in his boat wherever the dolphin surfaced, pulling a number of people behind the boat on a tow-line. Because I only had the use of a borrowed wet-suit, I only got in the water on a couple of occasions, on one of those, the dolphin jumped over my head twice! Apart from this, I felt Funghie was mainly rather aloof and indifferent to most of the humans who desperately sought his attention, although I noticed the dolphin seemed particularly attracted to one of the party who had a lot of yellow on his wet suit. Some of the people who swam with the dolphin later went on to form the an organisation called the 'Dolphin Circle'.