Chapter 8: The Final Swim
Our campaign held a new years day vigil in 1992 at the gates of the Flamingo Land zoo. The court case was fresh in the minds of the media and I did a radio interview with local BBC radio and some press. In April we held a second national rally in York, we doubled the attendance to around 300 folks and Horace Dobbs spoke in his inimitable style again.
We started the pickets when the zoo re-opened for the season in April. This year we managed a monthly rota of Manchester, Newcastle, Hull and Bradford activists. This took the burden off the Manchester contingency from travelling every week and from a personal perspective it meant I didn't have to be there so often and confront the bitter memories, although they were, are still not in 2013, very far out of my mind even twenty two years on from the court case.
I was back in Amble in early March 1992. On the Saturday, I met George on the pier and he told me Freddy was missing and hadn't been seen that day, I wasn't unduly worried although this wasn't his normal routine. The following day he still hadn't showed and I did start to become worried. I was staying with Ann Stark in Newcastle, a friend who had been supportive during the trial. On Monday morning the local radio reported that Freddy was at Tynemouth pier, some twenty miles or so south of Amble. When Ann came in from work we shot off to Tynemouth and in the gathering darkness we sighted the shape of a dolphin at the end of the long pier. We returned early the following day and Freddy was still there. Before I changed into my wet-suit and jumped in I had to sign a port authority form that I was doing so at my own risk. Freddy came right to me and we swam as if nothing had changed. It felt strange swimming with him in a different location. That afternoon I contacted the local media. The court case was still fresh in their minds and I wanted to make two important points. The first was, if Freddy stayed in this busy shipping area he should be afforded protection and the second point was that he had chosen of his own free-will to swim away from Amble, unlike the plight of the captive dolphins at Flamingo Land, where they were restricted by the prison walls of the tank from moving anywhere, except in tight repetitive circuits. Ann and I returned on Wednesday morning to Tynemouth and we met a television crew. The only snag was the dolphin wasn't there. Perhaps it was my fault and I had freaked him out by showing at Tynemouth. I smiled because if it takes an expert swimmer like a dolphin time and energy to move 20 or so miles, how could I have got there! I wonder if he rationalised in that way!
Anyway he was gone and the crew soon got bored and left, we hung about awhile, left and then returned later in the day. Some dolphin advocates claim dolphins like Freddy are humanised and semi-tame, however the latest disappearance seemed to discount that. He had moved on because he wanted to, or needed to. Perhaps his food source wasn't good at Tynemouth and may have become less plentiful at Amble. If I had known the previous day it was to be my last sight of Freddy I doubt if I would have ever left the sea at Tynemouth. In the following weeks there were reported sightings of Freddy in the estuaries of the Weir and Humber. He was on an odyssey and he was to write his own ending as befits a legend. For nobody knows what became of him. If I could have written the ending of his association with humans, it would have been of a last farewell swim with him, then to see him swim off into the sunset with a group of dolphins, to live happily ever after. After that perhaps there would have been an odd report of a dolphin approaching a boat in the sea for a short while and playing. I could have thought that's Freddy, for such was his extrovert nature, he would never have resisted the opportunity to do that, to say "hey, remember me, I'm Freddy the famous Amble dolphin". Sadly what in life has a happy ending? Perhaps the best and natural end was to believe his time had come, he wasn't a young dolphin. Perhaps, because I know how destructive we humans have become, I fear that Freddy may have drowned on his travels, caught in some sort of set net. How tragic if that was the case. The only time Freddy really needed a human, a pair of hands to free him from a nylon fishing net, and there was none. I think the injury sustained some months earlier from the propeller blades can be discounted as a reason for his presumed death. We will never know of the true fact of his end. However I do know this, while he lived this animal was a beautiful being and it was an absolute privilege to have known him and I really can't say that for many humans I have met. It wasn't just my heart that was broken, he probably left a trail of them. He had the ability like a human lover, to convince his suitors, that each one of then was special! I really hope that those who knew Freddy felt likewise about him and later became advocates for dolphins. Perhaps like an alien from outer-space that was his message. To enlighten us, to tell us, hey you humans are not the only special creatures on this planet, stop killing us and stop imprisoning us in dolphinaria.