Berwick Residents Give New Sculpture the Seal of Approval

A life-size seal sculpture has been installed on the riverbank of Berwick-upon-Tweed, in memory of a much-loved member of Friends of Castle Parks. 

The wooden seal sculpture, which can be used as a seat, was commissioned by Friends of Castle Parks to pay tribute to Jean Watts, who was a staunch supporter of the group and gave up much of her time to volunteering at Castle Vale and Coronation Parks alongside her husband.

Crafted by skilled wood sculptor, David Gross, and a team of volunteers and learners at Tyne Housing, the seat was formed out of a single piece of storm-felled oak and engraved with ‘Go now selkie-boy, swim far from the shore, Rinse your ears clean of human chatter’ – a quotation from the Selkie-boy song.

Jackie Kains Lang, chair of Friends of Castle Parks Berwick, said: “It is marvellous when families, communities and artists come together – any resulting work is almost always more than the sum of its parts. That’s certainly true of the seal which fits in perfectly with other sculptures created by David Gross for Friends of Castle Parks and has a majesty of its own. 

“Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. One person told me they find it difficult to leave the bench because it’s both comforting and moving. It is truly a thing of beauty and a very fitting memorial to Jean Watts, who contributed so much to our group during her life.” 

Peter Watts, husband of the late Jean Watts, said: “The seal has been wonderfully well received. People love the eyes and constantly use the seat. I still get stopped in the street by strangers singing its praises. Thank you to all involved.” 

The Tyne Housing wood workshop – where the seal was crafted – is based in Byker, Newcastle and runs weekly sessions to offer its residents who live within supported accommodation the opportunity to work on community projects and develop their confidence and skills whilst working as a team within a creative setting. 

David Gross from the Tyne Housing Engagement and Progression team leads on the commissioned projects and worked closely with residents to design, sculpt and install the seal earlier this year. 

David said: “We were delighted to be commissioned to create this special memorial piece. The experience of working on a project like this, seeing it installed in a public place, and being well received by the local community, is invaluable for our residents and visitors. 

“Creativity has always been a key focus at Tyne, and our wood workshop is just one of the ways we support residents to get creative and develop their skills in a hands-on practical environment.”  

To find out more about the Tyne Housing wood workshop, visit: https://www.tynehousing.org.uk/what-we-do/learning/skills-training