Have you ever wondered why we have Victoria Parks’ Billy the seal heroically emblazoned on our bottles? There is a reason beyond the random. The tale of Billy the Seal of Victoria Park’s incredible existence has captivated this corner of Cardiff for years. We’ve even erected a statue in his memory and placed it proudly in the centre of beautiful Victoria Park.
Now normally, getting entangled in a trawler’s net is the precursor to something deadly. Despite being caught in a net in the Irish Sea, this lucky little seal survived and landed in Cardiff Docks in 1912.
Billy’s home in ‘Treganna’ (welsh for ‘Canton’)
Victoria Park in the early 20th century was a cornucopia of exotic animals. This ever-expanding menagerie frequently received donations from seafaring captains. Monkeys, crocodiles, turtles, armadillos, and ostriches. You name it, Victoria Park had it! And now they had a seal, Billy.
It’s a testament to Billy’s personality that despite being in more glamorous company, he quickly became the city’s darling. Years later, when Billy sadly died, his remains were proudly displayed in Cardiff Museum, where it became clear that Billy had been misgendered her entire life. Billy the boy was in fact Billy the girl!
When we began distilling Treganna Gin around the corner from Billy the Seal and Victoria park, his intrepid spirit was the obvious symbol for our brand. But our interest in sea life didn’t end there. On the week we celebrated World Ocean’s Day, we have been reflecting on Billy the Seal and the sea creatures that live around us today. We feel beyond lucky to live in such a beautiful country, surrounded by 800 miles of Welsh Coastline.
Wales’ Beautiful Coastline
Wales has the honour of being the first country in the world to have a dedicated footpath that hugs the entire country. All 870 miles of glorious Wales Coast Path are accessible to the public, and this led to us being named one of the best regions to visit in the world. When not on lockdown, we made time to visit the ocean every week.
We have been fortunate to sail out from the Welsh coast to witness seals and puffins feeding from the waters. But it’s not all plain sailing – the sea around us is in trouble. Overfishing, plastic and pollution are all contributing to a dramatic decline in sea life in Welsh waters.
World Oceans Day reminds us that the health of the ecosystems, on which we depend, is deteriorating more rapidly than ever. This erosion creeps into the foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide. The good news is that scientists are telling us that it is not too late to make a difference, but only if we start now at every level from local to global.
Under laws introduced in 2009, the Welsh Government has powers to introduce Marine Conservation Zones in the Welsh seas. These sites are intended to play an important role in helping Welsh seas cope with increasing pressures. But there is still much more to be done. On a personal level, we take out our paddle board and observe the beautiful sea life around us. We share our joy with our children and inspire them to appreciate our oceans too. We take time to collect any litter we find when we visit the beach, and when we buy fish, we follow the advice of the Good Fish Guide to make sure we make sustainable choices.
Will this be enough to save the descendants of Billy the Seal? Not on its own. But if every person we meet shares our love for the beautiful creatures that make our oceans home, we can start to make a difference.
If you would like to find out more about UK charities making a difference to our oceans, we recommend the following. Marine Conservation Society, Surfers Against Sewage and the Welsh Wildlife Trusts.