Seal of approval for new sculpture in Berwick

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

By Andrew Coulson
Tuesday, 14th June 2022, 11:01 am
Updated Tuesday, 14th June 2022, 11:01 am
The sculpture was crafted by David Gross and a team of volunteers and learners at Tyne Housing. Right, Peter Watts pictured sitting on the sculpture, as it can be used as a seat.
The sculpture was crafted by David Gross and a team of volunteers and learners at Tyne Housing. Right, Peter Watts pictured sitting on the sculpture, as it can be used as a seat.

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

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 is 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.

Friends of Castle Parks chairman Jackie Kaines Lang said: “It is marvellous when families, communities and artists come together, and 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.

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“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 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.

Mr 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.

He said: “We were delighted to be commissioned to create this special memorial piece.

“The experience of working on it, seeing it installed in a public place and being well received by the community is invaluable for our residents and visitors.”

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