Tribute book released to commemorate life of beloved Thames seal

A book to commemorate the eventful life of south west London’s famous seal Freddie was released today by a Sevenoaks couple.

Alison Kelly, 39, and Matt Millard, 41, decided to dig around and research the seal’s backstory after he was fatally wounded by a dog in March, and ended up co-writing Freddie: Life of a Seal

The pair were captivated by the 10-month-old seal, nicknamed after Freddie Mercury, when he settled on the banks of the River Thames near Hammersmith Bridge last year.

Kelly said: “We loved Freddie and we watched all his antics as he went along like when he urinated on This Morning and it was just devastating when we saw that he’d died.

“I think everybody was shocked because he’d become such a loved seal and they just fell in love with his little face.”

SIGNED, SEALED, DELIVERED: Freddie leaving Sangatte Beach in France.
Credit: LPA du Calaisis

From their six weeks of research, the couple discovered that Freddie had been on quite the adventure in his short life.

The book tracks his movements from the Netherlands to France to England and details the four rescues along the way.

A two-day-old malnourished Freddie was first rescued in the Netherlands after he was discovered without his mother and then again in January when he had lungworm removed in France.

OFF INTO THE WORLD: The first time Freddie went into the sea on his own in the Netherlands
Credit: Zeehondencentrum Pieterburen

In England, he had a fishing hook removed from his lip in February before the final rescue attempt from a dog attack in March.

Kelly added: “There was that picture of him when he was attacked which was so heart-breaking.

“That was the catalyst for us and we wanted to do something to help.

“Our aim with the book is to spread the word, keep Freddie’s memory alive, and try to encourage people to sign the petition to get seals extra protection.

“The book started out as 20 pages and now it’s 62. It’s evolved and grown as more people have been contacting us all the time with photos and stories.”

A petition was launched, aiming to strengthen seal protection laws by making it illegal to touch, feed, chase or worry a seal in England and Wales.

The educational book includes unseen photos and accounts sent in by fans and by rescue teams from the three countries, as well as illustrations by artist Samia Astow and information about what to do if you spot a seal.

ARTIST’S IMPRESSION: An illustration of Freddie from the book by Samia Astow

The couple also expressed their concern about future wildlife coming to the Thames in light of the ‘super sewer’ Thames Tideway Tunnel planned for 2025 which will ‘clean’ up the river.  

Kelly said: “The whole of the River Thames is going to look drastically different and it’s going to look beautiful.

“But there are going to be many more instances of this and that is why it is so important to sign this petition.”

Last month, a juvenile minke whale was put to sleep in Teddington Lock after rescue efforts failed.

Actor Millard, who had roles in Alice in Wonderland and Assassin’s Creed, and writer Kelly are big animal lovers. 

DEDICATED: Millard and Kelly spent two or three hours writing every night on top of full time jobs

They spent two or three hours every night writing Freddie’s story after finishing their first children’s book – Duck Story: The Lost Eagle – during lockdown.

The fictional book focuses on a duck detective, is set in a Beckenham park and will be released in July. 

Millard said: “It’s been our life and soul for the last year.

“During lockdown we ended up going to the park pretty much every day just to get out because we didn’t have a garden and the whole story came from us seeing these animals.”

Proceeds from Freddie: Life of a Seal will go to the organisations that helped Freddie during his life. 

The e-book is available to buy for £7.99 on Amazon for Kindles.

Featured image credit: C. J. Sweet

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