By Barry Lord
Sammy the seal is one charismatic sea mammal and now it looks like he has found a lover who must be hoping there isn’t plenty more fish in the Irish sea.
Sammy has been charming locals and tourists alike, both in and out of the water in Wicklow Town over the past two years – but one female fan has become more than just a friend.
Indeed Sammy has been spotted with what appears to be a new companion.
“There’s definitely a lady in his life,” said Alan Hegarty – the proprietor of the Lighthouse Seafood restaurant in South Quay, where Sammy receives his daily sustenance.
She came along in time for Valentine’s Day this year and has stuck around ever since. He shares his food with her; a definite sign of a gentleman. And she steals his food, so it’s fairly clear who the boss is in the relationship.
An internet campaign will begin shortly to pick a name for Sammy’s new prospective life mate, but Alan still thinks it’s a little early to tell.
“We’ll have to see if she’s a keeper, but the signs look good,” said Alan with a grin.
Alan, 54, nicknamed ‘The Fishman’, still remembers the day the adventurous seal showed up on his doorstep and effectively became a customer for life.
“I was doing the usual preparations before opening the fish shop,” remembers Alan.
“Then I looked out of the window and saw this seal sitting in the middle of the road. He wasn’t budging, so I could only assume he was after something.
“I gave him some fish and he went off fairly happy. He pretty much disappeared after that and I thought I’d seen the last of him.”
But Sammy seemingly acquired a taste for the dryland and good food on offer and has frequently returned for more.
“I can set my watch by him turning up three times a day,” said Alan. “He gets three kilos of fish a day, enough to keep him going.”
While there is an undeniable bond between the seal and the community, Alan is keen to ensure that Sammy doesn’t become too domesticated and is able to remain capable of fending for himself.
“It’s important to remember that he is wild animal and he has to live as a wild animal,” said Alan.
“We give him what he needs to survive, but he’s no slouch when it comes to catching his own food. I saw him come up from the water with a salmon in his mouth.
All the same, we’re very mindful of Sammy’s safety. We’ve consulted a local seal sanctuary about advice on keeping him in the water.
“Of course it’s nice that he makes an effort to come and greet us on land, but he can do that from the water as well.”
Since emerging from the Quay, Sammy’s reputation has continued to grow. He is an internet sensation.
One particular clip of him at play has attracted three million views. And he has his own Facebook page.
Sammy’s fan club has spread far and wide. A family made the trip from Louisiana just for a photo op, while a school teacher from Australia, was so taken with the loveable seal that she has now made him a part of the school curriculum.
“It’s funny to think of Sammy being the subject under discussion in a school in Oz,” said Alan fondly. “Every town needs a Sammy, something to help put a place on the map. He’s definitely a part of this community now.”
And so Alan’s duty called as feeding time came around again for Wicklow’s favourite son.
If you get footage of Sammy with his new love, send clips in to us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, on our Facebook page or via our @irelandtoday_ Twitter.