Memories of working at the Aquarium in 1972

Tricia feeding the sea-lions | Scanned from the author's private collection
Tricia feeding the sea-lions
Scanned from the author's private collection

When I worked in the Aquarium during the summer of 1972, the first job of the day was to melt the block of ice containing herring that had already been placed in a tin bath for me. I spent half an hour or more playing a hose on it, and breaking it up with my fingers. Then the tin bath had to be dragged into the preparation room and then I had to gut and chop the fish. The guts went down the waste disposal unit and the heads and chopped bodies went into a bin ready for feeding time. By that time I’m covered in fish scales up to my elbows!

Next job is to climb in with the sleepy sealions and sweep all the poo away into the water. The waking sealions could seem a bit scary sometimes because they did seem to be grumpy as they barked at me.

Feeding time – the public’s favourite bit
Feeding time – the public’s favourite bit – involved a trick with Fred. I would walk halfway round their enclosure and push my way in through the crowds. On cue, Fred would jump right up on the wall, and make everybody else jump too, as I fed him his fishy reward.

I also looked after two rescued seals called Yogi and Sunshine, with their big, weepy eyes and sad faces. I taught them both to press a car hooter with their noses for a fish.

Fish scales up to my elbows
My boyfriend at the time wore an aubergine suit to work and we would meet for lunch. Picture this, me in jeans and stinky T-shirt with fish scales up to my elbows, him in an aubergine suit sitting on the Aquarium Terraces eating our packed lunches and staring into each other’s eyes.

I did have to make sure I had a shower and changed before I joined the public for the bus journey home. I would walk past the dolphins to get to the shower and they would always swim over for a squeaky conversation. I was given the opportunity to swim with them a couple of times in their pool and it was spectacular. They are so inquisitive. I was able to stroke them – they feel a bit like freshly boiled and shelled eggs.

I left Brighton in 1976 and heard later that the dolphins had been released – I hope they are happy, swimming free somewhere warm.

Comments about this page

  • I must have taken your place. I started working with the sea-lions around 1976 when I left school. I remember old man Glover (one of the family owners, I think) walking down to the koi tank each week. It had to look good or else there would be trouble! I left and went back many years later to become head trainer. It was during that time I became involved with the project In To The Blue. I had a part in the fall of the dolphinarium and became the dolphins’ warden during the one year release program in the Caribbean. I remember the fish scales and the 46 and 26 number bus ride home! Good times and bad times.

    By Lee Chanona (07/08/2005)
  • Why would anyone want to pay to see beautiful creatures locked up underground only a few yards from the sea, their free and rightful place to be, just for entertainment?

    By Helen Ripley (18/06/2007)
  • Hi, I just wanted to say that in 1972 I worked at the Brighton Dolphiarium as an asst trainer.There were at that time 5 Dolphins. Even to this day I can remember the spiel that we had to start each show, which if memory serves me correctly was to audiences of up to 500 people. The Dolphins in turn of introduction to the audience were Poppy, Dolly, Baby, Missie and Belle. Missie was Baby’s mother and Belle was Missie’s sister. The seating for the public was set in a semi circle in tiers around the pool and separated by a high toughened glass partition. I don’t know about later on, but in my time there no members of the public had any contact with the dolphins other than to watch the shows. At the end of each show we would ask if there were any children in the audience with a birthday either on that day or that week,we would then call the dolphins to the front of the stage where we would stand and conduct them to a tune of happy birthday being played on tape from the control room.

    By Steve Standring (23/09/2009)
  • I remember them very well, we carried them in when they arrived there. The other Brighton lifeguards all helped get them off the lorry. They were carried in on slings and they were kept wet until they were put in thier pool. We had to swim with them to keep them above water till they got used to the new surroundings.

    By John Avey (23/05/2012)

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