Puffins always generate a huge amount of interest amongst visitors to the island, especially at this time of year when they have virtually all left the island. Kevin, one of the crew of the May Princess, told us of a visitor that came to the island on the May Princess recently and a story he heard from a visitor.
The Story of Puffin Billy and the final jigsaw piece after 40 years in the waiting
“I wanted to share with you all a short tale which I hope you enjoy.
At this time of year we often make the most of those puffins we do see and last week during the outbound crossing we had a nice close sighting of a pufffling about half way between Anstruther and The May. Our passengers love to see the puffins and as part of my usual commentary I explained that the young puffin was surviving through instinct and without parental assistance. The puffling was a sturdy wee chap busy showing off flapping wings and diving etc.
It wasn’t till some hours later and the return journey that a middle aged lady started chatting to me and explained that the commentary had quite unexpectedly placed a happy ending on what as a girl had been a sad event.
It turns out that this lady although living in Yorkshire, was brought up in the East Neuk of Fife and her father was involved with the May during the 70’s. At one point during the early 70’s she had an orphan or sick puffling (Puffin Billy no less!) to look after and between feeds it was taken daily to the beach at St Andrews to learn to swim! Her memories are that the puffling loved splashing about in the rock pools and quite happily came back to them till one day it just kept going and didn’t come back. She always assumed the puffling perished as it had no parents to teach it how to survive and as a girl she had been quite upset at what became of poor Puffin Billy.
This lady was quite delighted to understand now that there is every chance Puffin Billy did fine and even might just be still alive and actively breeding on The Isle of May.”
The very oldest puffins can be up to 40 years old so it is just possible that “Puffin Billy” is still alive and living on the island – just.