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Visitor memories

Did Tina the elephant steal your handbag? Did you meet your sweetheart in the Floral Hall? Did you once work at the zoo? Travel back in time and share your memories with us and your story will be featured here.

Your memories

Take a trip down memory lane and read our visitors' memories of their time at Belfast Zoo.

Joan Bingham
My grandfather, Samuel Boyd worked as a zoo keeper in Bellevue Zoo in the 1960s and retired in April 1972. Sam loved working there and his favourite animal was a monkey called Chico. On the Donegall Road, there is a mural dedicated to him in honour of his love for nature and poetry.

John Tooke
I was once a zoo keeper in Bellevue zoo. During my time in the zoo, there were no such things as tractors or dumpers, all we had to work with were wheelbarrows. The food store was situated in the middle part of the zoo, while the elephant, camels, zebra, polar bear, etc were all at the bottom of the zoo. All the big cats, bears, and such were at the top of the zoo. This meant that when I was taking food to my animals at the bottom end, I had to load a wheelbarrow and take it down, several times a day, this was very difficult as the hills were very steep and the barrow hard to hold on to.

Alexander Millar
I was born in 1944 and grew up on the Whitewell Road, immediately below the impressive Bellevue steps. For my brothers and I, the Bellevue estate and the Zoo were basically our childhood playground.

Our family kept a pet rabbit called Sooty, when we went on our holidays for a fortnight every summer, our rabbit was cared for at Belfast Zoo. Our mother was good friends with a zoo keeper and they kindly looked after Sooty in the children's section of the zoo until we would collect him again after our holidays.

This went on for years, so Mum finally decided to retire Sooty to the zoo permanently. However, Sooty obviously wasn't ready for retirement yet as each time we visited our old pet at Belfast zoo he had an ever increasing tribe of his descendants happily hopping around the children's enclosure.

My brothers and I have only the happiest memories from our years living beside the Zoo and it will always have a special place in our hearts.

Jacqueline McAlister
Richard Hayward, a famous Ulster actor and film star of his day, had just opened, with his company, the Belfast Repertory Players, in the Empire Theatre in Belfast, in an Ulster comedy 'The Early Bird', written by my father, James Douglas of Coleraine. This newspaper cutting shows the Christening of the cubs by Richard Hayward - they were named Richard, Elma (after Hayward's wife) and Early Bird.

Pamela Campbell
Around 1980 my daughter Alison, along with her classmates had a trip to Belfast Zoo. In the afternoon, she arrived home, saying "Mummy, the elephant ate my jacket". I rang the school and the principal confirmed this, saying the staff were highly amused by the incident. However I wasn't, as I had bought it on mail order and hadn't even started to pay for it!. I can laugh about it now though.

Sharon McKnight
My parents met at a dance at Floral Hall, therefore the zoo always had a sentimental attraction for my family. I also remember Tina the elephant who used to fill her trunk with water and spray the herds of children who loved it.

William Beattie
I worked in the zoo when I was 14 until I was 16, and now I'm 75 years old. I worked on the zoo bus, at Floral Hall during the dances, at the ticket desk and at the pitch and putt course. One of my fondest memories is feeding my old friend, Peter the polar bear bread.

Angela Redmond
On one of our visits in 1972, when I was eleven years old, we met a zookeeper who appeared to be carrying a bundle of fur. On closer inspection it turned out to be a beautiful baby chimpanzee with huge brown eyes which was being taken to her enclosure. My two younger brothers and I were allowed to hold her which was an unforgettable experience and it was very hard to hand her back to her keeper. We were then told that her name was Elizabeth.

Forty years on and Lizzy is always top of my list when I visit Belfast zoo, although I'm not sure that holding her would be a good idea these days. Now when I watch her with her own precious baby, it only seems like yesterday when she was a little bundle like her daughter Lucy.

Charlotte Timoney
In 1992, when I was eleven, I entered a competition sponsored by the Lyric Theatre, to name one of the Western lowland gorillas at Belfast Zoo. I named the gorilla, 'Gorly' which takes the first three letters of gorilla and the first two of Lyric. It was very exciting for me at the time as I gained free entry to the zoo for a year and six months free entry to the Lyric Theatre for me and my family. I then loved coming to the zoo to see "my" gorilla.

Download the full newspaper clipping from Charlotte Timoney (JPG - 339KB)

Colleen Shanks
My father Billy Carlisle was a keeper in the zoo many years ago and here is a number of photographs of his time working there. My mother Vera is also in some of the photos. She also used to work in Belfast Zoo in the ticket booth.

Billy and Tina the elephant go for a walk Tina and Billy in 1986
Tina is looked after by Billy

John Bonar Holmes 
John Bonar Holmes was a photographer born in Belfast in 1912.. In the early 1930s he developed an interest in photography and worked for Belfast Telegraph, formally Baird's. During this time he covered many important events in the history of Northern Ireland and liked to photograph people and places in Northern Ireland.

Here are a number of photographs he captured at Belfast Zoo.

13 April 1954
Bellevue Zoo Belfast Camels on 13 April 1954
13 March 1943
Roller Coaster at Belfast Zoo on 13 March 1943
12 July 1950
Keeper looks after seal on 12 July 1950 


Contact us

To share your memories, photos or videos email or write to us at:

Belfast Zoo
Antrim Road
BT36 7PN

Please include your name, year of birth, year of memory or photo and your contact telephone number.