From 1975 to 1998, I brought on average 130 pupils, split each time over 2 different days from Lostock Hall High School to your zoo in October of each year. The memories of doing that are still fresh in my mind; some funny, some absolutely awe-inspiring, but for most of those 1,000s of pupils their visit seemed to remain with them for years.
The awe-inspiring? My group had the honour to meet George Mottershead while visiting the zoo. Such a lovely gentleman to meet and much as I would have loved to have accepted his invitation for me to have lunch with him in his old home, then the Oakfield restaurant, he acknowledged my need to supervise my pupils. Even my pupils encouraged me at accept his invitation, but I was astute enough to know that they may have had their own agenda as to what they should do.
Their memories? I simply lost count of the number of pupils at either our valedictory dinners or later Proms or at prize-giving who related their own memories of the zoo back to me at those times. I was later to become a professional photographer and was honoured to have photographed former pupils’ weddings including to other former pupils. They too recalled their memories of their Chester Zoo visit.
My personal memories? There are so many. I will mention just a few. Firstly the enormous help I received while doing my In-service B. Ed. Degree dissertation which was about The Use of Zoos as Educational Facilities, with enormous help from your Education Officer at the time. Sorry, due to the passage of time and thus the aging of my little brain cells, I cannot recall his name but I did know that he was a former History teacher. Throughout my years of visits [and, by the way that always included during my summer holidays (who says that teacher get long holidays?)], I always did my pre-visit reccies to see if and what had changed so that I could plan my routes for the various groups and also modify my worksheet, so I was seeing the zoo at least 3 times a year. Thus I also saw that it was ever progressing, ever bringing up or in something new (and I’m not just talking about all the births, some of which happened right in front of the pupils eyes!). The one thing that was consistent though, through all my years of observation, was the knowledge and dedication of your zoo staff, and I don’t just mean your keepers. You were like one big, happy family, all dedicated to both your cause and in memory of the cause that the great man George Mottershead started with his overriding motto of ‘A zoo Without Bars’. May I add my own motto? A Zoo Without Comparison.
Kind regards and Happy 90th Birthday to you all for next year!