Video thumbnail, Gary Talbot remembers
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The success of the recent BBC show Our Zoo touched the hearts of many people, not least Gary Talbot, who used to work as as a freelance photographer for Chester Zoo.

The former Chester striker was a regular snapper of goings-on at the zoo during the 1960s, before he began his footballing career, and was working for the Daily Mail, some of which he has shared exclusively with The Chronicle.

“I’d be there regularly and took the children who loved it,” recalls Gary, now 76 and living in Eccleston. “I’ve got a lovely picture of my daughter Annabel as a baby, pictured face to face with a lion - the first time anyone had ever been able to get up so close to the animals.

“I’d lie in bed at night thinking of different ideas for photographs. The zoo was obviously close by and they were happy for me to be creative  - they were very good to me. We used to go there every few weeks and every time, and Noelle, the gorilla recognised us!”

Gary, who would see George Mottershead from time to time, even used to bring the odd animal home from the zoo.

“My wife walked into the kitchen once to find a wild cat on the kitchen table! She wasn’t happy, put it that way. I believe the Our Zoo TV show has been very popular and that’s great, I think the zoo has done a lot of good.”

And avid watchers of Our Zoo will be able to read about what it was like to grow up at Chester Zoo in June Williams’ updated memoir of the same name, when it is re-released this month.

June, who spoke at Chester’s Literature Festival last week,  was just four when her father George moved his family to Upton to pursue his dream of opening the first zoo without bars.

June Williams signing copies of her book at the Chester Literature Festival
 

She counted chimpanzees and tigers  among her best friends, and became the poster girl for Chester Zoo as she explained at the literature festival, also referencing the zoo’s struggles with poverty in her early years.

Now 88 and the guardian of her family’s legacy, June spoke evocatively at the festival of the fascinating tale of a working-class family with a very unusual home.

She also told her audiences of how the family survived the war years, and how she used to feed horse meat to the animals, would hear bombers passing over the zoo to attack Liverpool and the AA gun dropping shrapnel on Oakfield Manor - which damaged the aquariums.

Growing up,  June admitted that she kept the fact that her family owned a zoo private, not wishing to tell anyone at school.

● June will be signing copies of her book at the zoo on Saturday October 25 between 1pm and 3pm at our gift shop by the main entrance. The book is available to purchase from our shop.