LOST in wonder, children wandered around the newly-opened zoo, as civic dignitaries made encouraging speeches and the Marchioness of Bute and her young daughter played with the penguins.

It was Wednesday, July 9, 1947, Much attention had been paid to this new attraction, Calderpark Zoo, in Glasgow. The Marquis of Bute said it was an “institution of which the West of Scotland has long stood in need.”

He said he had agreed to become president of the Glasgow and West of Scotland Zoological Society of Glasgow, the driving force behind the city’s first open-air zoo, in February 1945 upon his release from the Navy “on condition that I was to be an active member of Council and not just a name on notepaper and appeals.”

The zoo was declared open by the Marchioness, who seemed taken with the penguins (main image, far right). The VIP platform party (right, bottom) included the Marquis and Marchioness and Glasgow’s Lord Provost, Sir Hector McNeill, who spoke of the joy with which news of the zoo’s opening would be received by the great army of 130,000 Glasgow schoolchildren, “who, with the 80,000 in Lanarkshire, would provide a ready-made clientele.”

The society was praised for the speed with which it had overseen the birth of the zoo, given that the first sod on the site had been cut just over a year earlier. It was the first zoo to have been opened in Britain since the end of the war.

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Dr Edward Hindle, scientific director of the Zoological Society of London, who had taken an active interest in the setting up of Calderpark Zoo, said that London Zoo had, the previous year, attracted more than 2,75 million visitors.The zoo, he added, was the capital’s most popular place of entertainment after the cinema, and he had no doubt that the Glasgow zoo would soon be able to report the same happy experience.

At the time of the opening, the new zoo, which covered 31 acres of parkland on the Calderpark Estate, was home to more than 150 animals and birds, including lions, wallabies, monkeys, Soay sheep and parrots.

An ostrich, two cheetahs and some baboons were on their way, and there were hopes that the operation would eventually occupy 100 acres of the parkland.

Writing a day before the opening, the Marquis reflected on the effort to obtain the materials that had been used in the laying-out of the park.

“We have begged and scrounged”, he wrote, “we have searched scrap heaps and shipyard, and everywhere we have found something useful and usually a willing and generous friend as well ... Representatives of other zoos have recently visited the Park and they have been astonished by the way we have been able to build what we have in face of the restrictions and conditions which we all have to suffer these days.”

Two years later, in December 1949, zoo staff members were photographed (right, top) with ‘Mary’, a model of a tigress, gifted by London students, to replace ‘Sheila’, a tigress at the zoo, which had had to be shot.