THE great niece of a colourful Largs character who used to own a much-loved miniature zoo on Largs seafront has made a special plea to News readers.

Frank Roche used to run the seafront zoo next to the bathing station in the 1950s and 60s but the zookeeper's personal collection of photos of monkeys, boa constrictors were destroyed by a flood at his daughter Patricia's house.

Frank's great niece Anna Temple-Roche, pictured, is hoping someone from the town may be able to step in an help with some images to replace the ones lost to the family forever.

She said: "I'm praying that the people of Largs have some photographs they can share with us as we now don't have any - and any photographs of Oddjob the giant tortoise would be the cherry on the cake.

"He has been the centre of many of the stories we heard as children.

"My uncle always talked fondly of the zoo and would often walk Oddjob along the seafront."

Frank was originally in the RAF before coming to Largs where he opened an aquarium which expanded over time.

Anna said: "He would fly to London and every time he came back with a different animal and slowly it grew into a miniature zoo.

"After the war there were quite a lot of exotic animal dealers. It was legal at the time so he would head down to London to buy the animals and bring them back."

The zoo ran until 1968 when Frank reluctantly took the decision to close after becoming unhappy attractions such as Aubery and Douglas Park were being promoted over his.

Anna said: "Oddjob moved to Calderpark Zoo and I am currently doing some research to see if he is still somewhere in the UK as tortoises can live up to 150 years. it would be remarkable if he was still alive."

Anna'a great uncle's menagerie was involved in a few local escapades, with his monkey Bimbo regularly making a bid for freedom.

Anna said: "Uncle Frank use to bring Bimbo to my dad's house and he would climb the curtains and pour the teapot.

"He once got out and was found sitting in a pram in Brisbane Street with a six week old baby!"

Frank also suffered from a flood at the aquarium in the 1950s as high seas during a storm threatened to engulf his tropical fish tanks.

He managed to secure the premises with the help of several tradesmen as tons of shingle had to be removed and drainage outlets cleared. He saved all the fish, alligators and lizards, although a lot of fish food fell foul of the high waters.

Anna said: "I remember being told that the force of the wind and sea smashed open the cage of the boa constrictor. When Frank went in he managed to pick him up and he coiled around his arm looking for comfort.

"Frank went straight into to save all the animals - and then built them a new enclosure."

The aquarium and zoo was opened in May 1954 and included Siamese fighting fish, cat fish from India, angel fish from the Amazon and Anthony and Cleopatra - baby alligators from South America. A total of 1,300 people visited the new aquarium on its opening day.

Anna said: "I know a lot of people have very fond memories of the attraction on Largs seafront - it would be really nice to see photos if anyone still has them."

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