Glasgow Zoo Park
Glasgowzoo has now closed these pages are for information only

Compiled by Roger Edwards, Special Projects Officer, Glasgow Zoopark, December 2000

1. The founding of the Zoological Society, 15th December 1936, and its early years

Sydney Benson

Sydney Benson thirty years later
Glasgow Zoo can be said to be the dream of one man Sydney Benson, who was instrumental in founding the Zoological Society, and went on to become the first director of the zoo, until his retirement thirty years later.

The Zoological Society of Glasgow was founded on Tuesday 15th December 1936 at a meeting held in the Zoology Department of Glasgow University chaired by the regius professor of Zoology at the University, Professor Edward Hindle.

Professor Edward Hindle

The proposal to form the Zoological Society of Glasgow was put by Mr A. McNab Chassels, Provost of Coatbridge, a nearby burgh to the east of the city.

Two weeks later the first office bearers were announced: president - Professor Edward Hindle; vice-presidents - Provost A. McNab Chassels and Mr John S. Clarke; secretary and treasurer - Mr Sydney H. Benson. Other members of the committee were Professor L.A.L. King, Dr J.B.O. Sneedon, Dr H.B. Cott, Mr Strachan Kerr, Mr Ancell Stronach, and Mr Peter McNeish.

The first meeting of the Zoological Society of Glasgow took place on Thursday January 28th, 1937 (a lecture given by Dr. H.B. Cott on Snake Hunting on the Lower Zambesi ) at which a photograph was taken of the first Council. It shows Professor L.A.L. King, Sydney Benson, Strachan Kerr, Dr H.B. Cott, Professor Edward Hindle, Peter McNish, Ancell Stronach and Dr J.B.O. Sneedon. The inserts are Provost A. McNab Chassels and John S. Clarke.

First Council

Professor L.A.L. King

Sydney Benson

Strachan Kerr

Dr H.B. Cott

Professor Edward Hindle

Peter McNish

Ancell Stronach

Dr J.B.O. Sneedon

Provost A. McNab Chassels

John S. Clarke
The first proposal was to create a four-acre zoo within the Empire Exhibition held in Glasgow's Bellahouston Park in 1938, but this was rejected by the exhibition organisers. Sydney Benson was photographed at the Empire Exhibition in October 1938 with the founder of Whipsnade Wild Animal Park, Sir Peter Chalmers Mitchell.

Sydney Benson with Sir Peter Chalmers Mitchell

Late in 1938 the Society settled on the Calderpark estate just outwith the eastern city boundary. A photograph dated February 1939 shows a tour of the Calderpark estate beside the loch . The only person easily identified is Mr A. McNab Chassels in the bowler hat. The gentleman pointing the umbrella may be Professor Hindle .

The outbreak of World War II prevented development of the estate. In 1943 Professor Hindle left Glasgow on his appointment as scientific director of the Zoological Society of London, responsible for the direction of both London and Whipsnade Zoos.


tour of the Calderpark estate beside the loch

These notes come primarily from a taped interview with W.R.S. MacKenzie (Society President) and others in July 1987.

1. John S. Clarke , a former Glasgow Bailie, did all kinds of things with Bertram Mills Circus. In the old Wilson's Zoo in Oswald Street, Glasgow, he used to present tightrope walking lions and lionesses twice a day for years, although I think he was originally a journalist with Glasgow's Daily Record newspaper. He was also involved with Andrew Wilson who founded the Craigend Castle Zoo in Mugdock, Milngavie, near Glasgow.

2. Strachan Kerr was for many many years the Secretary and leading light in the Scottish Aquarium Society, not actually the founder but went along to a meeting in 1926 and stayed. He was also a major caterer on the South side of Glasgow.

3. The Loch (Webster's Pond). Peter Scott of the Wildlife and Wetlands Trust (Sir Peter as he became) visited the site and he said that the Zoo should be focussed with the loch being the central point. Obviously, with Scott's enthusiasm for waterfowl, that is what would immediately strike him.

4. Professor Edward Hindle , famed for discovering the golden hamster, was usually seen accompanied by a Pekinese.

Peter Scott