Special visitor turns 88

An Oldbury lady who has visited Dudley Zoo on her birthday almost every year since it opened in 1937 has just spent her 88th birthday at the attraction.

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Barbara Cross made her first visit to DZG at the age of 10 the year it opened and has returned each year since, mostly on 17th November – her birthday.

Yesterday, the day she turned 88, the mum-of-five daughters was accompanied by two of her girls, Tina Watson and Sandra Cash, and her son-in-law James Cash, pictured left.

Barbara recalled many happy memories of trips to the zoo with school friends, her late husband Edward Rhys Cross, her children Lynda, Gail, Sandra, Yvonne and Tina, her nine grandchildren and her seven great-grandchildren.

She said: “On my first visit here with a friend I held my hand out to one of the monkeys and he nearly pulled me in with him.

“There was another time when I tried to get on a camel and I fell off.

“I always used to bring a picnic and flask of tea when I came with the family and we’d sit on the grass by the castle.”

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ABOVE: LEFT – Barbara, aged 18, with her husband Edward Rhys Cross and her first born Lynda on a trip to DZG in 1945. RIGHT – Exactly 70 years later… Birthday girl Barbara sat in the same picnic spot yesterday with her daughters Tina and Sandra

Barbara added: “I’ve seen a lot of changes over the years and there are more animals here now than there used to be. I love coming here and have had some wonderful days out at the zoo.”

The great-grandma said her favourites were the big cats and DZG was delighted to hand over an adoption pack for one of our Asiatic lionesses, Kyra, as a gift on her special day.

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ABOVE – Barbara with her adoption pack for nine-year-old lioness, Kyra

Barbara’s daughter Tina Watson said: “The gift of the adoption of the lioness was such a lovely gesture and has really made mum’s day.

“Mum has been coming to the zoo every year since she was 10 and most visits were on her birthday.

“She likes to come every year and rekindle old memories and the whole day has been wonderful.”

webbarb1Barbara, who worked as a spot welder straight from school until she left to start a family, enjoyed a birthday meal in the Oak Kitchen at the Queen Mary Restaurant.

It was a change from her regularly eatery, The Wernley in Oldbury, where the pensioner goes for lunch daily. Barbara – pictured left on Dotto, DZG’s land train – said the secret of her good health was half a bitter with her meal there every day.

And when asked if she’ll be making a return trip to Dudley Zoo on her 89th, Barbara replied: “Very likely!”

Great to have you with us on your special day Barbara!