Zoo visit for centenarian

Marjorie Emile
Marjorie Emile

Blackpool Zoo has helped make dreams come true for a Harrogate centenarian who got to hand-feed giraffes during a special visit organised by staff.

Marjorie Emile, who celebrates her 102nd birthday on July 4, visited the zoo with nephews and nieces and was over the moon when she learned she would be getting up close to the giraffes.

“I had a wonderful time at Blackpool Zoo, which was made even more special by being able to feed the beautiful giraffes,” said Mrs Emile, who lives on Harlow Oval.

“My great nephew works at the zoo and arranged everything for me with the management. I also visited the ape house, where I fell in love with the baby gorilla Meisie, and I thoroughly enjoyed the sea lion display – in fact I bought a cuddly sea lion to add to my extensive soft toy collection.”

Blackpool Zoo has confirmed Mrs Emile is officially its oldest ever visitor.

Jude Rothwell, marketing and PR co-ordinator, said: “We were more than happy to arrange for Marjorie to hand-feed the giraffes. We do hope she comes to visit us again and we are thrilled that she had such a fantastic day.”

Mrs Emile was born in 1909, the year instant coffee, the toaster and the first completely synthetic plastic were invented. Other notable events included the first manned flight across the English Channel, the discovery of the magnetic South Pole, the official opening of Woolworths, and Manchester United’s first FA Cup victory.

One of eight children, Mrs Emile spent the first 41 years of her life living in her birth city of Lahore in what was British India. She married sportsman Alf Emile and although she never had children she has 27 nieces and nephews and countless great-nieces and great-nephews.

Mrs Emile went on to become a sergeant in the Indian Army and moved to the UK after the death of her father in 1950, working for Lloyds Insurance in London before moving to Harrogate after her retirement in 1982.

She said: “Next on my list of things to do is swim with dolphins, although the pacemaker I had fitted last year may prevent that!”