A woman who lived with Fenella the tiger in Holmfirth has spoken of her childhood memories ahead of a special exhibition.
Rosamund Hiles, 67, was a babe in arms when Fenella came to the town in 1939.
Fenella, a Sumatran tiger, was given to the Overends, a family of entertainers, as a cub when they were touring South Africa.
Rosamund’s mum Kassie brought Fenella to Holmfirth.
Rosamund was just two-and-a-half when Fenella died in 1950 and has no first hand memories but heard all the stories as she was growing up.
Now Rosamund, back living in Holmfirth, has put her collection of photographs on show at Helen J Bray Photographic Studio in Dunford Road, as part of the Holmfirth Arts Festival.
And on Sunday, June 19 (5pm-7pm) at Up Country in Huddersfield road, Holmfirth, a film about Fenella will be screened. It will include an interview with Rosamund and original footage of the friendly tiger which became the stuff of local legend.
Rosamund said: “When I was born Fenella was there. For me it wasn’t unusual. I know that people asked my mother what she would do when I was born and she said she would put me in a basket on top of the piano!”
The Overends were a family of acrobats and showbusiness was in the blood.
Fenella was part of a circus act though she didn’t do tricks or perform as such. Children were allowed to stroke her – and ride on her back.
Fenella was a celebrity in Holmfirth and many people have their own stories to tell. Some will be true, others exaggerated with the passage of time.
“Fenella once stopped a funeral in Holmfirth and I remember Fenella wrestling with my grandfather,” said Rosamund.
Fenella was always tame. She was given to the family before she could even open her eyes and Rosamund said: “She was only a few days old and the first creatures she saw when she first opened her eyes were humans.
“We always believed she thought she was human herself.”
Fenella was fed on horsemeat and was never vicious.
“She never showed any aggression,” said Rosamund. “She would bite and scratch but she would never bite through.”
Rosamund, an only child, was brought up by her mother after her father Bertram – stage name Wimpey – went off to America to join a flying trapeze circus when she was very young.
She returned to Holmfirth to look after her mother who died just short of her 100th birthday last year.
Rosamund will hold a question and answer session after the film show on Sunday.
The exhibition, Fenella in Photographs, will launch on Monday. It will be open Tuesday-Friday (10am-4.30pm) and Saturday (10am-1pm).
Meanwhile, Tiger Tales with Ian McMillan will be held at Holy Trinity Church in Holmfirth on Wednesday (8pm).