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50 years ago in Salford: Police baffled by 5ft shark found in alleyway

SalfordOnline.com has reported some unusual stories over the years but this piece from 50 years ago today must surely take some beating.

Readers may remember when Salford had a vibrant and thriving docks – now home to the BBC and ITV at Salford Quays – bringing in goods from all over the world.

The ship companies, loading bays and offices employed hundreds of local men and so often brought foreign sailors to the streets of Salford that they became commonplace.

The Trafford Road area of Salford close to the docks was – to say the least – a colourful place with its many pubs, cafes, chandlers shops and shady characters.

Read:Women of ill repute’ cost Nags Head pub a pretty penny

PC Geoffrey Barlow from the Salford Police Force must have thought that Wednesday 3 July 1965 was going to be a routine day, until he received a call to attend King William Street, off Trafford Road.

It was in a back entry there that he made a shocking discovery – no not a body, but a dead shark.

This creature from the deep was 4 foot 10 inches long, weighed 30 pounds and was still comparatively ‘fresh’.

Police called in the Salford Cleansing Department to take a look, but they thought it was a practical joke.

Officer Edward Allen told the Salford City Reporter: “I didn’t believe it at first when I was told to come and collect a shark.

“I thought they were having me on, but there it was.”

But how did it get there? Caught at sea? Kept as a pet? Smuggled through customs and security at Salford Docks?

I remember being told many years ago that when sailors on long haul trips many months from home would buy a monkey or a parrot from some exotic landand have it in their cabin as company.

But returning to Liverpool or Salford they knew that the poor creature would be taken into quarantine and they could face a stiff fine.

My source, who was once in the Merchant Navy, told me that many a time he had seen his kinder shipmates release a mynah bird or a parrot through a porthole and let it fly away.

Sadly the primates faced a darker fate. It was common practice to tie the animal’s legs together and throw them out of a porthole to perish; tragically in the 60s in Salford it was not uncommon to see exotic birds and monkeys floating in the dock water.

Watch: ‘Human hand’ found in water at Salford Quays was dead parrot, say police

If there are any local history researchers who could shed any light on the origins of this piscatorial prank, please email tonyflynn@salfordonline.com.

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SalfordOnline.com's Local History Editor and Senior Reporter.