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Rajah the mechanical elephant, owned and operated by Crosby and District Lions, returned to its ‘birthplace’ on 31st August 2013.

Rajah has been helping the Crosby Lions to fundraise and give enjoyment to children in the area, especially at their annual Crosby Carnival in July, since 1995.

Its origins have always been a bit of a mystery. Many local people remember riding on Rajah from as far back as 1952. Crosby Lions ‘inherited’ the elephant from Nazareth House, which includes a short stay respite unit for children & young people aged 6-17, all of whom have learning and physical disabilities as well as complex health needs. When the nuns realised that it was becoming too difficult for them to run and maintain the elephant and, as the Lions had been supporting their garden fete for several years, Rajah was passed over to enable him to carry on his good works.

After considerable research by Lion Ivan Swainbank it was recently discovered that Rajah was built in the 1950s at Luneside Engineering works in the Lancashire village of Halton, near Lancaster. Halton Mill was owned by Luneside Engineering and many high specification components were produced within the mill’s old walls. Perhaps the most original and bizarre products were the almost life-sized mechanical elephants that were made from the late 1940s for Macade Entertainment Ltd.

Luneside Engineering applied its passion for precision to the manufacture of these elephants, using plaster of Paris and papier mâché to create a realistic facade to conceal the mechanical innards. Demand for the elephants grew and soon children all over Britain were enjoying the surreal thrill of riding an elephant down a windy promenade.

Where the elephants went, excited children followed. Each winter elephants returned to Halton Mill for maintenance before returning to the seaside. Eventually their popularity waned and they fell into disrepair. Luneside Engineering closed in 2004 and the building became derelict.

Halton Mill is now an "eco-friendly enterprise hub" and when the hub manager Chris Coates discovered that the elephants were made at the site he set about tracing one. He eventually tracked down Rajah through the internet and invited it to join them at the re-opening of the Mill.

It is now thought that only two of the original elephants are still in existence – Crosby Lions’ Rajah and another in the South of England.

 

http://www.itv.com/news/granada/story/2013-08-31/elephant-returns-to-lancashire/

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