Samson a Bengal tiger is the unusual choice of a pet for a County Down couple.
The fishing village of Portavogie on the Ards Peninsula is home to marine engineer Ian Bailie, his wife Pat and their daughter, a kitten and two German shepherd dogs. Animal lovers both, they are known locally for,
Their rather unusual taste in animal house guests.
The pet in question is Samson, an eight month old Royal Bengal tiger, who has been with the Bailie's since he was two weeks old. Prior to this Ian Bailie explains that he kept monkeys and a Barbary ape. The ape had to go when his daughter was born.
Caring for Samson when he was a cub was a full time job in itself, and even involved the Bailies taking him into their own bedroom at night.
In addition to feeding him four pounds of meat and fish a day. The primary task is to train and tame Samson, as Royal Bengal tigers grow up to seventeen or eighteen feet in length.
You have to be firm but fair with them...just like a dog, when you’re training a dog.
Although Samson is an unusual pet Ian Bailie says there is no threat to life or limb. The tiger is housed outside in an enclosure built to specifications set by Northern Ireland’s Department of Agriculture.
So far only one of his neighbours has objected to Samson’s presence. British legislation on keeping of wild animals does not apply in Northern Ireland.
Ian Bailie is thinking about expanding his menagerie and would like to acquire a lioness to see if he could cross breed the two animals. In the event that things do not work out with the tiger, it would have to be put down as a tame tiger would be unable to live with other tigers in a zoo.
An RTÉ News report broadcast on 28 January 1985. The reporter is David Ross.