A FAMOUS Swindonian returned to his home town this week in 1976 – but not in connection with the things he was most famous for.

Desmond Morris had been a national celebrity since the 1950s, when appearances on TV zoology programmes won him millions of fans.

His CV was later boosted by best-selling author status thanks to The Naked Ape and other explorations of human behaviour.

As we’ve noted in Rewind before, however, the scientist is also an artist whose surrealist works have been compared by critics to those of masters such as Miro.

It was this lesser-known string to his bow which brought him back to Swindon 41 years ago.

We said: “Dr Morris – who made £100,000 out of his book The Naked Ape – was back home last night to open his exhibition of paintings that reveal ‘my own private world.’

“The show at Swindon art gallery in Bath Road runs until December 7.

“'I get as much as £1,500 for one of these paintings,’ he said.

“They illustrate what he calls his ‘biomorphs’ – a slightly nightmare world of strangely shaped creatures tramping technicolour canvases.”

He revealed that he had been a painter before he was a zoologist, and that his creations on canvas had helped to stimulate his interest in zoology.

Dr Morris also revealed that he was working on another book about the ways of humans.

Manwatching: A Field Guide to Human Behaviour would be published in 1978 and become another best seller.

Other forms of art also found their way into our pages.

The Groundwell Farmers were an arts collective based at the old Groundwell Farm buildings, which are now home to a North Swindon dental clinic.

Their pioneering work tended to have a community focus, and tended also to be non-traditional. Many Swindon people of the era had their first exposure to performance art courtesy of the Groundwell Farmers.

So it was that week in mid-November of 1976, when passers-by were startled to see an elegantly dressed group of people sitting down to a meal on a pavement table at the corner of Albert Street and Wood Street.

The event, we said, was part of a three-week project, although no further details seem to have been available.

At The Affair nightclub in Theatre Square, hardy people were suffering for another kind of art.

We said: “Six disco dancers are still on their feet today after more than 12 gruelling hours of The Affair’s non-stop marathon dance.

“Shortly after 9pm last night, eight brave boppers from Swindon started shuffling their feet for charity.

“They are hoping to raise part of the money for a £400 ventilator – used on babies’ incubators – by dancing two nights and one day away.

“Two dancers dropped out overnight but the other six are still going strong today.”

The rest of the money for the ventilator was to be raised through raffles and various other events.

We added: “A pilot scheme to make up Christmas hampers for the old folk will be starting soon. Disco-goers will be able to get in the club free if they bring along a tin of food or a jar of marmalade for the hampers.”

Turning to yet another form of art, hair stylist Tressa Dokic and model Pat Bonney were the best in the West.

We said: “Tressa, 18, of The Broadway, Swindon, combed her way to the title by winning the trophy for the best apprentice day style and the shield for becoming the highest placed apprentice at the Swindon Hairdressing Federation hairstyling competition at Blunsdon House Hotel.

“It was only the third competition for Tressa, a hair stylist with Cordelia’s Hairstyles, Swindon.”

We ran a photo of the young stylist and her model which could scarcely be more evocative of the era.

In the town centre, we photographed Coun and Mrs Les Gowing, the Swindon Mayor and Mayoress, ascending the long moving pavement to the upper section of the Brunel Centre.

Their mission was to open the new Brunel Market, which occupied the space later taken by House of Fraser.

As we have noted before in Rewind, local newspapers were most people’s main source of cute animal stories and pictures in the pre-internet era.

This week in 1976 we offered one with a Robinson Crusoe angle.

“A castaway cat,” we said, “has been rescued after being trapped on an island for five days.

“The cat, which had been marooned at Shaftesbury Avenue lake in Swindon since Saturday, was saved by RSPCA inspector Dave Millard."

The inspector, who had rowed to the island in a boat supplied by Coate Water park staff, said: “It might have walked over on the ice on Friday night but I think the ice was too thin.

“In my opinion it was either taken there or thrown on to the island.

“The cat was so terrified we could not get anywhere near it and in the end we caught it by baiting a trap.”