Fifty years ago this month Black Beauty came to St Helens – and disgraced itself!

The horse that featured in the popular television show bit a four-year-old girl's hand while appearing in a charity fundraiser in Victoria Park. It really wasn't the equine TV star's fault but she certainly lost a big fan in Sharon Marie Foster.

The appearance came about after Lilian Fairhurst of Charles Street in St Helens heard that the horse had attended a charity fundraiser in Manchester.

There had been more than one animal that performed on television as Black Beauty but this had been the original.

Mrs Fairhurst contacted the horse's owner and it was agreed that Black Beauty would travel to St Helens from its stable in Hertfordshire.

Lilian's committee were fundraising to buy a kidney machine for St Helens Hospital and intended charging visitors 5p to see and ride the star horse in Victoria Park.

Mrs Fairhurst said at the time: "The show is terrifically popular with the youngsters and I'm sure a lot of them will be there to see Black Beauty.

I think it should put us over our target of £2,000. We set that figure when we started our fund and we're well on the way to it already."

But things did not quite go to plan.

The St Helens Newspaper of March 19th 1974 wrote: "Children's TV favourite Black Beauty turned beast in St. Helens' Victoria Park, biting the hand that fed him.

"And the hand belonged to four-year-old admirer Sharon Marie Foster, of Folds Lane, Haresfinch, who had been taken to the park by her mother, as a special treat. Sharon Marie was giving the horse some hay when his teeth nipped the middle finger of her right hand, causing a nasty wound and bruising."

Sharon’s mother, Edna Foster, took her daughter to Providence Hospital where the injured finger was bandaged after an injection.

"In order to keep Sharon Marie's confidence up, I tried to get her to stroke the horse immediately after the bite," Mrs Foster explained, "but she was very shocked and wouldn't have anything to do with him."

St Helens Star:  Robert Dorning as bank inspector Mr West in Dad's Army Robert Dorning as bank inspector Mr West in Dad's Army (Image: Stephen Wainwright)

The little girl spent a restless night after the incident and needed to be taken back to hospital for more treatment.

Sharon Marie had been an ardent Sunday afternoon viewer of the television series but when asked if she wanted to watch the programme again made it very clear that her love affair with Black Beauty was over.

St Helens has a strong connection with Stacy Dorning who featured in the show's second series between 1973 and 1974. She was the daughter of actor and musician Robert Dorning who was born in Croppers Hill and attended Cowley Grammar School.

Dorning attended Miss Olive Johnson's dancing school in Greenfield Road and after leaving school studied drama and dance in Liverpool with the intention of becoming a ballet dancer. During the 1930s Robert had a brief career as a musical comedian in theatre before choosing acting as his profession.

Dorning appeared in countless films, radio and TV shows, most notably, perhaps, as Mr West the bank inspector in an episode of Dad's Army when a bomb dropped inside the vault of Swallow's Bank