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Roll Up! Roll Up! The Circus is in Town!

Roll Up! Roll Up! The Circus is in Town!

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1880 The Circus is in town!


Roll Up! Roll Up! The Circus is in Town!

Circuses would often visit Blairgowrie and Rattray in the second half of the 19th century and through the 20th century, and when the Circus was in town, a Circus Procession involving animals to promote the show was a common sight. (image of Circus procession)

John Sanger and Son's Hippodrome, Circus and Menagerie would  often raise the Big Top in Blairgowrie.  This 1880 Blairgowrie Advertiser advertisement lists some of the animals involved.

Don't forget that  back in 1880 many children were working in the mills, so in June 1880 when the Grand Procession went through the streets of the town, their excitement and imagination would have no bounds.  Some may even have dreamt of running away with the circus.

Sadly, few families would have had the wherewithal to actually pay to visit the Circus.

A headline in the Blairgowrie Advertiser on 23 July 1992 announced "Circus is coming to town".  The mighty Chipperfield Circus will come rolling into Blairgowrie on 6 August for a three-day-stay.

Seventeen year old Richard Chipperfield made his debut as an animal trainer with the family's magnificent lions.  In addition, the Hungarian Richter family gave a performance with their superb elephants.  It may be imagined that performing animals were banned from circuses many years ago, but the truth may surprise you.  It was only in July 2019 that the UK passed a law banning the use of wild animals in travelling circuses, and that ban came into force on 20 January 2020.

However, amid growing protests from groups concerned for the welfare of circus animals, many circus companies had already made a decision to remove animals from shows.

Who hasn't heard of the 1905 escape of the circus lioness in the Wellmeadow, Blairgowrie?

If you haven't then click here for an account of the heart stopping escape and the subsequent undignified demise of the lioness.

A search through local newspapers revealed that several circuses that were perhaps less well known used to visit the town.  Performances usually took place in the Wellmeadow.

On Wednesday 23 May 1855 the Dundee Courier reported on a visit by Macarte's Leviathan Circus.  It would seem that on that occasion the performance did not live up to the hype.

"This equestrian establishment paid us a visit on Wednesday last.   As is usual on such occasions, great excitement was manifested by all classes to witness the pompously announced grand procession of carriages, ponies, and troupe of artistes.  Nothing was remarkable in the procession, except the speed with which the "Arabah," or car of the Sultan, drawn by 20 horses, traversed the streets, and the dexterity with which the driver turned the horses round some of the rather acute angled corners.  The evening performance was numerously attended, but the horsemanship was of a very inferior description.   Most of the feats were mere apologies for what was to be expected from the outward appearance of the company, and the luscious strains of the hand bills.  None of them were executed with any great ease of dexterity.   All the attempts at personation of character were nothing short of burlesque; and as for the "Spanish Bull Fight," it should never again be attempted before a half intelligent assembly'.

The Dundee Advertiser on 18 August 1890 announced the arrival of Ginnett's Circus.

This Circus Company continues to put on performances - visit

The Dundee Courier on 7 April 1898 advertised Fossett's Circus - visit

The Dundee Evening Telegraph on 9 May 1900 announced the arrival of Pinders Circus - visit

The Perthshire Advertiser on 21 September 1921 advertised Frank Bosstock's Circus and Hippodrome - visit

Travelling circus shows continue to entertain audiences today, but now feature an all-human cast.

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