We relished any opportunity for entertainment in those Golden Days of long ago. Most popular of all was the travelling circus.
The arrival in town of these magical travelling shows always created quite a stir! In retrospect, they were modest enough affairs – with the single exception of the great Chipperfields, whose first visit to Newry to this day has left a lasting impression with people of my age.
Even their trail-blazing town parade – the march-by of all the exotic animals and glamorous skimpily-dressed performers – awakened emotions we felt we never had. For free, we had a prolonged study of Bengal tigers, African elephants and a panoply of other exotic beasts: acrobats and clowns tumbled energetically across our roads and paths: there were clowns, balancing confidently on huge wooden stilts walking over to where people were hanging out of first-floor windows and casually shaking hands with them, each and every one. This was an unparalleled spectacle which made a deep impression. I was mesmerised, but others were even more deeply affected.
I could name a half-dozen old men and women – teenagers at the time – who actively planned to run away from home and join that great Circus on its tour. [I shared similar feelings some ten years later when Moral Rearmament staged a spectacular in the Whitla Hall at Queens. Thankfully I had good friends who talked sense into my addled brain.]
A few of the Newry teenagers mesmerised by Chipperfields’ Circus folk were offered their chance – or so the story goes. Some attractive local young maidens applied for – and got – special interviews. They returned much chastened, though still with stars in their eyes.
It was with continued sadness that I observed the demise over the years of the travelling circus: and especially when I learned that young Mr Chipperfield died at the claws of his own Bengal tigers.
…. more later …