A Wirths While Experience

Image: 1951 Programme Source: Beryl Vohland

Image: 1951 Programme
Source: Beryl Vohland

One experience in my youth has always stuck in my head, and that is going to the circus. It was fascinating, exciting and totally alien to us, even though we had grown up surrounded by a large variety of animals on the property. The circus coming to town was always a cause for excitement in the whole region. Well today I stumbled across some pictures of Wirths’ Circus coming to Oakey, so I thought I’d see what I could dig up on them.

Image: Wirths Circus Train 1951 Source: Beryl Vohland

Image: Wirths Circus Train 1951
Source: Beryl Vohland

With performers from Europe, France, Denmark, Latvia and America, it was no wonder that Wirths’ Circus was “The Greatest Show on Earth”. Late August to early September was the traditional time for the Wirths’ Circus to visit Oakey and the region. Travelling a circuit of each state over the course of the year the circus would travel from town to town via the railway and pay a nominated fee per mile, which was doubled for every locomotion engine that was required to pull the mammoth cavalcade. The Wirths’ Circus train consisted of eight passenger carriages, and over 20 trucks. There were ten elephants in eight trucks, 14 cages of wild animals, 40 horses and ponies, and eight tents. Upon arrival at a town it would take the workers approximately two hours to set up ready for the evening performance and then pack up the show after the performance and back onto the train ready to do the same again at the next town.

On the back of the 1953 programme there is an interesting anecdote listed.

“One of the most sensational evenings in the history of Wirths’ Circus occurred when Capt. Lindo, the lion trainer, made a comeback after several years. Entering the cage with all his accustomed savoir faire, he quickly realised that in his long absence, the lions, which he had trained, had completely forgotten him. Capt. Lindo failed to make the lions perform any tricks, and had a rather torrid time trying to get some results from the animals, who by now were openly hostile towards him. Then followed some breathtaking moments as the lions raced around the cage, clawing at the trainer with unveiled hostility, until finally Capt. Lindo got them back into their small cage to the vast relief of the huge audience – and management. The experience took toll of the lion tamer. A doctor was later in the night called to him, but he died of heart failure at two in the morning.”

The death of the lion tamer made the news and mentioned that lion tamer of 20 years, Capt. James Lindo died after his performance aged 60 years.

Image: The Big Top 1951 Source: Beryl Vohland

Image: The Big Top 1951
Source: Beryl Vohland

That’s me for another week; I’ll see you all next week.

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