independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

Fossetts ring in 125 years under the big top as three generations keep show on the road

Marion Fossett of Fossett's Circus with her nephew Edward Fossett aka Otto the Clown and niece Sarah Fossett on silks.
Marion Fossett of Fossett's Circus with her nephew Edward Fossett aka Otto the Clown and niece Sarah Fossett on silks.

FAMILIES enjoying the Fossett's Circus Christmas show currently running at the RDS, Dublin, might not be aware they're taking part in a tradition dating back generations.

The family-run circus has survived two world wars, five generations, the advent of film and the invention of the Xbox. The 125-year-old circus is believed to be the oldest in the world -- and while it's not as lucrative as it once was, it still takes in an average of €900,000 a year.

Spokesman Charles O'Brien told the Irish Independent: "When it started, we had no national theatre; we didn't even have black-and-white films."

He said: "Things like the Xbox, 3D cinema and other types of electronic media are trying to recreate live entertainment, but we believe they'll never match live theatre, panto or the circus.

"They were all supposed to spell death for us, but we've survived them all. And we'll keep surviving, short of a nuclear holocaust. And even if that does happen, I think we'd pick ourselves up out of the rubble."

"There will be somebody talking to someone at the Irish Independent about Fossett's in another 125 years", he added.

The circus's earliest mention was in April 1888 in an edition of the 'Wicklow People' newspaper, but Mr O'Brien said its history goes back to the 1870s when George Lowe, a young showman from Cork, emigrated to America and began working for Buffalo Bill's Wild West show at New York's Madison Square Garden.

When he returned he changed his name to 'The Amazing Doctor Powell' and toured the country in a wagon performing with his wife and two American Indians. The Fossett name wasn't introduced until the next generation.

Today, Fossett's Circus is run by 16 full-time staff with 42 performers. Three generations still tour with the circus.

Irish Independent

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