Friday 6 December 2019

Judge saves Christmas for Fossett Brothers Circus

Sarah Fossett
Sarah Fossett

By Ray Managh

A judge who played Santa today saved Christmas for the children and the clowns.

Judge Jacqueline Linnane granted the famed Fossett Brothers Circus the protection of the Circuit Civil Court from predatory creditors.

Her decision to appoint Joseph Walsh, of Hughes Blake Accountants, as examiner to the circus company means no group or single creditor can topple the big top over the holiday period.

Barrister Ross Gorman told the court Fossett Brothers would now continue with its fabulous fun show of international artistes, animals and clowns at the Winter Funderland in the RDS which starts on Friday December 5th and runs until January 11.

Mr Gorman said the company had reached a stage where it had been unable to pay its debts but an independent firm of accountants, which had prepared a report for the court, believed the circus had a reasonable prospect of survival.

He said that if an examiner was not appointed the company would have to go into liquidation and all of its employees would lose their jobs.  Under examinership the company’s unsecured creditors would receive some dividend and the show, with the guidance of the court, could go on.

The court heard that if Mr Walsh could prepare a scheme of arrangement to facilitate the circus’s survival then its creditors may be able to trade profitably with the company into the future.

Mr Gorman had earlier told the court that Fossett Brothers had walked a financial tightrope for years and despite a sometimes shaky balancing act of juggling income against expenditure since 2010 it faced collapse without the appointment of and examiner.

He said part of the examiner’s job would be to deal with an outstanding debt of €.5million arising from a family dispute which had led to High Court proceedings in 1992 and which had not settled until 2008.

 The €.5m debt had increased with interest to €1.2million and company directors Robert Fossett junior and Edward Fossett junior had instructed their solicitors Patrick Donaghy and Company to seek protection of the court.  On top of other significant debts the €1.2million was owing under a settlement to three aunts of the directors.

 Barrister Ronan Killeen, counsel for the aunts, Mona Gerbola and her sisters Mary and Amy Garcia, told the court Ms Gerbola had made an affidavit on behalf of all three of them regarding disputed partnership proceedings in the High Court. The sisters supported the application for the appointment of an examiner.

 Judge Linnane, who directed the appointment of Mr Walsh as examiner, heard that the famous family business could trace its origins back to the 1880s to a circus troupe started by Cork man George Lowe who had toured Ireland with a travelling troupe before emigrating to the United States.

His participation in a number of variety shows there brought him to the attention of William Cody, aka Buffalo Bill, whose troupe he joined, specialising in the fields of magic, juggling and trick-riding horses.

Lowe had returned to Ireland in 1887 and embarked on tours of his home country with his own circus troupe.  In 1918, an accomplished horseman Edward Fossett joined Mr Lowe’s circus eventually marrying his daughter, Mona Lowe.

The couple had six children all of whom followed their parents into the business eventually setting up the Edward Fossett and Sons Circus which has been handed down through the family.

In her affidavit, Ms Gerbola told the court her sisters Mary and Amy Garcia, performed in the circus into the 1980s.

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