By Jimmy Rhatigan
Pics: Martin Doheny
IT WAS fascinating, exciting, brilliantly entertaining and it was played out in the awesome setting of a Big Top that was so conducive to healthy family fun.
We are not exaggerating.
Fossett’s 130th birthday show at Cillin Hill from last Wednesday to Sunday was perhaps the family’s finest ever offering.
It was brilliant that among the colourful entourage were 87 years young Hertha Fossett, wife of circus legend Teddy who passed away aged 70 and mother of the beautifully articulate Marion Fossett, a Ringmaster supreme in a smashing circus spectacular.
Fossett’s Circus, born in 1888, covering five generations of a marvellous show business family, is getting even better with age and delights in entertaining sixth generation followers of many families throughout our country.
The hugely respected family circus that over the years has been so well mothered and fathered by aficionados Hertha Fossett and her late husband Teddy, always had high standards as it put audiences first, second and third on their agenda of priorities.
The latter is a precis of the Fossett family circus history.
The real news is Fossett’s Circus is now on the road for the summer season, its 130th tour since the first poles were hammered into the ground, making it the No. 1 circus in the world when it comes to continuous touring.
There were bucketsful of community spirit at a Gala Performance hosted by Mayor Michael Doyle who was gifted 100 tickets for local charities and friends.
There was a full house and there was magic in the air.
For those of us who enjoyed our first circus back in the 1950s at the Fair Green, Kilkenny, it was an emotional and rewarding journey down memory lane.
My first show was in the company of my late mother. I went on to bring my son and daughter to the circus on a regular basis and last Wednesday was wonderful as I brought my precious bundle of love, my first grandson MJ to his circus debut at a tender 11 months old.
It was a wonderful feeling, a milestone in our family history, an evening to cherish and remember and please God MJ will go on to delight in as many circuses as I have had the privilege of attending over half a century.
Other grandparents will have enjoyed the same experience and they will vouch for the emotion and joy involved in circus, a superb two-way street between performer and punter.
Extended local families joined the Fossett staff of 42, artistes, admin workers, helpers, front of house ladies, including circa 16 members of the Fossett fold, men and women with the circus in their hearts, minds and flowing through their veins.
The show is one of which the cast and peripherals can be extremely proud. The wagons, including accommodation vehicles, were circled at Cillin Hill and what amounted to a new village hosted an action packed five days.
The principals of the show were not good.
They were magnificent.
And they were hugely committed, giving every ounce of talent that was in their bodies.
The audience responded positively. The show lasted from 7.30pm to circa 9.20pm.
Families loved every minute of the fast flowing and wonderfully choreographed fantasia that had an exhilarating mix of motorbike and knife-throwing daredevil, juggling, contortionism, doggie tricks, trapeze, hula hoop extravaganza et al.
Whoever came up with the recipe for fun and games knew exactly what would hit the spot.
We purposely kept the good wine ‘til last.
Eddie Fossett Jnr was Otto the Clown.
All who graced the ring were class acts in different ways but the bold Otto was voted Man of the Match in an impromptu poll with children who bathed in every minute of the wonder show.
Eddie Jnr is son of Eddie Snr who along with his brother Robert is a director of Fossett’s Circus Ltd.
It was Otto who encouraged audience participation, something that went down extremely well with children and parents who are still so young at heart.
A bell ringing act, spearheaded by Otto, was hilarious even if it showed that our amateur campanologists have a bit of homework to do.
That was one only of many super sketches involving Otto who also did a brilliant job of show ambassador as he ambled through the audience, posing for photographs and then, doing what all dedicated circus folk appear to do, helping to sell circus souvenirs.
As circus marketing manager Charlie O’Brien and press officer Padraic O’Keeffe reminded, the Big Top in a field of dreams has always been a magical experience .
Charlie said the fact that a field was still empty on Monday as a little boy or girl trekked to school, on Tuesday was host to a circus tent and on Wednesday provided two hours of magic before moving on to the next town, was something that had been part of family life since Brian Boru was a lad.
All that is left behind in a farmer’s field or GAA grounds is a circle of sawdust 42’ in diameter.
That the traditional circus has survived the tides of time, including austerity periods, is down to the loving care and devotion of circus families.
What was once a way of life for good people like the Fossett family is now a tandem that includes graduates from circus schools and universities.
Our mid-week circus show was a back to the future affair. It encompassed all that is good and was handed down through generations and everything that is special about the modern show, a comfortable tent, brilliant lighting and music and the most important ingredient of all that makes the circus cake so tasty, good dollops of pride and passion. All that goes to make the Fossetts and their brothers and sisters in circus at Duffy’s Circus so special.
The future of the secure is secure and that has to be a huge plus for our Irish Heritage.
A summer would not be complete without a visit to Fossett’s.
Your contact is www.fossettscircus.com