Stories and Traveltips

ID #4955

Aberdeen and the Circus, Karoo, Eastern Cape, South Africa.

Many will remember the excitement that accompanied the arrival of the circus in town. There was a tremendous amount of activity, putting up of the tent and side shows, with children wandering freely among the caravans and tents. However, few know the history of the circus in South Africa.

In 1905, a certain Mr. Pagel landed in Durban. Weighing 150 kg, he was very strong.  He had been a blacksmith and had wrists that were thicker than many men’s calves.  He bought a circus tent and acquired the tigers, panthers, leopards, bears, zebra, elephants, and lions that subsequently featured in his shows. He also kept a pet giraffe. He loaded them into ox-wagons and transported them to places that had never before seen a circus.

He would read a newspaper in the ring while surrounded by lions.  Audiences were impressed when he put his head into a lion’s mouth, a trick that backfired when a lioness closed her jaws on his skull and he had to spend 13 weeks recovering in hospital. One of his tricks was to tie ropes to each arm that were attached to two elephants pulling in opposite directions, a feat that he also performed with four horses. During the 1940’s, he died of a heart attack brought about by an attempt to lift two horses.

Wilkie had a blacksmith and wagon making business in Aberdeen at the time. He purchased “Pagel’s Circus” out of the deceased estate and in 1948 bought Pagel House in Aberdeen.  Marble nameplates from Pagel House in Pretoria were installed in the gates in Aberdeen, where they remain to this day.  The circus subsequently became known as Wilkie’s Circus. Wendy van Schalkwyk.

Aberdeen is on the R61 east of Beaufort West, which is at the intersection of the N1 with the N12. ASAberdeen

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Last update: 2014-05-14 01:44
Author: Alan McIver
Revision: 1.2

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