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TITLE
Memories of a showman - 'The Great What Is it?'
EXTERNAL ID
GB1796_SINCLAIR_WILLHAY_10
PERIOD
1980s; 1990s
CREATOR
Will Hay
SOURCE
Inverness Museum and Art Gallery
ASSET ID
2292
KEYWORDS
showmen
carnivals
circuses
funfairs
puppets
puppet shows
fairgrounds
audio

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Will Hay was a northern showman and Punch and Judy puppeteer. He came from a family of travelling entertainers; his great grandfather, John Morrison, had joined Pindar's Circus when it was on tour in Sutherland while his grandfather, William Duncan Morrison, and uncle, Duncan Morrison, put on Punch and Judy shows in and around Inverness. The Morrisons were also well-known for their bone-setting skills.

In this audio extract, Will talks about one of the side-shows - 'The Great What Is It?'.

An the 'Great What Is It?' That was another gag he had. The 'Great What Is It?' An we used to go in, carrying all this artificial fruit, an artificial beef. Artificial everything, ye know? Big plates an trays. Ma grandfather would be givin all the patter; this was away back in the eighteen hundreds an all. People was very easily guiled then. 'Oh, you'll have to wait till the 'Great What Is It?' is fed', he'd say, ye see? An aboot half a dozen o them would come by with this big trays, ye see? An soon as ye're round the back - wheeet! - change yer jacket an coat, an aw, an on wi a beard an ye come out wi another tray, ye see? Oh, there was ten or twenty of us goin in, ye see? There was maybe only four o us.

So then - that's where a lot o these quick change clothes came in useful, use the zip or a, or a just a, pull a thread out or something - so, after maybe aboot twenty minutes he's saying, 'Right, the 'Great Big What Is It?' has been fed now. Sixpence to get in an thruppence to get in to see the 'Great What Is It?'' In they went in their droves, ye know, all standing. Pull open a curtain, here was a canary's cage wi a sausage stuck in it! This is the 'Great What Is It?' Well, you try that now. They'd tear the place to pieces, man! But the people used to laugh an think, 'Oh, that was funny! Great!', away back in them days, ye know? Ye got the odd few narks right enough but ye sorted them oot. They would go out an say, 'Oh! What a monster! What a beast! Ah'm no goin back in there.' Or the others would say, 'What a thing! What a beast! Ah'm goin back.' An it was getting them in every night like that. Ye could only pull these gags maybe once, an in the next place ye'd to try something else, ye see? But in brought in money, ye know? This is all part o - Well, as Ah say, you try sticking a sausage in a cage nowadays, charging the people maybe two bob to get in an see it, they'd tear yer place to pieces, man. But in them days, no worry. Everybody was quite happy. Laugh. Everybody was good for the fun

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Memories of a showman - 'The Great What Is it?'

1980s; 1990s

showmen; carnivals; circuses; funfairs; puppets; puppet shows; fairgrounds; audio

Inverness Museum and Art Gallery

Bill Sinclair Audio: Will Hay, Memories of a Showman

Will Hay was a northern showman and Punch and Judy puppeteer. He came from a family of travelling entertainers; his great grandfather, John Morrison, had joined Pindar's Circus when it was on tour in Sutherland while his grandfather, William Duncan Morrison, and uncle, Duncan Morrison, put on Punch and Judy shows in and around Inverness. The Morrisons were also well-known for their bone-setting skills. <br /> <br /> In this audio extract, Will talks about one of the side-shows - 'The Great What Is It?'.<br /> <br /> An the 'Great What Is It?' That was another gag he had. The 'Great What Is It?' An we used to go in, carrying all this artificial fruit, an artificial beef. Artificial everything, ye know? Big plates an trays. Ma grandfather would be givin all the patter; this was away back in the eighteen hundreds an all. People was very easily guiled then. 'Oh, you'll have to wait till the 'Great What Is It?' is fed', he'd say, ye see? An aboot half a dozen o them would come by with this big trays, ye see? An soon as ye're round the back - wheeet! - change yer jacket an coat, an aw, an on wi a beard an ye come out wi another tray, ye see? Oh, there was ten or twenty of us goin in, ye see? There was maybe only four o us. <br /> <br /> So then - that's where a lot o these quick change clothes came in useful, use the zip or a, or a just a, pull a thread out or something - so, after maybe aboot twenty minutes he's saying, 'Right, the 'Great Big What Is It?' has been fed now. Sixpence to get in an thruppence to get in to see the 'Great What Is It?'' In they went in their droves, ye know, all standing. Pull open a curtain, here was a canary's cage wi a sausage stuck in it! This is the 'Great What Is It?' Well, you try that now. They'd tear the place to pieces, man! But the people used to laugh an think, 'Oh, that was funny! Great!', away back in them days, ye know? Ye got the odd few narks right enough but ye sorted them oot. They would go out an say, 'Oh! What a monster! What a beast! Ah'm no goin back in there.' Or the others would say, 'What a thing! What a beast! Ah'm goin back.' An it was getting them in every night like that. Ye could only pull these gags maybe once, an in the next place ye'd to try something else, ye see? But in brought in money, ye know? This is all part o - Well, as Ah say, you try sticking a sausage in a cage nowadays, charging the people maybe two bob to get in an see it, they'd tear yer place to pieces, man. But in them days, no worry. Everybody was quite happy. Laugh. Everybody was good for the fun