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TITLE
Memories of a showman - popular side-shows
EXTERNAL ID
GB1796_SINCLAIR_WILLHAY_13
PERIOD
1980s; 1990s
CREATOR
Will Hay
SOURCE
Inverness Museum and Art Gallery
ASSET ID
2297
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 some of the side-shows.

An ma grandfather used to pull some smart tricks too, when ye think on it too. Ye'd never get away with it now. There's ma Auntie Mary, ma Auntie Lily, ma mother, Auntie Lizzie, oh there was quite a few o them, an they used to be all in, an all the people used to go outside an he says, ma grandfather used to say, 'Come along now' he says 'Sixpence it is tae see these women standing on the stage wearing nothing but a smile.' Course, every-, all the men used to be charging in, payin their tanner, an ye used to sit wi them, standin in rows an rows. Now the police came up one day - somebody reported us - an the police came up one day, an we used to believe it wurselves cause we were only kids when we used to hear all this, ye know? But the police came in anyway, wi all these police women, an they were goin to arrest them all for indecent exposure an everything. An we was hearin the men coming out, an the boys that were standing in the queue were saying, 'Great! Smashing! Ah'm goin to get some more money an come back in.' Now they were done, ye see? But they weren't going to tell their mates that. 'We're done. They're gonna get done.' This was their idea. An away they'd go. Course everybody'd be queuing up then an they'd come oot, 'Aw smashin! Lovely! Great!', an, of course, they were pilin them in. So the bobbies came up anyway this day.

Now, we had what we called the 'Balloon Burster' an that was a big board, an there was holes in it, where ye could kick yer ball, football, through, but on the balloon, on this board, was to hook on balloons an ye could kick a ball an burst a balloon - ye got a coconut. Or ye could kick it through the hole, in the board, an that was a goal, an ye got a coconut. Well, we used to call that the 'Balloon Burster', but it meant the holes as well. Well, ma grandfather had a board, like that, at the back o the stage, an behind that he had his tarpaulin, ye know, his curtains an that, an to keep within the law, he used to get ma sisters (now, course wi nobody ever saw them, it was all wimen), they used to go in there, naked, but they used to stick their head through this board an whenever the - whenever ma grandfather used to pull open the curtains, 'Now you're going to see the big Mahoopa smile', ye open the curtains, all they saw was their heads. Ye see? Well, they were done, but he was tellin the truth. So, of course, when the bobbies came in, they'd a bit of a controversy, an they'd talk aboot it, an there didn't seem much they could do aboot it [Laughter] ye know? We used to get off wi murder, man, in them days, but ye'd never get away wi things like that now

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Memories of a showman - popular side-shows

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 some of the side-shows.<br /> <br /> An ma grandfather used to pull some smart tricks too, when ye think on it too. Ye'd never get away with it now. There's ma Auntie Mary, ma Auntie Lily, ma mother, Auntie Lizzie, oh there was quite a few o them, an they used to be all in, an all the people used to go outside an he says, ma grandfather used to say, 'Come along now' he says 'Sixpence it is tae see these women standing on the stage wearing nothing but a smile.' Course, every-, all the men used to be charging in, payin their tanner, an ye used to sit wi them, standin in rows an rows. Now the police came up one day - somebody reported us - an the police came up one day, an we used to believe it wurselves cause we were only kids when we used to hear all this, ye know? But the police came in anyway, wi all these police women, an they were goin to arrest them all for indecent exposure an everything. An we was hearin the men coming out, an the boys that were standing in the queue were saying, 'Great! Smashing! Ah'm goin to get some more money an come back in.' Now they were done, ye see? But they weren't going to tell their mates that. 'We're done. They're gonna get done.' This was their idea. An away they'd go. Course everybody'd be queuing up then an they'd come oot, 'Aw smashin! Lovely! Great!', an, of course, they were pilin them in. So the bobbies came up anyway this day. <br /> <br /> Now, we had what we called the 'Balloon Burster' an that was a big board, an there was holes in it, where ye could kick yer ball, football, through, but on the balloon, on this board, was to hook on balloons an ye could kick a ball an burst a balloon - ye got a coconut. Or ye could kick it through the hole, in the board, an that was a goal, an ye got a coconut. Well, we used to call that the 'Balloon Burster', but it meant the holes as well. Well, ma grandfather had a board, like that, at the back o the stage, an behind that he had his tarpaulin, ye know, his curtains an that, an to keep within the law, he used to get ma sisters (now, course wi nobody ever saw them, it was all wimen), they used to go in there, naked, but they used to stick their head through this board an whenever the - whenever ma grandfather used to pull open the curtains, 'Now you're going to see the big Mahoopa smile', ye open the curtains, all they saw was their heads. Ye see? Well, they were done, but he was tellin the truth. So, of course, when the bobbies came in, they'd a bit of a controversy, an they'd talk aboot it, an there didn't seem much they could do aboot it [Laughter] ye know? We used to get off wi murder, man, in them days, but ye'd never get away wi things like that now