Here’s an interesting one from top reader and contributor David Evans, whose contributions continue to be excellent, popular and engaging. This is something I had no idea about, and invite contributions from folks who have memories or anecdotes to add.
Of course, Mr. Paulo wasn’t the first recorded instance of a lion tamer in Brownhills, as Stuart ‘The Edditer’ Williams recorded in his remarkable history of Pat Collins’ big cat supremo Herbert Clarke, who settled in Brownhills in later life.
Thanks to David, to whom I must surely owe an entire brewery now, let alone a couple of beers… as they say in the circus, on with the show…
The Performing Arts
One family of performing artists who lived in the Walsall Wood area in the immediate post-war years may not be well known to readers, but I expect that many will have enjoyed the thrill of their younger generation’s skills, on holiday, perhaps, whether here or abroad.
In Lindon Road and Commonside some of the famous Paulo circus family lived for a while. Harry Paulo, husband of Betty and proud father of Ronnie, Bettyblue, Bettina and Wendy lived and put on his circus show. His tent was put up in the field on the right side of Clayhanger Road, just by the canal, and his family showed off their considerable skills to the great enjoyment of the children and adults, seated on the benches around the sawdust ring.
Harry was an accomplished and fearless lion tamer – yes, there were lions in the caged central ring – and was also an adept wire-walker and inimitable clown. Harry’s sister, Grace was also a wire walker and a bare-back horse rider. Cecine performed with Grace in their double bare-back horse-riding numbers. Harry’s brother Reggie , husband of Cecine, was another of the troupe’s clowns.
The family formed a versatile act which travelled with, and formed part of, another very famous performing arts and entertainment enterprise, Pat Collins, which is still based locally. I understand that in more recent years younger members of the family have established their own Paulo Circus.
I remember Bettina from primary school days. In later years I was pleased to see her wedding ceremony, well, the exit of the bride and groom from church in true performers’ style. She and her husband used a trampoline to perform a somersault and ‘complete’ their departure from the church!
I understand that Bettyblue went on to further her professional career by performing her high wire act in a circus in Canada, and Bettina gained fame with her frighteningly unique act, in a glass tank full of live snakes, in a circus in Spain…
I am very grateful to Margery and to Pat for their help in compiling this article which, I hope, readers will find interesting.