Thomas Ord: Circus Proprietor
by
Stuart McMillan
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ISBN Number: 978-0-9563113-1-3
Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 112
Publication Date: September 2010
Publisher: The Smiddy Press

Thomas Ord (1784-1859) was born the son of a minister who ran away and joined a circus. By around 1804 he had his own travelling circus. Although he built wooden circus buildings in Biggar, Dumfries, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness, Preston, Whitehaven, and Wick he was known by everyone in Scotland for his open-air shows. These shows he prepared by lifting the turfs of grass in a circle which were piled up around the diameter forming a circular bank of turfs. These were known as 'Ord's Rings' and could be seen all over Scotland in towns and villages; these rings were regarded as undisputed property which Thomas Ord returned to each year.

His circus was in the open air where people could watch his show and firework display for free, only those who chose to buy tickets for his lottery provided his livelihood. He attracted crowds of 8,000 people at a time; he brought colour and happiness into lives of three generations of people in a time of austerity and poverty.

He performed a theatrical show in the village hall in the evenings where a charge was made, and throughout his career he made and lost a lot of money.

Thomas Ord brought respectability into a profession that was rare in those days with his appearance at church on Sunday where it was an open secret that he would place a pound note in the collection plate. He banned drinking and swearing at his circus and he gave to the poor of each community he visited. He was loved by the people.

He performed standing on top of a horse at full speed right up until just before he died aged seventy five.

One of his daughters Selina married Edwin Pinder and after Thomas Ord died it became Ord Pinder circus. This was the start of the Pinder circus you can see performing in Britain. Ever since Thomas Ord died, a son in each generation of the Pinder family has been named Thomas Ord Pinder.

This limited edition book is the second in a series of books by Stuart McMillan, which looks at Scottish entertainment of the Victorian era.

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