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
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.
If you like this, you will love...
Two Glasgow Street
Performers by Stuart McMillan