Saturday, 31 May 2014

Bullen Bros. Circus


This image belonged to my late grandmother Evelyn Wilder (nee Fletcher), who grew up in Torrens Creek, Queensland, in the 1920s and 30s. It made me curious about this circus troupe - Bullen Bros. - and I found that it was once one of Australia's biggest circuses, and, by all accounts, one of the most exciting.
Bullen Bros. Circus, c.1930. Possibly Torrens Creek, Queensland.
Note: The circus wagons often got bogged and the elephants were used to pull them out.
Photo: Private collection of Trisha Fielding.

This excerpt is from the Australian Dictionary of Biography entry for Alfred Percival (Perce) Bullen:

“In the early 1930s Bullen Bros Circus travelled mostly in Queensland with a show that included its own brass band and a menagerie. Perce, the ringmaster, also juggled and trained the ‘big cats’. Lilian played the cornet, juggled, worked monkeys, dogs and horses, and, with three young girls, appeared in a dancing troupe, ‘The Four Marzellas’. When she retired from the ring she took over the administration and worked hard to ensure her family’s success. A ‘colourful and forceful’ personality, if somewhat temperamental, she proudly flaunted her diamond rings and was known as ‘Tiger Lil’. In the mid-1930s the show drifted to Western Australia where the Bullens settled for a time before returning to Queensland.”[1]

One of Perce and Lilian Bullen’s sons, Stafford Bullen, began his circus career at four years of age.  According to his obituary, he was soon working as a contortionist, tumbler, clown, wire-walker, bareback rider, juggler, trainer of horses and elephants, and eventually ringmaster.

“As a small child, I was filled with the wonder of it - the animals who became my friends, the big-hearted performers, the hard work,” he said. “There was a lot of laughter and comradeship you would never find in any other profession.”[2]






[1] Mark Valentine St Leon, 'Bullen, Alfred Percival (Perce) (1896–1974)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/bullen-alfred-percival-perce-9621/text16965, published in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 13 May 2014. http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/bullen-alfred-percival-perce-9621

[2] Stafford Bullen obituary, by Jenny Tabakoff, Sydney Morning Herald, 12 January 2001, http://www.milesago.com/Obits/bullen-stafford.htm

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