Archiver > THEATRE-UK > 2001-11 > 1004976584

From: "Dave Jassie" <>
Subject: [THEATRE-UK] Mr Kite
Date: Mon, 5 Nov 2001 16:09:44 -0000

Hi folks,
I have just received permission from David Behrens, the Web Editor of
to post the article below.

The man who gave flight to Mr Kite

It may not be the greatest rock album of the 20th Century – although it
has it’s champions for that title – but there’s no doubting the
influence of the Beatle’s Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
Halfway through the film comes that enchanting ditty…being for the
benefit of Mr. Kite.

It is common knowledge amongst fans that John Lennon wrote the song
after buying a circus bill from an antique shop and had to do little
more than set the words on the bill to the music……

What is not quite such common knowledge is that Pablo Fanque. owner of
the fair that gave the world The Hendersons (who would all be there), as
well as Mr. Kite, is buried here in Yorkshire….

He and his company had travelled from town to town in horse-drawn wagons
and in 1854 they arrived in Bradford, which was well on its way to
becoming a boom town on the back of mass-manufacturing and a growth
demand for quality cloth.

Darby, alias Pablo Fanque, was not given to false modesty.

Here is how his advert in the Bradford Observer announced the event

Under the management of
>From the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, London

Will open in Bradford on Monday June 18th and
During the Fair Week, in the Yorkshire and
Lancashire Railway Yard.

The Greatest Combination of Talent in the WORLD!

The Greatest Number of Ladies and Gentlemen of
The First Equestrian Celebrity ever concentrated in
One establishment.

For the first time conjoined with that of the world-
Renowned Pablo Fanque and Newsome’s Troupe of
First-trained Horses and Ponies. This combination
Of excellence will form the greatest attraction ever
yet offered to the public.

Having effectively blown his very loud trumpet, the showman announced
the prices – two bob, a shilling and a tanner (10p, 5p & 2.5p) The
cheapest tickets meant you had to stand.

Fanque and company – now billed as Pablo’s Royal Circus, were back in
1861 for Easter, in the old Market Place. And this time there was some
new technology. “To announce the opening of the doors, morning and
evening, Madam Salvi will make her TERRIFIC ASCENT upon the electric
wire, a quarter of an inch thick, from the ground to the top of the

Another attraction was the giving away, by raffle of a gold watch to a
member of the audience. Every ticket sold went into the draw. Then there
was a bit of excitement in the proceedings. Two lads picked from the
audience were blindfolded and invited to draw the tickets from a hat.
The 20th ticket drawn was the winner – a neat way of cranking up the

Pablo Fanque’s life is as fascinating as anything the Beatles assembled
on Sgt. Pepper, or anywhere else.

For a start he was not christened Pablo Fanque. He was William Darby,
from Norwich, son of a black man. John Darby, who had possibly been
brought to England as a slave.

John had been a butler. His son, William born in 1796, aspired to
greater things.

He was orphaned whilst young and found himself apprenticed to the owner
of a travelling circus. The colour of the young lad’s skin made him
‘exotic’ and this, in circus terms, was an advantage.

He became a skilled horseman, acrobat and rope walker and, in time,
become too , the owner of his own circus, travelling Britain and
becoming popular and famous, as well as respected.

NEXT WEEK - The tragic death of Fanque’s first wife, the mystery of his
second and his family links with Bradford.

This articles was by Jim Appleby and appeared in Wednesday October 31st
2001 edition of the Bradford Telegraph & Argus.

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