LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, BOYS AND GIRLS... welcome to the big top blog of Douglas McPherson, author of CIRCUS MANIA, the book described by Gerry Cottle as "A passionate and up-to-date look at the circus and its people."

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Pinders Circus - Two hundred years on the road with Britain's oldest circus family

One of the most interesting people I met while writing Circus Mania was retired ringmaster George Pinder. He gave me this picture of his uncle Tommy, on the road with Pinders Circus in the 1930s, and told me how his family was one of the first to introduce motorised transport to the big top.

“Between the two world wars, we had motor lorries, but we still used horses as well. I remember saying to my dad, ‘Them first lorries you had, how fast did they go?’ Oh, about 12mph or 15mph. ‘So how far behind were the horses when they came in behind the lorries?’ Oh, 15 or 20 minutes. ‘So what did you bother with the lorries for?’ ‘Because you didn’t have to get up at five o’clock in the morning and catch them!’

Pinder comes from one of the oldest families in the circus. Its youngest members, sisters Carol Macmanus and Gracie Timmis run one of the last traditional big top shows still travelling with animals, Circus Mondao.

The following pictures from George’s personal archive provide a trip back in time to when his great-great-grandfather Thomas Ord, a Scottish minister’s son, ran away with a travelling show and went onto to become an equestrian star 200 years ago.

Royal Continental Circus poster, 1926.

Inside the Pinders big top in the 1930s.

The circus in the 1890s.

A poster advertising the horsemanship of Thomas Ord (George’s great-great-grandfather) dated October 25, 1817.

Updated for Circus250!
To read the full story of Britain’s oldest circus family, plus behind-the-scenes visits to all Britain's top circuses, buy Circus Mania from Amazon 

Grand Continental Circus with Pinder and Sons, Dundee, 1926


  1. The Pinder Circus is part of my history, my grandfather has photos and an original poster from (I think the early 1900's) It's a shame it went out of our family :)

    1. Hi Nicole,
      We would be related in some way for sure. I am a great great grand daughter of George [william] Pinder, brother of Edwin Pinder. My grandfather Roy pinder was an acrobat/clown in the pinder circus. email me maybe we can swap photos etc.

  2. Hi Rebecca

    I just sent you a mail