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Thursday, 3 September 2009

Did Granddad Bounce?

The bouncer wagon investigation persists, as does the controversy. At the time when I initially started posting up information here I received feedback from fellow circus people who weren't sure whether or not their relations had worked this rather unique and short-lived circus act. My father helped explain what was defined as the Bounce (aka Bouncing Lions) as opposed to other old fashioned wild animal acts performed in the beast wagon or a small cage based on the dimensions of the wagon. I was confident that my family worked the act. My grandfather (Dick Chipperfield) had saved the life of Captain Tommy Purchase, the apparent inventor of the "Bounce". When Purchase died, my grandfather would take on his bouncing lion, Old Vic. Years later the whole act was supposedly resurrected for my uncle Dickie to work when he was 15. He performed the act for a televsion show and then later was banned by the authorities due to his age. The act was taken over by my grandfather, my great uncle John and Terry Duggan. Dickie would later get back in the wagon in 1965 for the Chipperfield's tour of South Africa. The wagon used seemed to be influenced by Tommy Kayes, a man who undoubtedly performed the act and made it his full profession. Many years later and Martin Lacey Jnr works a trick with his lioness, trained by my uncle Dickie, that closely resembles the behaviour trained for the Bounce. It would appear that the Chipperfield family definitely were bouncing act performers.

Or were they? Old time slanger of the Bounce and professional journalist Eddie Campbell wrote an article back in 1976 that wrote his recollections and the history of the act. The Chipperfield family were not mentioned once, except for a reference to my uncle Dickie's work with leopards when Eddie pondered whether the Bounce could be worked with other Big Cats. Editor of the King Pole magazine, David Jamieson, actually pushed Eddie on this. David told me that Eddie did not consider the acts performed by the Chipperfields to be a real Bounce. Even if this were the case, I think it is important to mention that they did promote the act as such and Kayes was clearly an inspiration. We are currently trying to source more film footage to see whether or not the actual Bounce trick was actually performed. I would like to say "Yes", but as a true historian and rational sceptic, I also have to accept the burden of proof.

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