Vote and rate on Jamie Clubb's Work by clicking on the following links. Thank you!

Thursday, 4 February 2010

The Lost Lockhart

Henry James Lockhart (real name Locker) was an elephant trainer/presenter born to Sam and Hannah Lockhart in 1861 in London. Henry, known mainly as Harry, was the youngest of the Lockhart brothers. His elder brothers, George and Sam worked together as bareback horse riders and tumblers in the circus before a riding accident broke George’s hip and severed the brothers’ working relationship. Sam sought his fortune at the tea plantation in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), but impressed by the locals’ work with elephants decided to embark on a career as an elephant trainer, which brought him back to the world of circus and Music Hall. Having recovered from his injury George followed suite and developed his own elephant act. Both these brothers became very famous in their own time, in Europe, Russia and the USA. A descendent of theirs, James Pinder has argued that jealousy inspired the elder brother, George, to become an elephant trainer and it is implied his desire to match his brother’s celebrity status, which he almost did, drove him to the tragic end that saw him crushed to death by an elephant at Walthamstow goods yard. What is rarely talked about, however, is the life of the last brother who met a tragic and far earlier demise than George.

It seemed that Harry was not destined for the world of circus when he became carpenter. However, the lure must have been too great. Unlike George, he seems to have worked beside his brother Sam with the elephants, probably learning his profession as an apprentice. The sources show that Harry worked mainly outside of the UK, which might indicate why he didn’t make a name for himself in his native country as his two brothers did. Harry worked in the USA for a good part of his career, alongside Sam. They acquired contracts from the famous Ringling Brothers Circus, the same show that would eventually buy Barnum and Bailey Circus, creating “The Greatest Show on Earth”. The brothers created two elephant acts an “a” group and a “b” group. The latter being an act in training. In the USA it appears that it is Harry that acquired the name “Professor Lockhart”, a curious title I have seen crop up here and there without much information. The trouble is that a Professor Lockhart also cropped up during my research into the life of the recently deceased wild animal trainer Fritz Schulz in the 1940s, long after Harry died.

It would appear that Harry became quite proficient in his handling of elephants. He alone is recorded as the elephant trainer on Orrin Brothers’ Circus in the USA. He was working alone again for an unnamed circus in Mexico on his own in 1901 when tragedy struck. He tried to “save” his group of elephants during a storm. I don’t know what the exact circumstances were. Anyway, as a result of this incident he contracted pneumonia and died shortly afterwards. His wife, Esther Emma Whipp and his son Henry Samuel travelled from the UK for the funeral, but apparently were too late for the ceremony, meeting the mourners as they came out of the cemetery. This was despite Harry’s body being kept on ice in time for their arrival by boat.
Henry Samuel was only five years old when his father died, but he recalls a number of incidents around that time. For example, he recalls reading the tickertape report on Senator McKinley’s death and even a previous visit to the USA, where he played football with the three legged boy at the Ringling Brothers’ winter quarters in Baraboo. Henry also had three sisters, Alice, Rita and Ellen and one brother, Robert who immigrated to Australia. They leave a very long family line, including Lillian Violet who is responsible for putting together the only Lockhart family tree I have seen. Lillian is also responsible for the majority of information in this article along with the excellent notes provided by Janet Storrie, author of “The Elephants of Royal Leamington Spa”, a children’s book on Sam Lockhart Jnr.

The story of the life of George William Lockhart and the two elephants that killed him is the focus of my book “The Legend of Salt and Sauce”, available on Amazon and from all good book stores.