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Thomas Horne was born in 1849 in a caravan at Nottingham Goose Fair. He spent the first part of his life as a working showman - dressing up as a performing bear, running a Penny Bazaar around the Lancashire Wakes, working as a doorman in Mrs Williams' Waxwork, and finally becoming an actor in a Mumming Booth and a partner in an Illusion Show. Latterly, he joined a missionary brotherhood in Oxford, and was ordained as a priest in Leeds in 1885.

Until his death in 1918, Thomas Horne was a vigorous campaigner for the rights of travelling people. With his education, training as a priest, and family association with the fairground, he was their ideal representative. He travelled throughout the country, preaching to showfolk and, in one year alone, he travelled over 12,000 miles, visiting fairs as far apart as Penzance in Cornwall to Ayr in Scotland.

The stories in this series are taken from his memoirs held in the National Fairground Archive in Sheffield.

Today's story concerns the goings-on in Nimble Nicky's Boxing Booth at Newcastle Races. John Umberston, the notorious Cumberland Crusher is persuaded to take on all-comers as part of a wrestling display. He meets his match, with tragic consequences.

Read by Tony Lidington

Producer: David Blount
A Pier production for BBC Radio 4.

Release date:

15 minutes

Last on

Sun 18 Jan 2015 00:30


Role Contributor
ReaderTony Lidington
ProducerDavid Blount
AuthorThomas Horne