THIS WEEK IN 1973: Roll up, roll up... for the unpredictable life in the circus

Raymond Hek, from Hayling Island, fires up.
Raymond Hek, from Hayling Island, fires up.

Clown Raymond Hek stressed that he now had to be versatile to survive in the industry, unless he was one of those lucky enough to have a regular act in, say, the Moscow State Circus. 

The 37-year-old from Hayling Island had been a knife-thrower, fire-eater, strong man, escapologist, tumbler and elephant handler. And he had worked for the big names in the circus world, such as Chipperfield’s and Hoffman’s.

‘I belong to an agency,’ he said, ‘but when something comes up, I’m off – perhaps to Wales or Scotland. Wherever the circus goes, I go.’

Sometimes his children took part. Sharon, 11, had been taught to tumble and Sally, seven, could balance on a roller board. 

Raymond ran away to the circus at 14 but didn’t want his daughters to follow him into the big top life.

‘I was the first of my family to go into the circus,’ said Raymond, ‘I nearly killed my brothers – standing them up against boards and throwing knives at them.’

He lived in  Hayling Island with his wife, Pat, where they made  clothes before he returned to the circus ring.

He went back to  fire-eating but insisted that he told his children ‘not to play with fire’.