Wild West show rides into town

The Wild West Show parades north along Commercial Road, August 1903.
The Wild West Show parades north along Commercial Road, August 1903.
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On Friday, March 6, I published a photograph of what I suggested was the circus arriving in Portsmouth. The parade was seen in Commercial Road.

On Friday, March 6, I published a photograph of what I suggested was the circus arriving in Portsmouth. The parade was seen in Commercial Road.

Sewage station and watercress beds in harmony. Lovely.

Sewage station and watercress beds in harmony. Lovely.

I was not so sure I was correct and thanks to Peter Sherwood who proved me wrong.

It was in fact the Buffalo Bill Cody Wild West Show.

The show arrived in Portsmouth using four trains with 800 performers using 500 horses.

The show was held at the Portsmouth Exhibition Grounds, which I believe later became Alexandra Park, on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, 10 to 12 August, 1903.

Canadian firemen.

Canadian firemen.

The whole show was floodlit and consisted of Royal English Lancers, United States Cavalry, Russian Cossacks plus 160 native Americans from the Sioux, Apaches, Cheyenne and other tribes plus much more.

There was a stagecoach hold-up, Pony Express riders, a cowboys round-up, native American war dances plus everything possible to do with the legendary Wild West.

There were two performances every weekday at 3pm and 8pm.

Although all went well on the first two performances, The Evening News reporter wrote that Cody was not a happy man with the under-enthusiastic support from the audience.

‘For some reason or another, perhaps because it lies within the heart of the empire and therefore has much serious work to do in keeping things going, Portsmouth seldom allows its feelings to come to the surface,’ he wrote.

Cody was even less pleased when on the Tuesday it poured down violently and in the evening it became worse and the best seats were swamped out.

These people presented their tickets for a refund but were given cheaper seats with only a partial return of their money.

Cody dressed as Wild Bill rode into the arena expecting vast cheers expecting a roar of approval.

Not being told previous to what had happened he rode his horse to the best seats end, bowed his horse and saluted the supposed occupants.

Cody was very short sighted and wore spectacles. ‘Wa-necha’ shouted the crowd. Cody understood and realised there was no one in front of him.

He turned to the cheaper priced seats where the higher-priced customers had gathered and continued the show.

On the evening of the Wednesday the show closed an moved on the Brighton for another three days.

Firemen from the empire

Last Saturday I asked if anyone could remember the members of the Canadian Fire Service who crossed the Atlantic to help out in the latter part of the Second World War.

One man who does is Gerald Kelly formerly of Canterbury Road, Southsea and who now lives in Toronto, Canada.

He was educated at the grammar school and often looks on The News’ website.

Gerald saw my item and contacted me.

Gerald’s late father Edmond Kelly was a Royal Marine sergeant based at Eastney Barracks. He was requested by the Canadian’s to train the firemen to march smartly for the parade that was to take place in London.

Once a week for several weeks the firemen would assemble on Ladies’ Mile on Southsea Common and march to and fro under the command of Sergeant Kelly.

During that time the chief became a good friend and was invited to the Kelly home several times for good, home-cooked meals.

Gerald has been a Canadian citizen for more than 50 years now and lives within easy reach of the Canadian Firefighters Museum located in Port Hope, Ontario.

He put me in touch with the museum.

An idea between the British Government at the Canadian prime minister Mackenzie King developed a plan for a contingent of volunteers to assist in the United Kingdom.

They also helped release men for the services.

In all 422 men volunteered from across Canada to form the Corps of Canadian Firefighters under the direction of G.E. Huff of Brantford, Ontario.

The corps arrived in England in May 1942 and manned stations in six cities including two in Portsmouth. The parade that Sergeant Blake trained them for was from Trafalgar Square through the streets of London crowded with grateful, cheering Londoners.

Not so tasty watercress

This is part of a map of the eastern side of Portsmouth in 1906.

As can be seen, there are few houses built or roads under construction.

Along Tangier Road, Whitstable and Chesterfield roads are mapped out but little else and no housing to talk of.

One item I found rather strange.

To the east (right) of Baffins Pond can be seen the sewage lifting station and close by to the north are watercress beds. Lovely.

Let us hope there was no cross contamination, eh.