Ashton’s Circus, 1970s

Tommy Hanlon, June 1971

This beautifully casual portrait of the famous Tommy Hanlon, shows Maggie’s ability to quickly put her subject at ease.  It is just one image in a series, but a more recent discovery, which is why I’ve chosen to reveal it now.  Tommy and Maggie had an interesting connection; they were a similar age – both American and both had evolved through a stage life in America.  Maggie’s work as a showgirl in Blackstone’s Magic show during the late 1940s gave her some insight into the life of a performer and launched her into an artistic life.  Before that, she didn’t dream it would be possible for her…

Philip Zachini and son, with Abu, Gilda and Gigi

Sascha, The Snake Lady

SILVERS Circus is currently in town and at our daughter Matilda’s request, we went along for her birthday.  It was a fabulous show and I was thrilled to meet Anton Gasser, who founded the circus in 1976.    The line up of incredible performers were mainly from the Gasser family, so it was a rare opportunity to chat to some real circus folk.  Never one to miss a chance to talk about the Diaz Collection, I mentioned that we had some images from Australia’s Ashton’s Circus from the 1970s.  It turns out that Anton was actually a trapeze artist with Ashton’s at the same time that the above photos were taken, so he offered to identify the performers you see featured here.  We now know that the elephant trainer was Philip Zachini and his elephants were Abu, Gilda and Gigi. Apparently Philip is still around, so we look forward to sharing these photos with him at some stage…perhaps he’s never seen them or maybe he did catch the article in the Southern Cross News in the  early 1970s when a couple of these pictures were featured.

There are certainly no animals in sight these days, but Silvers captures the essence of what circus used to be…there is lots of magic, plenty of death-defying stunts, bucket loads of humour and plenty of brilliance (and nice sparkling sequins too!)

So if you see a Silvers poster around, or you notice a big top in your area, don’t be confused or afraid – the circus is well worth re-visiting!

Go to: to find out more!

2 Responses to “Ashton’s Circus, 1970s”

  1. Sharon Terry Says:

    What a fabulous glimpse of circus of the past – Maggie is truly a chronicler of Melbourne itself, and we don’t have too many of those. I want her pics to be seen as widely as possible – apart from being great photos, they have a proper “social history” role and should be seen and not forgotten. Congratulations Gwen – and Maggie!

    • Thanks Sharon! We’re planning to take Maggie to Silvers Circus at Caulfield Racetrack in early July if you’d like to come along! All welcome. I’ll be making a group booking!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: