Ernie Stevenson, who has died aged 85, labored his approach up within the circus world, beginning as an elephant groom, then a clown, to turn into proprietor of his personal enterprise.
He was born at Maryport, Cumberland, on June 20 1930, to folks who got here from Dundee, however had been suggested to have their youngster in an English hospital. Rising up in Dundee and later Blackpool, he turned fascinated by the circus. After leaving college he took a job as a van boy for a grocer, however quickly joined the circus at Blackpool Tower (the place the Bertram Mills animal acts had been performing within the battle years) as an elephant groom helping the coach John Gindl.
His mom disapproved and when she learnt that he supposed to observe Gindl and the elephants to the Kelvin Corridor Circus in Glasgow, she advised him to not hassle to come back again.
In Glasgow, in addition to tending to the elephants, he turned the stooge from the viewers who ended up being given a lathery shave by an Asian elephant. He took half within the Bertram Mills Circus’s first post-war tour in 1946, turning into an skilled elephant handler.
Again in Britain, he was taking care of the ponies in a pantomime efficiency of Cinderella at Rhyl when he heard a couple of movie, Twin Alibi, starring Herbert Lom, which was being made at Blackpool Tower, that includes an aerial act he had identified from the Bertram Mills present. The director was searching for a stunt highwire walker and, though he had by no means walked the highwire earlier than, Stevenson volunteered and someway managed to carry out with out mishap.
His profession as a clown started in 1947 on the Blackpool Tower when he deputised for a clown, who was ailing. Throughout Nationwide Service within the Military in Germany (1948-50), he created a slapstick clown act to entertain within the sergeant’s mess.
He returned to the Blackpool Tower Circus as a ringboy and within the early Nineteen Fifties, by now married to his spouse Joyce, utilized for a job as a clown on the annual Christmas Circus on the King’s Corridor in Manchester, assuring the present’s ringmaster that he might stroll on 16 ft stilts and trip across the ring fence on a unicycle.
When he was taken on at £15 every week, he then needed to study these and different expertise in brief order. As “Noe Noe” the clown, Stevenson went on to carry out on the Belle Vue Worldwide Circus of Manchester for 19 winters.
Subsequently he labored for quite a few main circuses, together with these of Billy Good, Mary Chipperfield and Bertram Mills, on the Circus World Championships and on tv. He claimed to be the one British clown to have “carried out for the Eskimos”. Noe Noe turned fashionable on the Hippodrome at Nice Yarmouth, the place he was joined by his son Garry in 1979.
The identical 12 months he was working at Chipperfield’s Circus at a Royal Gala efficiency for Princess Anne, when the elephants stampeded from the ring, narrowly avoiding trampling the visitors within the royal field. The ringmaster known as the clowns to maintain the viewers calm whereas the animals had been managed, and later Princess Anne complimented them on a job properly carried out.
In 1984 the circus proprietor Philip Gandey provided Stevenson and his sons Garry and Carl, who developed a juggling act in addition to working as clowns, and daughter Inger, a proficient animal coach, just a few weeks work through the season at Lowther Park within the Lake District. The subsequent 12 months they had been provided an opportunity to bid to placed on a present for the whole summer time.
From 1985, Stevenson’s Crown Circus, centred across the household clown act, turned an everyday characteristic on the park, till it closed in 2000, when Stevenson retired to his residence, “Clownsville”, in Blackpool.
He’s survived by his spouse and two sons. His daughter Inger predeceased him.
Ernie Stevenson, born June 20 1930, died Might 17 2016