Updated | Former circus trapeze artist provides answer to photos of elephants at Sutherland in mid-1960s

Elephants in Eton Street, Sutherland about 1966. Picture: supplied
Elephants in Eton Street, Sutherland about 1966. Picture: supplied


Elephants pictured roaming at Sutherland in the 1960s were not escapees from a circus, a former performer says.

Chris Cherie, who was a trapeze artist for 20 years, said the elephants belonged to Ashton's Circus, where he worked from 1964 to 1968.

Shire resident Pam Snellgrove appealed through the Leader for information about the elephants, which were photographed about 1966 in Eton Sreet, where her friend's family were building a house.

Many people shared memories on the Leader Facebook page.

Mr Cherie, who has a Facebook page, My Circus Den, Memories & Memorabilia, said there were three elephants in the photo, with one largely obscured.

"The one on the left is Jumbo, next is Jahora, with Abu standing on the other side of her," he said.

"They had not escaped.

"In those days, the elephants were tethered, but wherever there was vacant land we would often get permission to let them graze.

"This was done under the watchful eye of the handler.

"Although he's not in the photo, he would have been very close by."

Mr Cherie said many people wrongly believed circus elephants were kept chained full time.

"As much as possible, especially in the country towns, the elephants were taken on walks so they could graze or, if there was a river, they would love to have a swim or just roll around in the shallows and get scrubbed down with a stiff broom," he said.

"Sometimes if a farmer had a paddock that was overgrown they'd offer it to elephants.

"It's so heart wrenching to listen to the protesters today, the way they describe the cruelty of circus animals - cruelty that didn't happen.

"Circus animals, and especially the beautiful majestic elephants, would be the most loved animals there are.

"I often sit and look at the old pictures from the circus, see the crowds of people flocking to look at the animals, all the kids staring wide eyed in amazement at the elephants, a sight that will never be seen again thanks to a minority of people that go out speaking untruths about how these animals were looked after."

Another reader said the circus used to come to Sutherland every year and set up near where Sutherland Leisure Centre and Waratah Park are now located.

"They often had their elephants near our house in the paddocks near the scout hall to feed," she wrote.

"We couldn't afford to see the circus but my dad would take me over to their camp to see the animals

"I remember a lot of the caravans also had little monkeys with collars on chains outside their caravans."

Another post said, "I remember when I was a kid in the late 80s, an elephant ran down the road on Sylvania Road, Miranda while I was visiting my aunty. Apparently it escaped from the circus up the road... was very creepy".

Earlier story - September 19, 2019

An old black and white photo of two elephants at Sutherland in the 1960s has prompted a call for information.

The elephants, which do not appear to have their legs chained - the normal practice with circuses - were photographed on land in Eton Street.

"My friend's family were about to build a house on the block of land," said Pam Snellgrove, who is seeking information.

"The photo was taken about 1966, but my friend doesn't know the circumstances.

"Could they have escaped from a circus, or was there some other reason?

"It would be interesting to know if anyone who lived in the area at the time knows the story."

Anyone who can help can call the Leader on 9588 8888 or email: leadernews@theleader.com.au