A TRAVELLING circus family have made a Cork funfair their home as they endeavour to get back on the road for another season.
Fountainstown native Mary McCrory has parked up the family motorhome at Piper’s Funfair in Crosshaven as her husband Michael awaits gallbladder surgery. It is hoped the operation will allow them re-establish Circus Dreamland with six-year-old son Charlie and baby MJ in tow.
In the meantime, Michael is helping with everyday tasks at Piper’s fairground that include assisting with the construction of rides.
Mary and Michael were forced to take a break from the road while expecting their youngest son MJ. Their older son Charlie had become one of the circus’s main attractions, even making appearances in the finale act to wild acclaim. The family have fond memories of Circus Dreamland they hope baby MJ can one day also experience.
“He’s been in shows since he was two,” Mary said of Charlie. “When I found out I was pregnant with our second child we pulled into Pipers because that’s where my sister and her husband, who are also in the circus, used to go on their winter break. We hope to get back to the circus because it’s something we can eventually give to the children.”
Now almost 30, Mary had initially signed up for a care assistant course in College of Commerce after leaving school. However, she chose the road less travelled, opting to run away with the circus instead. The Cork woman had followed in the footsteps of her older sister Sorcha who had previously married a colleague from the circus.
Mary joked that Michael, who is originally from Belfast, still has a few more years’ experience on her after leaving for the circus aged 11.
“His grandad used to bring him to all the circus shows,” she explained. “He loved it so much he decided to run away with them.
“Of course they brought him back straight away. His mum kept dragging him back until about the age of 16 when it was clear that it was all he wanted to do in life.”
She said the family are extremely grateful to the owners of Piper’s funfair for their hospitality.
“They’ve let us pull in here until we’ve figured out what we’re doing and have been very good to us.”
The unconventional move would likely be viewed as a dream come true for the majority of children across Ireland. This sentiment isn’t lost on six-year-old Charlie who is enjoying every moment of his experience.
“He goes on all the rides in Pipers and people love seeing him there,” Mary said. “Any other little boy telling people he lived in ‘the merries’ might be questioned but everyone here gets it because they know us.”
She described how growing up in a circus environment has helped his confidence. “Charlie wants to be a clown when he grows up because he loves making people laugh. He is always looking for new gags. He’s been around so many different nationalities and he’s surrounded by other children all the time. The circus has made him very sociable.”
Mary confessed she tried clowning during her younger circus days four years before meeting Michael.
“I tried clowning once in 2012 while filling in for someone. I hated it and didn’t like the attention one bit. The experience taught me that I’m more comfortable being in the background rather than the centre of it all.”
The mother of two said her favourite thing about circus is the opportunity it gives them to travel.
“I’ve been to so many places you would never even think of. I don’t think the settled life is for us. I couldn’t see us putting the boys in school and getting normal jobs. At the moment he attends the local national school. As soon as we are back on the road I will be registering Charlie for home school because he would miss too many days in a normal school. There used to be a circus and fairground support system where they would send a teacher out for two hours three days a week but there wasn’t enough kids to keep it going.”#
She admits that while circus life is rewarding it can also be difficult.
“There are times where I think I’d love to be sitting in front of an open fire. It’s difficult on nights when we’re in an area where the weather’s bad and you can’t find a generator. Even on days like this I know I wouldn’t trade the life I have for anything.”
The couple has promised a bigger and better circus than ever on their return to the road.
“If Michael hadn’t had the health problems he experienced we would still have our show on the road. He is now looking at this as a second chance and thinking of things we can do to make the circus better next time round.”