THE Lion Tamer, performing elephants, seals dutifully balancing objects on their noses, they are all acts that were once firmly part of the circus tradition.

But not anymore. They are gone – about time too, some would say – but the juggler, trapeze artist and the clowns remain part of the Big Top’s fixtures and fittings.

But there’s no doubt that the arrival of the circus, marked by the parade of gentle elephants (no need to pay for advertising when these majestic beasts parade through the city and surrounding towns), was much anticipated, although the politically correct among us today would not share such sentiments.

Derek Evans’, ever-ready for a saleable photo opportunity, was on hand of course to capture the moment. Did he ever wonder that his work would one day be an important part of the county’s social history?

At the other end of the ‘showbiz’ spectrum was Fred Abel. While the circus was ‘starry’ and grabbed one’s attention, ‘Fred Abel’s one-man circus’ was a far more humble and homespun affair.

His ‘big top’ was a tent on a cart, pulled by a pair of donkeys. This wasn’t just his ‘big top’ but his home too, which he shared with a menagerie of dogs, mice, rats, and fleas. Now, don’t read that unkindly, for a ‘flea circus’ was one of his entertainments too.

His claim, emblazoned on the side of his caravan, that he had ‘appeared on TV’ was true and his interview can still be seen. Fred’s origins, however, are cloaked in mystery. He came from outside of the county, born in 1909 in Norfolk.

Nonetheless, the ‘Fred Able’s one-man circus’ travelled across Herefordshire, and the surrounding counties, at the tail-end of the sixties, providing a simple and innocent form of entertaining for rural communities. And a gift for any photographer.