Memories sought of Chipperfield’s Circus, Larne and an escaped llama

A former Larne man is hoping that readers will be able to assist him in a quest for some rather unusual information.

Tuesday, 27th April 2021, 1:11 pm

Derek Smith, who has been living in the United States since 1970, is looking for details on when Chipperfield’s Circus came to Larne in the late 1950s.

“It was set up quite literally outside our home at 59 Recreation Road and used the BTH buildings as well,” Derek recalled.

He remembers that two trapeze artists, Rita and Roma, stayed at his family’s home.

Derek recalls how an escaped llama caused great drama.
Derek recalls how an escaped llama caused great drama.

“It was a remarkable event. It was quite the sight at the top of Recreation Road. There had to be at least 30-40 trailer/cages with all manner of animals. I think there were at least 16 elephants housed in a warehouse on BTH property. The ‘big top’ was set up on, what we called ‘the Rec’. It is an event that will not be seen again in this day and age!

“I recall a dramatic event when a llama broke free and was running from the north, ie, the BTH gate, down to the bend in Recreation Road. There seemed to be no hope of catching it.

“ However, one young circus man got the angle on it, and ran at full speed from the east and literally launched himself at the llama and corralled it around the neck. It was a very impressive capture.”

Derek is hoping Larne Times readers can assist with details about the circus visit, and in particular precise dates of when it was in Larne.

Derek’s family moved from Larne to London, around 1958-9 as his father, Samuel H. Smith, had already been working in England for several months.

After leaving school Derek was employed by Fison’s Fertilizers in Stanford-le-Hope, Essex. Under a day release programme he attended Thurrock Technical College to study for an ONC in Chemistry. Then he went on to City University in London.

Derek was married in 1969 and, in 1970, emigrated to the United States. He earned a BSc. in Business at the University of Utah.

Throughout his career he has been employed in various chemical industries.

Now retired, he lives in Eagle, Idaho and he and his wife, Deon have four children and 11-grandchildren.

Anyone who can assist Derek with his search for information about the time when Chipperfield’s Circus came to Larne is invited to contact him by email - [email protected]