Day the Circus came crashing into Dungannon
May 7th marks the 50th anniversary of the Circus Crash in
Mr Maurice Hughes,who currently lives in Twickenham, regularly
receives the Tyrone Times and has written to us with his
personal recollection of the Circus Crash.
The weather was described as inclement
that May. The Feis Sunday Outdoor events, due to have taken
place in the grounds of St Patricks Academy on May
9th, 1954, had been cancelled due to the inclemency of the
In the Moy area orchards had been hit by late frost.
The really memorable event of that May was the spectacular
crash in Irish Street.
Kayes Bros, Buff Bills Circus were touring the area
with their sensational 1954 programme. There was a new £4,000
tent and the great Turnesco, which came all the way from
Barcelona, was the chief attraction.
Around 3pm on Friday, May 7th, 1954, a large circus
lorry, pulling three trailers behind it, was making its
way down Irish Street from Market Square. The lorry and
the trailers belonged to Kayes Bros Buff Bills Circus. In
those days there was two way traffic in Irish Street. The
leading trailer contained horses, the second was the pony
trailer and there were lions in the third.
As the convoy turned the corner at the junction of
Union Place the driver of the lorry pulled over to avoid
a lorry which was outside PJ Quinns Chemist shop and
then disaster struck.
The leading trailer toppled over, crashing into Donoghues
shop front as the lorry careered across the street towards
PJ Quinns. The trailers stretched right back to Nobles
corner. Fortunately no one was injured although apparently
there was a pram with a child in it just outside Donoghues.
The child was pulled out by Jim Corrigan and John McKenna
and taken over to Nellies Café for some milk
and a lollypop.
I was standing outside Duey Dorans sweet shop at the
time. I had just being inside the shop to buy some sweets
or perhaps a toffee apple. The shop has gone now but it
was where all the children from Union Place went to when
they had some money to spend.
The shop sold chews, sherbet, spangles, fruit gums and sweet
cigarettes. Next door was where my aunt, Mrs Dynes and my
cousins lived and where my uncle Leo McMenemy had his barbers
shop and the distinctive barbers pole outside.
My grandmother, Mrs S McMenemy, lived further down
Irish Street along with my aunt, Mrs Small, her husband
Andy and my cousins. I hadnt yet started school but
I can clearly remember the noise ad the distressed roaring
of the lions in the third carriage. I even half hoped that
one of the lions would escape as I had never seen a real
lion. None of the lions did manage to escape and I believe
the horses were taken round to Beatties field in Union
The driver, Mr Arthur Kaye, the proprietor of the circus,
was taken to South Tyrone hospital and was able to leave
there a few days later.
But the most distinct memory I have is of the circus
small man. I remember he had huge hands an it
was he who supervised the operations to haul the large trailer
up from the shop fronts. Irish Street was completely blocked
and very soon it seemed that the whole town had gathered
to see what had happened. My mother had rushed up Union
Place, to make sure that I was alright.
In the photographs I have of the event I can see a number
of people whom I recognise, many of them are now dead such
as Sarah Quinn, Leo McMenemy, Marie Dynes, Paddy Loughran,
Tom Hughes, Ned Hughes, Jackie Mallon, Paddy Doran and Joe
Stewart. There were many others whose names I dont
In the end there was no loss of life and soon all that remained
of the crash were the boarded shop windows and scratches
on the street walls, but I feel the event has remained in
the folk memory of Dungannon, says Maurice.
Maurice said: I hope my childhood friends from Union
Place especially will enjoy reading this, and, perhaps,
it will serve to recall some memories in others of an historic
day in Dungannon which is embedded in the lives and memories
of all who were there in Irish Street that day.
The Tyrone Times would like to thank Maurice Hughes for
sending in such a clear recollection of what must have been
a vivid day for many people.
Courtesy of the Tyrone Times