Saturday, April 27, 2024


 Welcome to Threw the Hat- a blog about Australian Juggling History.

Here you will find some links to photos and articles/stories about Australian Jugglers and those who visited Australia.

You can search the site or browse the tags on the right hand side if you are looking for a particular juggler.

Please credit the site if you are using the information you find here

Enjoy your visit and feel free to contact me if you have questions or comments


Cinquevalli on the right. (Authors collection) 

The Australian Creightons


The Australian Creightons found Australia too small and travelled to the United States, only to have the love of a woman break up the pair.

The Creightons, juggling acrobats were two young Victorian men who met in a gymnasium in the Victorian suburbs around 1909. Fred Creighton, was the shortest and the eldest of the two. His partner, Jim Howell, known almost always as Jim Creighton, was a tall red-haired extrovert.

Fred was born in Richmond around 1890. Jim was born in Prahan, between 1890 and 1893. The pair later said they met at a gymnasium and their first appearances were suburban ones. They are first mentioned in 1910 at the Prahan Town Hall at a charity concert and by the end of that year they performed with The City Entertainers in Ballarat.  Over the next two years they built a reputation in that city as a unique pair of juggling acrobats. Their original act involved acrobatics, hand balancing and juggling. Fred was short and Jim tall, so the contrast in their build caused much comment.

In 1912 they got a big break and toured New Zealand. Described as the ‘most expensive’ juggling act to visit that country, they performed for almost 6 months with the Belle Crome company. Their act involved acrobatics, juggling and comedy and their ability to juggle in ‘unison’ was remarkable. Reviewers praised their novelty and one stated that their act was ‘mildly sensational.’

The good reviews in New Zealand led to a long booking on the Fullers circuit. In Sydney at the National Amphitheatre in 1913 they received plaudits and applause.

They juggled six clubs, three each,  whilst switching hats and cigars between them. Jim also juggled clubs whilst perched on Fred’s shoulders. Jim was the better juggler, whilst the smaller Fred was more acrobatic. They used their height difference to comedic advantage and were generally considered a unique and exciting juggling turn.

Jim later said

 When I started out in vaudeville I did not expect to get a high salary, but I certainly expected to be recognised when I started to do big business for the firm I was with. I knew I was as good as some of the imported turns, but I found that I stayed on the same old mark, whereas the turns coming here from England or the United States were getting two to three times as much as I. I decided to try my luck in America.’

Just after Jim’s 21st birthday in 1914, he and Fred left for the United States. They both travelled under the name Creighton. Jim later said that ‘Australia was too small’ He claimed that the limited opportunities in his home country resulted in audiences becoming bored with the same act. The many agents and theatres of the United States gave the pair more chances to show their skills in front of various audiences.

At first they performed for the small Plantagenet circuit, showing three times a day including Sundays. It was a brutal introduction to American vaudeville.  But soon the act was picked up by the gigantic Orpheum circuit where they played only twice a day and were, as Jim put it, ‘on easy street’ and ‘earning more money than I ever thought possible.’

 Their reviews were good, they were regarded as ‘a breath of fresh air’ after one show, and at another they ‘displayed exceptional skill in all their efforts’.

In 1917, both were living in New York and had to sign papers about their wartime service eligibility. Fred said he was unfit for duty, with bad teeth and poor eyesight, whilst Jim said he was perfectly healthy.

But love broke up the act. Sybil Warren, a young English dancer caught Fred’s eye and the juggling duo split.

In 1919, Fred returned to Australia with Sybil to introduce her to the family, and unbeknownst to him, Jim also returned.

When Harry Lauder offered them a place with his troupe during his Australian tour that year, they reunited. Fred was probably persuaded because Sybill was offered a role too.  In 1920 they performed in the annual pantomime Mother Hubbard. They toured New Zealand as part of the pantomime tour and stayed for some time, but when it concluded they again parted.

Fred said he had plans to travel to the UK with Sybil and it seems they may have done this. Jim however remained in Australia to have a long and prosperous career.

to be continued

The Juggling McIvor Sisters

 Around 1935 two young women dressed in long skirts and short sleeved blouses and accompanied by a cameraman, began juggling clubs in Brisbane’s Botanic Gardens. The result was a beautiful souvenir of Australian juggling.

The young women were the McIvor sisters, one was Bessie, the other was probably Susette. They had been juggling since they were children and had performed in pantomimes, vaudeville halls and for charity events. Dad, Hugh,  was also a juggler and had initiated his children into the skill. 

Hugh McIvor was born in Queensland around 1890 and lived with his parents in Charters Towers. In adult life Hugh became a miner, but he was soon known around town as a juggler.  In 1912 he appeared in a vaudeville show and was awarded a special gold medal for his juggling feats 

In 1914 he was juggling with a partner called Glover. The pair were described as clever manipulators. They juggled axes, knives, clubs, swords, pennants and electric lights for a children’s war matinee at the Theatre Royal in Charters Towers North Queensland. Hugh and his wife Susan Murphy had been married for several years by that time and had many children including three daughters, Bessie, born 1911, Susette born 1913 and Patricia born 1914. 

Hugh seems to have juggled mainly in Brisbane, in suburban and regional halls until his older daughters grew to an age where they could join his act. In 1921 the family of jugglers got a big break when they performed as the Three Juggling McIvors for Kerr’s Gaiety Theatre in Oxford Street Sydney. The trio were in Sydney for at least two weeks. The two girls, Bessie and Susette were only 10 and 8 years old during this exciting expedition.

However, the opportunity did not turn into lasting fame and the family returned to juggling in country towns and suburban halls. They  juggled clubs and passed plates.

In 1927 the girls got their own gig. Bessie 16, and Susette 13, juggled as The McIvor Sisters for the annual Brisbane pantomime, Humpty Dumpty.  They juggled hats and clubs and the Brisbane newspapers enjoyed their performance.

Two splendid specimens of Queensland girlhood created surprise with their wonderful juggling feats and Indian club manipulation. A feature of their turn is a double club juggling act in which each girl successfully handles four clubs at the same time changing hats and whirling the nickel batons. 

In June 1928 they performed at the Majestic Theatre,  sharing the stage with films starring Rudolph Valentino. Through 1928 to 29 they continued entertaining at the Majestic and juggled between movies at various theatres in the Brisbane region.

At the same time both girls were studying at teachers college. 

In 1932 Susette married John Brady from England. Her married status meant that she could not legally teach. The Queensland Department of Education did not employ married women as teachers at that time. 

In 1933 she had their first child

In 1935 film of Susette and Bessie juggling in the Botanic Gardens was incorporated into a newsreel. The two young women look joyful as they pass clubs, juggle plates and balls and then, pass a hat and cigar between them as they simultaneously juggle three balls. It may have been their last public performance as a duo. 

Bessie soon began teaching in Cairns. She loved to juggle and often performed in fetes and fairs for schools in Northern Queensland. In 1937 She performed at the foremost social occasion of the district, the Country Women’s Association Concert, at Mossman Town Hall. She was described as being as ‘entertaining as she was charming’.

Bessie continued juggling for school fetes and fundraisers. She was an adept individual juggler and it was clear that she loved the craft.


She taught primarily in Cairns and Brisbane and in 1941 she married Alton Brown Trevethan and left the teaching profession.

After her marriage, there are no public mentions of her juggling exploits although it seems clear that she continued to juggle for family and friends.

Descendants of the family still cherish photos of their ancestors’ juggling careers and they still live in Queensland. Amongst their treasures is a colour video of an elderly Bessie juggling four balls on stage. 

Bessie died in 2005 aged 92, Susette predeceased her in 1975. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Jugglers visiting Australia between 1905-1907

 These jugglers performed at the Tivoli Theatre in Sydney between 1905-1907.

All comments from Charles Waller- Magical Nights at the Theatre, pictures from Sydney Tivoli Theatre programmes. 

Kara 1905 

' Kara was always among the few conceded to be in the Cinquevalli class.' (1905)

Les Brunins (1905)

 A billiard table featured. The act consisted largely in driving the balls up against the far cushion and then doing remarkable things by catching them on the rebound

Selbo (1907)
Appearing in a tennis court setting, this young man operated very skillfully with rackets and Indian clubs

The Geraldos (1907)

They were club jugglers and good ones too.The act gained impressiveness from the fact that so many individuals were operating at the one time.

Rhodesia (1907)

It is doubtful whether any form of stagecraft shows a pretty girl to better advantage than does juggling.

Sunday, March 10, 2024

Tom and Nellie Lesso- Jugglers

 Tom and Nellie Lesso were successful performers in Australia, the US and England during the World War 1 era.

Tom Lesso was a skilled acrobat and juggler born in Victoria in 1885. His real name was Thomas Burkett Dixon and he had several siblings.

Tom appears as Tom Lesso in newspaper reports in the early 1900s. His first juggling act was as part of a duo with Rexo (Charles Griffith) . In 1909 he married the  fair haired 5 foot 5  tall, Nerida Ridout (born 1884 in Sydney)  in Melbourne. The pair formed a duo act that astonished Australasia and led to a successful run in the United States. 

Nerida took the stage name Nellie, and as The Lessos, the pair appeared on stages in Australia and New Zealand. Nellie was a sharpshooter. On stage, Tom would call for props and Nellie would shoot at a button which activated a spring which propelled the props towards him- he would then juggle them to the delight of the audience. 

Tom also incorporated balancing in the act. He balanced a cannon ball via a stick on his chin and transferred it to a stick perched on his forehead. Inspired by Cinquevalli, he also balanced a wooden table on his forehead, and with a twitch threw it in the air and caught it, on his forehead, on the reverse side. This was perhaps his most popular trick. 

In 1909 the pair travelled to the United States. They began on the Percy Williams circuit then transferred to Keith's circuit. Whilst playing there they were recruited for a tour of England.

Tom Lesso

In 1914 they returned to Australia. Tom, as a relatively young man, must have felt some pressure to enlist. They incorporated a patriotic finale into their act, perhaps to make up for this. Nellie fired her gun at various targets and the whole stage was enveloped with the flags of the allies. At this time Tom told the papers that he had suffered a period of blindness whilst in the US. He blamed a trick where he caught tennis balls thrown by the audience on his forehead. 

In 1916 Tom enlisted with the AIF for service in World War 1. Tom stated that his profession was ‘professional juggler’ and that he was separated from his wife, Nellie. He cited his father William as next of kin.

Whilst waiting to be shipped out, Tom was reprimanded for staying out late and for disobedience. Eventually he arrived in England and subsequently, in October 1916 he arrived at the British staging camp in Etaples, France. On October 29 that year, Australian Jack Braithwaite serving in a New Zealand regiment was executed for helping a fellow soldier defy a British commander. Tom may have witnessed the execution. 

His official mission in France was to reinforce the 23rd Battalion, which was on the front lines. Tom lasted a month in France, there is no record of him being at the front, although it is possible. In November he was shipped back to England via Calais. Finally after treatment in England he was invalided out with ‘disordered action of the heart’, the military euphemism for shell shock. In March 1918 he was sent back to Australia. 

By September he was back on stage performing at the Bijou in Melbourne, and giving colorful descriptions of his antics on the front lines. He claimed he had taken all his props to France and entertained troops whilst waiting to be deployed

He had a new assistant, Miss Duckworth, and they did the old act. They were scheduled to perform in New Zealand and sailed there. But in November Tom contracted Spanish Influenza. He died that month in New Zealand,

Nellie Lesso

Nellie Lesso, Tom’s estranged wife, attempted to revive the act in the 1920s, although it seemed she was quite wealthy. In 1921 she made a police complaint about a missing diamond pendant, with lovers' knots and a single diamond drop attached. In 1923 The Lessos, featuring Nellie, performed at the Shaftesbury Theatre in Western Australia. Later that year she went to the United States, and Theodore the juggler was on the same ship. Perhaps the two had formed a new Lesso partnership.

Attempts by the army to contact her in 1923 regarding Tom’s war medals received no response and in 1924 Nellie was in Paris with her mother.

There is some indication that Nellie travelled quite often over the following years and did not seek to further her stage career. 

Nellie’s primary address was in eastern Sydney and it was there that she passed away in 1954.

( I found Tom’s real name in The Age newspaper death notice. His war record is available through the National archives.) 

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Herbert (Bert) Beaver - Sydney's Jesting Juggler of the 1920s

 Juggler Bert Beaver began as a vaudeville performer and became one of the most influential radio personalities of the early broadcasting age.

Herbert Edward Beaver was born in Broken Hill in outback New South Wales in 1897 to Ada and Edward. However, his father died when he was young, and his mother remarried when he was 12. Her second husband, Bert’s stepfather, was Gilbert Sinclair, a union man who later became secretary of the State Boilermakers Union. Sinclair, a prominent and vocal member of the labour movement, later became a member of parliament and a founder of a radio station.

How Bert became involved in juggling is a mystery, but his first press notices date to the early 1920s when he was appearing with Dix and Baker in regional Newcastle. He was known as the ‘talking’ or ‘jesting’ juggler who told humorous anecdotes and made smart remarks while juggling sticks, balls, and hats. His act also included balancing two billiard balls on a stick.

Bert- (left) 1926 Wireless Weekly

Bert became quite popular when the Fuller's circuit employed him between 1922-23. In Queensland he caused ‘considerable laughter’ while balancing two balls on a cue and in Adelaide he ‘delighted’ the audience. That year he also toured New Zealand with Fullers.

Meanwhile, he had met juggler George Campbell, an old-time passing juggler who started juggling in Australia in 1906. The pair joined up and formed the Campbell – Beaver - (Fred) White Company and toured regional areas of Australia. This company morphed into the Cockatoo Farm Company which became a legendary touring group in country Australia. One member of the ensemble was singer Vera (Peggy) Cornock.

Cockatoo Farm was an early form of vaudeville revue with a simple humorous story interspersed with specialty turns. The story was stereotypically country Australian with Dad played by George and his son Willie played by Bert. The plot revolved around farm shenanigans and corny Australian jokes- it was tremendously well-received.

The show included a juggling turn from George and Bert which probably involved club passing, and it can probably be assumed that the pair exchanged ideas and juggling techniques with George representing an older generation of jugglers and Bert the new.

In later years Bert claimed that he could juggle three or four lacrosse balls, hats, cigars or clubs and that he invented the trick of passing soap bubbles up and down a stick or string. He was also a keen magician and member of the Australian Society of Magicians and sometimes performed at their annual soirees in Sydney.

After almost two years with George Campbell and the Cockatoo Farm Company, Bert left and formed his own touring group. They were well-regarded but relegated to smaller regional towns. In 1923 he married Vera Cornock , and in 1924 they had their first child, Shirley.

Bert was increasingly interested in management, and fortunately in 1925, just as radio and the movies were beginning to encroach on vaudeville he was offered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The chance to be on the ground floor with a radio station.

His stepfather Gilbert Sinclair was one of the founders of the new station 2KY, which was owned by the labour movement. Gilbert persuaded the other directors to employ his stepson as the manager, and by 1925, as 2Ky hit the airwaves, Bert was one of the few permanent staff members.

Bert in 1935 Wireless Weekly

He became well known in Sydney as Uncle Bert and had a versatile career that mingled calling boxing matches with children’s stories. Through the depression years, he maintained his role and mentored young talent through community concerts and talent quests. It was through one of these that he encountered young juggler Jimmy Wallace. Jimmy later said that he was lucky that Bert was a juggler because their shared profession ensured encouragement and reinforcement for his later career. Presumably, the pair swapped tricks and ideas, just as George Campbell and Bert had done many years earlier.

Managing the station left Bert with little time to juggle, but he continued to do so at the community concerts and public radio Xmas parties. He is recorded as juggling occasionally until the 1940s.

He also took a risk in the mid-1930s when he travelled to England for radio business and briefly appeared as a juggler in the London music halls. Upon his return to Australia, he said he just wanted to find out if he was still capable. On that trip, he also witnessed an early version of Baird’s television and reported to the Australian press on his experience.

Bert was a pioneer of radio and a mentor for Sydney jugglers. He provided a bridge from the old generation, such as George Campbell, to a new generation, such as Jimmy Wallace, who had to adapt the art of juggling to the demands of new technology.

Bert and his family eventually settled on the Northern Beaches in Sydney and he passed away there in 1958. He still has descendants living in the area.

Monday, September 25, 2023

Professor Wallace- or the continuing adventures of the Bell Family in Sydney. (Jimmy Wallace's dad.....)

 This is a small advertising pamphlet for Professor Wallace who was a travelling entertainer in Sydney up to the 1950s/60s.

Professor Wallace was the father of juggler Jimmy Wallace and the family lived for some time in Marrickville in Sydney's inner west, and just around the corner from where I live. So this pamphlet is very interesting for me.

As you can see, Professor Wallace did not work alone and had a few friends who helped him out. I'd really like to know the identity of Harry the Comedy Juggler.

 Professor Wallace and his Punch and Judy show were a feature of children's parties in Sydney for many years. His daughter Florence, gave an interview to the City of Sydney Council archives which details the family's adventures - you can access that here.

The letters in the phone number date this to the 1950s -  60s in Sydney. 

James or Jimmy Wallace- Professor Wallace's son, was a famous juggler in Sydney and Brisbane. I have written about him here.