Showing posts with label The Juggling McIvors. Show all posts
Showing posts with label The Juggling McIvors. Show all posts

Saturday, April 27, 2024

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.