Gaby Noble and Lyn Dugmore exploring the circus albums.

by / Sunday, 01 July 2018 / Published in Interesting news
Gaby Noble and Lyn Dugmore exploring the circus albums.

ABERDEEN NEWS — Early last year, Gaby Noble of Cape Town decided to take out a subscription to Country Life magazine, after browsing through an issue in her dentist’s waiting room.

Little did she imagine that just a few issues later, she would see a photograph of her mother, identified only as “Miss Lucky Legs”!

The photograph, identical to one in Gaby’s possession, was featured in an article by Chris Marais and Julienne du Toit about the famous Pagel’s Circus and large private zoo that form part of the history of Pagel House in Aberdeen.

The photo, taken in 1951, is in an album of black and white circus memories given to Lyn Dugmore, the current owner of Pagel House. Very few of the photographs have captions, and it was Lyn who gave the scantily-clad acrobat her nickname.

“Miss Lucky Legs” was, in fact, Gaby’s mother Evelyn Roth, who performed in Pagel’s Travelling Circus, after which Pagel House is named. Once she had got over the amazement of seeing her mother’s photo in the magazine, Gaby contacted Lyn, and last week visited Aberdeen with her husband to find out more about her mother’s link to the town.

Evelyn was born in Germany. Her father left the country before World War Two, fearing for his life as he was Jewish, and settled in what was then South West Africa. Twelve years later he sent for his wife and children.

Evelyn had been a performer in Germany, part of a troupe of acrobats, and also as part of an Estonian dance group. It was here she met her husband, who had fled from Estonia.

When she arrived in South West Africa, the family were desperately short of money. She joined the circus to bring in some income, and also to help her learn English and Afrikaans. She mainly performed as an acrobat, but was very versatile, also working with the lions in their cage, and bareback riding- as well as turning her hand to sewing clothes for the chimpanzee! Gaby recalls being enthralled by her mother’s tales of circus life, and telling her mother at a young age that she also wanted to join the circus- an idea which was gently but firmly squashed.

After two years of circus life, Evelyn then went to live in Cape Town, where she was a regular performer at the German Club. Gaby and her husband Alan still live in the family home in Cape Town. She has a wonderful scrapbook of memories of her mother, full of press cuttings of her activities, including an article about her performing as a clown in Cape Town.

Sadly Evelyn developed a brain tumour in the 1960s, and passed away in 1979, at the age of 49.

Last week was the first opportunity that Gaby had to visit Aberdeen, and she spent two days at Pagel House with Lyn Dugmore, browsing through Lyn’s album of the circus and getting a feel for her mother’s life in Aberdeen. Lyn was also delighted to add to her own already extensive knowledge of the history of her home. Gaby and Alan also spent some time with Aberdonian Gina de Beer, a wonderful raconteur who has memories of Aberdeen stretching over 80 years.

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