Marshall and Scott
Scott's Circus, Ireland, 1920s; Renee is 3rd from right.
Ref: NFA 0028
Title: The Marshall and Scott Collection
Scope: This collection contains 160 black and white copy prints of photographs from 1940-1960. Images include family members, circus performers and acts. Also Included are 15 images of the Kayes brothers' circus and family, 4 circus programmes and an obituary for Arthur William Price in 1986.
Extent: 159 photographs and five items of ephemera
Name of creator: Marshall and Scott family
Administrative / biographical history: Renee Marshall, née Scott, was born into the famous Scott family of circus performers in 1916. Her father was John Scott and her mother Emma was a member of the Baker's, both prominent circus families. Her early life was spent travelling on the circus in England and Ireland and in later years, after her marriage to Walter Marshall, the fairs in Yorkshire. Renee performed in the circus with her family from the 1920s until her marriage in 1938. Her husband, Walter, was a prominent member of the Showmen's Guild and one of the founding members of the Amusement Roundabouts Association. For her eightieth birthday her daughter and son in law, Sandra and William Wright, presented her with a painting they had commissioned from Joe Scarborough which traced her life and experiences on the circus and fairground.
When interviewed by BBC Radio for the recently broadcast programme "Swings and Roundabouts", Renee reminisced about her early life on the family show:
I was at it from being six, six year old they put me up, they lifted me up onto the trapeze. I didn't do much mind at first, it was a gimmick you know. A lady come on the trapeze and her husband had a lovely trapeze act and then the gimmick was that the clown used to come in the ring and say " I can get a little girl to do that, that's easy" and I'd be sat in the seat, with a bow ribbon in my hair and little socks and a dress. Then he'd point to me and say "That's the little girl I'll mesmerize her" he used to say. I can see it if it was yesterday and I was mesmerized. He used to do wave his hands in front of my face and I used to get out, up of the seat and then go in the ring. Then we would lift me up and then I'd do about three or four tricks and come down. And that was it.
Renee was continuing a family tradition; the Scott's family circus had been performers since the 1850s. Her father was the son of Walter Scott, brother of John Scott, whose royal circus appeared before both Queen Victoria and King Edward. Scott's Royal Circus incorporated both family acts and star performers into the show which had forty horses, clowns, trapeze and high wire acts with members of the family appearing top of the bill. Renee's grandfather Walter appeared before Queen Victoria at the age of sixteen and her grandmother was Rebecca Freeman Humberston. After the death of her grandfather Walter Scott in 1909, the family continued to work together until her father Johnnie Scott set off with his own circus and travelled the circus to Ireland.
With her brothers and sisters and her cousins, the Kayes family, the show travelled throughout Ireland. A report from the World's Fair in 1931 gives us a glimpse of the actual performance:
Captain John Scott's Circus was at Castleisland. It is a very nice clean show. The programme is as follows, Fun on a ranch, cowgirls and cowboys, Miss Rene on her swinging ladder in mid-air, Clancy Sisters in their humpty-dumpty act, Master John the jockey act rider, the Four Emerald girls in song and dance, the Barbetto sisters and Miss Scott on the flying trapeze.
By 1932 Renee was performing five acts in the family show, the vaultage, the perch, the trapeze, the swinging ladder or the breakaway ladder and the double act:
We used to open the show with my vaultage, like a rush in quick, vaulting on and off and up and round and all like that. I'd put my foot in the stirrup, lay back and I used to put the hankies round and I used to pick all the hankies up and that was that.
The double act on the back of the horses was usually performed by Renee's mother but eventually this also formed part of Renee's act. By 1932 Renee was featured by the World's Fair correspondent in Ireland:
'On a small family circus there is a young artiste working with great enthusiasm. Miss Renee Scott could herself keep a full house entertained 60 minutes out of an hour and a half performance. Renee, who is wonderfully talented, can give a wonderful display in the circus ring.'
And he continues:
'At the age of 16 she features thrilling turns and the acquired qualities rival many artistes 30 years her senior. We are glad to hear of her success this year and shall not be surprised if she tops the "big bill" with some of our leading shows next season.'
Eventually the family left Ireland and returned to England where they appeared on fairs throughout Yorkshire and Lancashire. However Renee recalled that the circus that appeared on the fairground operated in very different conditions to the family shows:
'The fairground was all right if you did one show a day or two shows a day, but we were doing four and five and we did thirty at Bolton New Year Fair and twenty the next day. When I tell you, my hands were peeling were red with the skin coming off, that's with holding on the bar doing the trapeze and I was getting tired. The more tired you are the more you hold on and all the skin was coming off my hands. That was the worst part throwing a lot of shows on the fairground, you did all the shows and it nearly killed you.'
At Bolton New Year Fair, Renee met and later married Walter Marshall, a member of the famous Yorkshire showfamily. Although Renee stopped performing, many members of her family and the Kayes family were and still are associated with circuses throughout the world, and her brother George's family still perform in America.
Source: Donated by Sandra Wright
System of arrangement: Catalogued by type
Subjects: Rides, Shows, fairs, circus
Conditions of access: These items make up part of the image database collection which is available to view by appointment in the NFA reading room. Other items must be requested prior to visit.
Copyright: National Fairground Archive
Finding aids: Photographs on image database. Other items listed by type. Contact the NFA for more information.
World's Fair article