Baron X and Madame D'Orcy
by National Fairground Archive with information supplied by family members
The act of 'Baron X' is perfected.
This article looks at two Jungle regulars - Baron X and Madame D'Orcy. Contributions from descendents has shown that these performers were a married couple, and, like the marriage of trainers Tom Tallon and Mlle Gavett, this was to be a tragic set of circumstances.
'Baron X' would have been well known to the Sheffield crowds. With Frank Bostock he had a very specific 'angle' by working with mane-less lions. It was a typically ingenious stroke by Bostock who (allegedly) had the lions castrated to quell their aggressive character and a bizarre side-effect was for the lions to lose their manes and all sense of feline pride and ferociousness. Baron X built his whole act around this attribute, where other trainers might have passed it over and started again with some 'real' lions. Ironically as Baron X traded on an image of nonchalance and - possibly - an opposite of the bravado that accompanies a typical animal handler, he was clearly a brave man and met his fate by carrying out the difficult and dangerous job of handling other wild beats.
The Sheffield Independent of 10 January 1911 announces the arrival of Baron X in the Sheffield Jungle and describes him as a 'French count', suggesting that he enjoys a very close relationship with his lions such that they are domesticated to the point of subservience rather than Baron X having trained himself to the point of supremacy. Later in the month, the issue dated 31 January 1911 has a further short article and describes him as 'mysterious' and 'mildly sensational' in the manner that he carries out his handling of the lions with nothing more than a small stick and lit cigarette.
The Sheffield Independent article also mentions Madame D'Orcy and her own lions, though we are not told that D'Orcy and Baron X are in fact an established married couple. In fact we are not told much of anything of the real lives of the Jungle stars - perhaps such information would see the facade of magic and danger start to crumble away? The census returns from 1911 (see separate article) shows that both the couples were living and working together in Sheffield.
Baron X stays with the Bostock Jungle after Sheffield and - from reports in the World's Fair newspaper - seems to be a major attraction at the Bostock presentation at White City in 1911. He is clearly working on the angle of nonchalance in the face of what should be adverse ferocity and by now has his act to include a grand opening where Baron X sits at a table reading a newspaper and enjoying coffee only to be intruded upon by a rush of lions emerging from an opening hatch!
Benjamin Collibeaux - aka Charles D'Avilly - aka Baron X.
Baron X was born Benjamin Clement Collibeaux though his family were not circus people. Growing up he was fascinated with the circus and wanted to leave the family's vineyard business to work with the circus. His parents were not in agreement, thus Benjamin chose to be known as Charles D'Avilly and initially established himself as an animal trainer under this name. It was under this name that he was known and respected.
Georgia Galliard - aka Madame D'Orcy.
Georgia Evelina Galliard (Madame D'Orcy) came from good circus stock - her mother was Eugenie Alexandrine (Nelly Edith) Loyal of the famous Loyals. Before her marriage, Georgia worked in the Gaillard family circus.
Benjamin (Charles D'Avilly) and Georgia were married on 01 Nov 1896 in Paris. They both worked frequently at Frank Bostock's Hippodrome in Paris in 1903, and also around 1910 at the Jardin d'Acclimatation in the Bois de Boulogne where Bostock also had a Menagerie. The couple had four children though only one, Emma Charlotte Collibeaux, continued as a trainer with the big cats.
Announcement of tragic death in World's Fair newspaper - September 1913.
Benjamin thus became Charles D'Avilly and then Baron X. It was in this guise that he was tragically killed in Gent whilst working with a different set of animals to his usual mane-less group. Close research shows that Benjamin and Georgia possibly interchanged their different charges, and the newspaper clipping from Portobello in 1909 reports that M. Galliard (presumably Madame Galliard) is resident and working with "the only collected troupe" of Indian mane-less lions. These would presumably be the set that would see the persona of 'Baron X' emerge as Benjamin took over their handling. It is generally not common practice, nor a safe procedure, for a handler to work with a different set of animals, though Benjamin and Georgia might have been close enough to trust this to work. As we have seen, it did not work for Tom Tallon and Mlle Gavett. However, in Gent on that fateful night the bear trainer was too ill to perform that night and asked Benjamin to fill in for him. During the performance, Benjamin tripped over something in the ring and a bear seized the moment and pounced on him. Emma - his daughter - was sitting in the audience and started shooting blanks in the air to hopefully frighten off the bear. Nothing they did worked and by the time they got the bear off of him it was too late. To make matters worse the circumstances were sensationalised and mis-reported around Europe.
After Frank Bostock died, the widow Georgia and her children went to the U.S. in 1914 under the sponsorship of Harry Tudor. Here, Georgia and Emma (the oldest daughter) worked with Capt. Jack Bonavita in Luna Park and California where they acted in about five silent films including 'Almost Right', 'The Rajah's Sacrifice' and ' The Woman, the Lion and the Man'.
Many thanks to Kathie Ingolio and Terri Smith for family information and photographs.
Baron X - Shepherd's Bush pass 1912.
Click here to see a full interview with Madame D'Orcy from World's Fair newspaper 28 September 1912.