Born in 1907, he came from a family with a great deal of experience in the entertainment industry. At the age of fourteen he operated various rides at the New Palace Entertainment Center. At sixteen he joined a band that he later took over. After the war Howe Wilkie entered the world of the circus with WH Wilkies Mammoth Circus and Zoo on the Marine Promenade in Brighton.
Boswell Wilkie Circus
1954 – 2001
In 1954 – one W H Wilkie landed on the shores of Durban, complete with his circus from New Brighton, England. W H Wilkies Great Continental Circus took South Africa by storm, featuring top class international artists.
The start was a two pole canvas tent, and the now famous red and yellow trucks could be seen trekking all over the country, not an easy journey, what with the primitive dirt roads. But W H Wilkie had to share the excitement of the circus with all, and so it was a journey well worth it.
In 1972, W H Wilkie bought the shares in Boswell Circus and the Boswell Wilkie’s Great Combined Circus was formed. Due to the size of the circus now, rail travel became the means of transport for the artistes and animals.
1981 saw the start of a new circus under the wing of W H Wilkie, Robero’s, named after his son Robert, who took over the reigns. This was the team that traveled by road, and due to the improvement in the roads, the two circuses amalgamated in 1982 and rail travel was a thing of the past.
In 1991 Boswell Wilkie Circus brought the highly acclaimed Moscow Circus from Russia to South Africa. The circus consisted of 72 artists and staff, 9 horses, 12 bears, 24 dogs and 70 tons of circus paraphernalia. The cost to fly out the entire circus cost an astounding R7 million.
When in 1994, the no animal Chinese Circus joined the circus, the public stayed away due to the demand for animals in the circus.
Mr. W H Wilkie passed away at the great age of 91 in 1998, and South Africa lost a truly amazing man. Robert, who had been in full control of the circus since the age of 21, in 1983, had a major decision to make regarding the viability of the circus, due to the fact that people were now spending their money on the lotto, gambling etc, and sadly the circus was no longer a part of the family tradition.
So, in 2001, the Boswell Wilkie Circus performed the last show in their neighboring hometown, Alberton, to a tent full of circus fans.
“2002 – A NEW GENERATION
A NEW ENTERPRISE”
2002 saw the founding of a totally unique concept in South Africa.
The Big Top is now a permanent feature on the Wilkie farm in Daleside, where children & children at heart come to celebrate their birthday’s circus style, where corporations entertain and teach their valued staff and customers, where family values are of top priority and the name of the game is traditional entertainment.
The Café du Cirque, a quaint circus coffee shoppe, has become the meeting place of note for both locals and out-of-towners. As it is on the cycle training route, the weekend early mornings are alive with cyclist from near and far. The menu boasts a selection of delicious meals, presented with a flair all of its own. Full catering and bar facilities are on offer.
The farm is home to horses, ponies, dogs and several farm animals, and of course to the Wilkies and their extended family, all of whom are instrumental in keeping the circus alive.
10th of December 2015 – THE LAST DAY OF THE BIG TOP
It is with great sadness that the Wilkie family have to announce that after many years of the Big top standing on the Boswell Wilkie Circus farm in Randvaal, the beloved Big Top, that holds so many precious memories for those young and old, will be taken down on the 10th December 2015.
After years under the hot South African sun, the circus Big Top has seen its last days in the spotlight and will unfortunately be retiring.
The family have made the difficult decision not to replace the Big Top, which means that they will no longer have circus participation parties and school outings.
We will, however, continue to host parties in the beautiful gardens of Café du Cirque, as well as in our newly renovated rustic stables venue.
The kiddies can enjoy the jungle gym, pony rides and a lovely big garden to run around. We have a brand-new party concept – Magic Bubble Parties
-were the kids have fun with huge bubbles, small bubbles and even bubble art.
Sit back and relax and let us do all the work! We do party décor to the theme of your choice, party packs, snacks for kids and adults.
You go home to a perfectly clean house. See our Magic Bubble Party Tab for more info! Updates will be posted on the Café du Cirque Facebook page.
Boswell Wilkie Circus and Café du Cirque,
Plot 116, Springbok Road, Randvaal, Gauteng
Cell: 083 226 1213