Gerry Cottle, circus showman, dies of coronavirus at 75

Telegraph reporters
·2-min read
Gerry Cottle found fame during the Seventies with the touring Gerry Cottle Circus - Heathcliff O'Malley for the Daily Telegraph
Gerry Cottle found fame during the Seventies with the touring Gerry Cottle Circus - Heathcliff O'Malley for the Daily Telegraph

Gerry Cottle, the former circus owner, has died aged 75 after contracting coronavirus, his agent has said.

He found fame during the Seventies with the touring Gerry Cottle Circus, while he also presented the Moscow State Circus and Chinese State Circus in Britain.

Cottle, who was born in 1945, died in hospital in Bath. Mark Borkowski said in a statement: "Gerry was a loving family man who is survived by his wife Betty and three daughters and a son, seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren."

He added on Twitter: "RIP Gerry Cottle the last of the great circus showmen."

"In a fraction of a second the bastard virus ripped your life away. I shall never forget all the mad adventures we shared."

Gerry Cottle waves a top hat while displaying some of the circus fancy dress costumes  - PA
Gerry Cottle waves a top hat while displaying some of the circus fancy dress costumes - PA

Cottle planned to enter the circus trade after he saw a performance in Earl's Court, London, at the age of eight, according to Borkowski.

When he was 15 he ditched his O-levels and left his family in Surrey to join the circus.

"I went to Robert Brothers Circus in Newcastle and phoned my parents, who said: 'Come back. We’ll sort it out',” he told the Telegraph last year. "They didn’t know I hadn’t been to school the past two summers."

He put on the first circus show of his own in the summer of 1970 in Sturminster Newton, Dorset, with just five performers including himself.

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Discussing the performance, he told The Telegraph: "It was a terrible show, we did eight weeks and took no money, so we closed."

Cottle's performance was staged inside a second-hand tent that used to be used to sell flowers.

By that time he had learnt juggling, stilt walking, acrobatics, clowning and bareback horse riding.

Later in his career Cottle helped pioneer animal-free circus performances and reportedly stopped using animals in shows during the 1990s.

He retired from the circus in 2003 and bought Wookey Hole, a museum and amusement attraction in Somerset.

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