Grisly Gawler – Part II
On the 17th of June 1898, the Bunyip Newspaper in Gawler, South Australia reported a “sensational incident” that occurred at a circus event held in Gawler South, by travelling Circus “Harmston”.
The newspaper reported that on Saturday the 11th of June, the Harmston Circus had put on a great show, but at its closing act “Gomez” the Tiger trainer, otherwise known by his real name, John Issac, entered the tiger cage to put the Tigers through the finale escapes of the Circus event.
As Gomez finished the act and turned his back on the tiger to leave, it pounced on the South African trainer, and sunk its teeth into his neck just under the back of his head. The tiger carried Gomez over the division of the gate, possibly with the intention of pulling its prey to pieces and feasting on his meat.
The crowd, not knowing if this was part of the act or not, reacted slowly to the Tigers act, but soon blood was spotted by the crowd, and they realised this was not part of the act.
Fear and confusion reigned, and the crows ran for the exits, some jumping over the wall surrounding the seating to make a hastier escape. Whilst this was happening, a group of circus attendants began to beat the tiger with sticks to try and free Gomez, who was still caught within the animals jaws.
The attendants beat the tiger off and Gomez stood and walked out the door, but was soon overcome by his extensive injuries, and collapsed. He was immediately taken to Dr Dawes surgery where the good Doctor did all he could to stop the bleeding and ease the man's pain.
On Monday. Gomez had recovered enough to be taken to the Adelaide Hospital, but by Tuesday his condition worsened, and at 5pm on Tuesday the 14th of June 1898 he passed away.
Mr Love, the sole lessee of the show, offered his condolences for Gomez, and talked of him being a man of excellent character and kindness.
However, when questioned upon the safety aspect of how the Tiger act was run, he lay much of the blame on the head of the young, now dead, Tiger Trainer.
He stated that Gomez had not taken the necessary precautions which had been put in place by the circus, and had gone into the cage with only a small whip, which only antagonised the Tiger. Staff outside had metal forks and a pistol if anything occurred, and they had seen to the Tiger being beaten off the trainer.
Love pointed out one thing, that above all other things took the blame away from himself and the Circus, Gomez had not lit the fire which sat above the gate – in his words “an unprecedented act”. He stated “ the animal was cunning enough to see that it had the advantage. The brute was well used to Isaac's attentions, for he had been its regular warder for the past twenty months, and had performed with it as many as nine times a week”
An inquest was opened into the death of John “Gomez” Issacs, and it was noted by Dr Morris of Adelaide Hospital, that he entered the hospital on the Monday in a very fearful state, and also in a severe state of shock, his injuries included a two inch puncture wound on the left side with two smaller punctures also on that side, and two puncture wounds on the right side of his neck. He had lost all movement in his left arm. The wounds had already become inflamed, which the Doctor stated, was akin to being poisoned and his breathing was considerably affected by the strain.
A post-mortem examination was done and it was found one of the wounds had penetrated his spine, breaking the vertebrates, and the base of his spine was inflamed as well as the membranes of his spinal cord.
The Tiger:“Duke” was the Tiger's name, an 8 year old native of Japan, who was sired by “Bromo” and “Kitty”, two tigers that had found a home with the Mikado.
Duke was a twin, his brother remained with the Mikado in Japan and became an attraction at the Royal Gardens at Uno Park Tokyo.
Duke was five years old when he was trained to appear in public, and in his three years as a circus Tiger, he had had five trainers. His first a Mexican, second a Chinaman and his third an Australia. The second and third men were both mauled by two jungle tigers, and were subsequently replaced.
The fourth trainer, a Singapore native, was recently training Duke, when the Tiger attacked and broke his jaw, through a “sever crushing”. Gomez, the fifth trainer, had only just stepped into the job, and believe it or not, the previous trainer from Singapore, was one of the first to rush into the cage to try and save Gomez from Duke!
Duke was not euthanised, he continued on with the Circus...and another trainer...