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Kayes, Priscilla, c1904 - 1994



  • Existence: c1904 - 1994


Priscilla Kayes was the daughter of Elizabeth Baker and William ‘Buff Bill’ Kayes, both of whom came from a long line of circus performers.

Priscilla grew up in her parents wild west circus, which later with the incorporation of wild animals became known as Buff Bill’s Menagerie and several of her brothers became wild animal tamers.

At the outbreak of World War One the men in the family together with a large number of their animals were conscripted for the war efforts and the business rapidly declined. In 1916, driven by desperation, Elizabeth, now the head of the business, decided to take on her sons’ role in the cage with the big cats and started to perform as a lion tamer to save the family business. Elizabeth also took an interest in wild animals and she started to train aged fourteen. She made her debut as a lion tamer in 1920 aged sixteen. As female wild animal trainers was still unusual her act became popular and the business thrived in the years after the war. In the late 1920s however, Buff Bill Circus stopped travelling animal acts and Priscilla pursued her own career in other circuses. Although she only performed as a big cat tamer until the outbreak of World Word Two, she gained much fame performing with Bertram Mills. She focused her career in equestrian and dog acts and performed with various British circuses, while also training wild cats for other acts.

Found in 3 Collections and/or Records:

Circus Friends Association Collection

Reference code: NFA0122
Scope and Contents

This collection consists of a large library of books and journals, as well as archival material including posters, programmes, photographs, films, handbills, research material, scrapbooks, original artwork and many other items of ephemera relating to British, Irish and European circuses

Dates: 1795 - 2020

Durrant's Press Cuttings, 1930 - 1955

Reference code: 178G21.98
Scope and Contents A collection of newspaper cuttings of circus articles mostly provided by Durrant's Press Cuttings from a range of sources including; North Mail and Newcastle Chronicle, News Chronicle, Cork Examiner, Empire News, Midland Daily Telegraph, Sunday Dispatch, Pearson's Weekly, Nottingham Evening Post, The Listener and other mainstream newspapers on a range of topics including Bertram Mills, wild animals, Pricilla Kayes, Koringa, The Hagenbecks, Blondin, Paulo Circus family, Togare, Grimaldi,...
Dates: 1930 - 1955

Newspaper Cuttings and Scapbooks, 1838 - 2007

Reference code: 178G21
Scope and Contents

A collection of newspaper cuttings on circus, circus proprietors and performers and scrapbooks containing newspaper cuttings, posters, programmes and other items of ephemera, covering mainly British circuses and venues such as Belle Vue and also some international circuses.

Dates: 1838 - 2007

Additional filters:

Archival Object 2
Collection 1
Acrobats 1
Aerialists 2
Art 2
Boxing 1
Circus workers 1