The Days of Martini’s Buckjumping Show

© Chris Woodland

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Tasmania – Launceston – Scottsdale.

Martini was still with the Souquet Bro’s Circus when they appear near the Court House Hotel at the end of 1898, on Christmas Eve in Launceston, Tasmania. Following Christmas Day, the circus held several more performances in Launceston. The newspapers did not mention Martini’s activities again until the third week in February 1899 when the Martini Company of Acrobats appeared at Scottsdale just North East of Launceston. There was also another company performing at the same time (perhaps Souquet’s), so Martini’s group did three performances with no admission cost until the final presentation when the large crowd was asked for donations. The press stated: They had a crowded house (street) on Saturday night.

Albury – Wangaratta – Geelong.

There is no mention of Martini until he next turned up in Albury on the Murray River with the Montgomery Circus in September 1899. Here it seems he was again with a sibling:
The wonderful triple horizontal bar act of the Martinis was roundly applauded.

Later in the month Martini performed as an individual artist in Her Majesty’s Theatre at nearby Wangaratta.

Six weeks later he was performing at Geelong on Port Philip Bay with Professor Hyland of Hyland’s Circus. As usual Martini’s acts were reported with many superlatives. Professor Hyland was only one of numerous showmen who used the title of professor to impress intending audiences. We will learn of some others later in this story.


Queensland – Brisbane.

In the third week of December we see that Martini (and Trevo) was now with The Empire Variety and Specialty Company entertaining at the Royal Theatre in Brisbane.

It is obvious that Martini is now freelancing, having joined up with several groups along the way. Whether he was searching for something better in his employment, as the 1890s were difficult years because of an economic depression, or just travelling and gaining experience we can never know. His experiences had taken him well up into Queensland as far as the outback town of Barcaldine, along parts of the Queensland coast, to many places in his home state of New South Wales, including the western mining town of Broken Hill, onto South Australia and Tasmania and through Victoria. There were still many miles of travel before him in the few years to come.

South Australia – Mount Gambier
Victoria – Horsham – Mildura, Wentworth – Charlton – Kerang – Echuca, Numurkah – Wangaratta – Melbourne

In late May in 1900 the Mount Gambier’s Border Watch sings the praises of Martini and Shaw’s Circus and Variety Show when they performed in the Mount Gambier’s Institute Hall, claiming that the most thrilling performance by far was that of Martini, who was billed as:

… the world’s greatest gymnast. Miss Jessie Devine was recalled for all her dances and songs.

We will learn more of Miss Jessie Devine later.

There was much laughter and excitement when Martini held a three-round contest with Mahatma the lady boxer. There were another two nights at Mount Gambier, then four evenings at Millicent where some members of the public objected to Martini performing on the Sabbath. He showed them little tolerance and, on another evening, he chided some of the audience who had underpaid their admission, who relented and paid up. On that same evening:

Miss Jessie Devine, who, in short skirts and rather economical clothing generally sang When London Sleeps. The front seats sat up and breathed heavily but stayed around, while the back part of the hall showed unmistakable signs of approval.

In July the Martini and Ward combination performed at Horsham where the advertisement in the local newspaper claimed that Martini:

the World’s Greatest GYMNAST, who has appeared three times before their Royal Highnesses the Prince and Prices of Wales, twice at Marlborough House and once at Sandringham, before 400 invited guests.

The journalist might have confused Martini with a member of the Shaw family. Whatever the reason for this monstrous untruth, it did not occur again. The same advertisement claims that Miss Jessie Devine is:

the clever American Song and Dance Artiste.

This statement appears only a few times before it also joins the voluminous pit containing other innumerable fabricated – although creative – claims, particularly those associated with circuses and other travelling shows.

Martini the Showman

Martini and Miss Jessie Devine were still part of the same company when they visited Charlton on Friday 10 August and featured as Martini and Shaw’s GAIETY COMPANY at Kerang between Swan Hill and Echuca in the first days of September. They moved on to Mildura and Wentworth, then back to Echuca for two performances in the second week of October. In Numurkah our gymnast was referred to as Signor Martini. In January 1901 in Wangaratta, Martini and Devine contributed their performances at a benefit for a James Clarke who had lost his barber tools. Here Martini becomes Professor Martini and his fellow performer becomes Mrs Martini (Miss Jessie Devine), who was portrayed as a serio-comic artist and danseuse.

In October Martini and Miss Devine were with Professor L. A. Skuthorpe, The HERO of GORDON’S FAMOUS LEAP And his Band of AUSTRALIAN ROUGH RIDERS, where he was doing a season in Flinders Street, Melbourne in October 1901.