On to Parramatta

© Chris Woodland

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When next we hear of Martini and his travelling show they were to perform at Parramatta on Saturday 2 December, that an eight-hands high pony known as the Midget, was the smallest buckjumper in Australia, and that Mr Menadue, the Queensland champion cornet player, will be playing solos during the evening and that he would also play the gum leaf. The Cumberland Argus said:

Local horsemen will have another opportunity to pick up £10 tonight at Martini’s buckjumping exhibition, at George Street, Parramatta. It is only a matter of sitting on “Bobs” for a few seconds.

The Lithgow Mercury named the usual varieties of performing animals, how long the show has been on the road, then interestingly informed the readers that the performing enclosure was of canvas, which is 14 feet (4.3 m) high and 240 square feet (22.3 square metres). The show was to be in Lithgow on 2 December the 4 December. They have concluded five nights at Penrith and would soon arrive at Katoomba, then Mt Victoria for performances before arriving in Lithgow.

After all that coverage it appears that the show never reached Lithgow and stayed or returned to Parramatta, where they commenced one of several nights on 2 December, the day they were to open at Lithgow.

It appears that Martini had formed a better idea than heading over the Blue Mountains. He made a decision that would make him even better known, would enhance his earnings and would offer the show a welcome reprieve from always moving along the road. Martini’s Buckjumpers would become a household name, which would pack the venues with eager spectators and those attempting to earn a name in the faculty of roughriding.

One performance at this Sydney venue would be the most advertised and best attended of Martini’s career. This was to be the match between Australia’s most famed roughrider, Lance Skuthorpe, and the notorious outlaw from Bryamine station in North Queensland with the brand ST4, the seemingly unrideable Bobs.


Martini’s Buckjumping Show was to spend over 22 weeks in the centre of the city of Sydney, from Thursday 21 December until closing night, with the Monster Farewell Programme on 19 May 1906. The area was adjacent to the Christ Church School grounds in Pitt Street, opposite the entrance of the new railway station, which was to be known as Central Station. The old Sydney heritage-listed Anglican church of Christ Church St Lawrence, with its dominant spire, was consecrated in 1845 and still stands today between Pitt and George streets.

On Wednesday the 13th December the Referee published:

The Byrimine [sic] Station (Q.) Buckjumper, with Martini’s Buckjumping Show. Martini will back Bobs for £100 to throw any rider in Australia in less than five minutes and has deposited £25 at “Referee’ Office” to bind a match. Martini is prepared also to back one of his Queensland horsemen to ride any other horse under same conditions. Full particulars at Exhibitions, given nightly, at Christchurch [sic] School Grounds Pitt Street, opposite the entrance to New Railway Station, commencing THURSDAY NIGHT, 21st DECEMBER.

The following telegram was received at the Referee Wednesday 7 December:

I will back Prof. L. A. Skuthorpe to ride Martini’s buckjumper Bobs for any part of £100; Skuthorpe to ride in his own small stock saddle. —
Sam Evans, owner Durendo Station, Q.

Martini replied that he would accept the wager under the condition that the knee pads would not exceed three inches, to which Evans wired back that the pads of Skuthorpe’s saddle measure three and a half inches on the inside of the pads and four and a half on the outside. When the night of the challenged finally eventuated in March the choice of saddle developed into a major disagreement.



Heading South

© Chris Woodland

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Stanthorpe – Tenterfield – Bangalow
Bad Weather at Lismore

They showed at Stanthorpe, Tenterfield then onto Bangalow for the nights of 21 and 22 March 1905. A detailed ad in the Northern Star of Lismore mentioned that:
12 Champion Buck-jumpers Ridden each Night, including Bobs. £10 challenge to All Comers. Martini is prepared to back BOBS to throw any rider in Australia, in poley saddle in less than five minutes.

Growing in fame the Bryamine buckjumper now had the name of Bobs. Bad weather ensured that the two nights organised for performances in Lismore did not occur.
Eventually a total of 2 300 persons pay to see The best and most novel show ever seen in Lismore, over two nights on 11 and 12 of April. They then excite crowds over several nights at Casino where several local riders fancy riding Bobs. However they had barely sat in the saddle when they were launched into space. Martini wired from Casino to a Toowoomba friend telling him that Bobs threw Sydney’s Champion, Prendergast, on the third buck.


Heading South and Down the Coast to Parramatta

On their way south to Grafton they did shows at South Woodburn and McLean.
The unfavourable conditions continued and the Grafton Show and Martini’s buckjumping show and picnic were postponed. However, when they finally opened on Saturday 8 April on the Grafton Market Reserve, they, as usual, played to an appreciative audience. Of Martini, the Northern Star had this to say:

Mr. Martini gives a performance on the horizontal bars, which the bills correctly describe as “marvellous.” He throws somersaults forward and backward from bar to bar, and the manner in which he spins round the bars at arms length, like a wheel and suddenly releasing his hold springs to vertical position, poising himself erect on the bar, must be seen to be believed. He did not make a single miss, and on the horizontal bars we never saw his superior, …

A local rider by the name of McPherson was thrown clear of Bobs on the third buck. Bad weather again prevents their reopening at Grafton until Wednesday 3 May. It is here that we get a description of the exhibition area in which they performed. It was described as a large roofless, canvas enclosure. (The standard travelling show rings of the time were 42 feet diameter.) It would be interesting to learn how long and wide, or total diameter, it was. The buckers Kruger, Ned Kelly and the Ringer were still performing well, but were not the drawcards that Bobs was. A contestant, McRae from Glen Innes, volunteered to ride Bobs and for a little while his ability looked promising,

… but “Bobs” swerved suddenly round at the edge of the ring, plunged head down into the middle of it, and unseated his rider, who got into a Tod Sloan style …

McRae had stuck to Bobs for 25 lively seconds, for which Martini rewarded him £1 for his agility. Of course the usual names are present: Billy Waites, Mena Val, who:

… does some clever aerial wire walking and trick bicycling. Martini also promises to give a benefit to the Grafton Hospital before leaving the district.

The entourage then performed at Ulmarra, McLean and Harwood (Monday 15 May), Brushgrove, Lawrence then a return to Grafton for a performance on the 20th, ensuring Bobs and Billy Waite received a good coverage in the local The Grafton Argus, which  said.

The feature of Saturday night’s show was the- mounting of “Bobs” by Waite. This champion horseman, while the horse was rearing, took a flying leap, fully six feet, in the air, and landed on the horse’s back. Though assisted in the spring by his hold on the horse’s head. It was a splendid feat. He then sat on the horse without the use of stirrup-irons through a number of bucks, at last coming off over the horse’s head.


Bellingen – Kempsey – Wauchope – Kew – Coopernook – Taree – Wingham

Following this show Martini donated the previously mentioned benefit to the local hospital before heading off to Bellingen to perform, where Mr J Martini was the MC for the Race Ball. They then moved down to Kempsey, performing there, then at Wauchope, Kew, Coopernook, Taree and Wingham, where Billy Waite rode Bobs till, something had to go, which was the girth! The audience was greatly amused by the juveniles attempting to ride Midget, the Shetland pony. As usual Miss Mena Val received enthusiastic applause for her slack wire walking and trick bicycle acts, and Nugget the clown was also very popular.

For at least one night in Taree, Martini permitted local roughriders to ride in saddles with 4-inch kneepads. When the horses became weary the use of a loin rope was often used to ensure they bucked. Other than buckjumping, wire walking, clever cycling, clown comedy, children trying to ride mules and small horses, the bar work of Martini, musicians and dancing were also prominent acts. Travelling with them was a Joe Menadue who was described on the handbills as the champion cornet soloist of Queensland.

Three Hours of Fun is what the Martini show advertises for the nights at Taree. A lady roughrider by the name of Stoken from that town attempted to ride The Ringer in a man’s saddle and gave a wonderful performance before she was eventually thrown. Undaunted she was given another horse to ride and could not be shifted from the saddle. She was given a challenge to ride again at Wingham. (Wingham is only 13 km from Taree, but the show played at both places over several nights.)


Woman Roughrider

One press item expressed disappointment that the roughriding performance demonstrated by Miss Stoken received very little acknowledgement by the press, but the story was spread widely for some time and appeared as far across the country as in the Coolgardie Miner on Friday 28 July, and in the Daily News of Perth the day after.

Martini was always on the lookout for good buckjumpers and frequently advertised for them, as well as good horses for the season, sometimes for only the evening, from the local areas they were passing through. That is, of course, how he got Bobs.


From Gloucester to Maitland

They journeyed on through Gloucester, Krambach, Nabiac, Dungog, Clarence Town, Seaham, Raymond Terrace, arriving at Maitland on Thursday 27 July.
The local paper said of the opening night that the greatest interest of the evening would be:

… an encounter between the Queensland equine terror Bobs and a local man by the name of Curly.

Unfortunately Curly sat on Bobs for less than a minute, so did not receive the £10 offered by Martini to ride the outlaw for two minutes. Some local Maitland horses gave Billy Waite and Jack Combo a very lively time of it, and Billy Waite received an injured leg caused by a loose stirrup-iron swinging. As usual locals aspiring to be recognised for their horsemanship were not in short supply. In colourful coverage of their attempts the local newspaper reported:

… the equine catapults propelling the foolhardy equestrians to strange flights through air.

The usual glowing tributes were showered on Mena Val and he who is without rival on the bar. On the Saturday evening performance Martini handed over half the takings of the evening to the treasurer of the Maitland Hospital.

In the previous Tuesday edition of the Maitland Mercury this interesting letter to the editor was printed:

Sir, — In your issue of Tuesday night’s “Mercury”, referring to Martini’s buckjumpers and riders, I notice that Mr. J. S. O’Donnell threw out a challenge to Mr. Martini, to the effect that he would back me for £100 to ride the buckjumper Bobs. Now, I would like to impress on Mr. O’Donnell that, should a favourable opportunity present itself, I am in a position to act on my own finances, and need no assistance from him.
Furthermore, I would like to point out that this challenge was thrown out without my knowledge, the only intimation I have had of the matter in seeing it in print in your valuable columns.

Hoping you will insert the above. Yours, etc.,
Tamworth, Aug. 3.

Little more is heard of this incident, though Martini said that:

Thibault would have to ride in a light poley saddle, as he would not bet against a man in a tub!


Newcastle District– Bad Weather

In August the intrepid retinue and their menagerie entertained the populace of Minmi, West Wallsend and headed towards Newcastle where they commenced their suburban tour, with the dates given as 1, 2 and 4 of September, to be played next to Marcus Clark & Co in Hunter Street. For the first time advertisements appeared showing that the troupe had added a new performance to their show, which they called Fun in the Stockyard. This apparently provided particular entertainment for the children and early teenagers involving the attempted riding of ponies, donkeys and possibly calves. Understandably, the clown would be involved with these and similar activities. There was, of course, entertainment for all persons of most ages in attendance. The Fun in the Stockyard feature was to prove very popular and was later copied by other travelling buckjump shows.

By now their advertisements included the statement:

Two Years and eight months Touring Queensland, and now returning from the Gulf.

They also advertised that they had twenty-two buckjumpers and:


Bad weather, their constant threat, disrupted the Newcastle performances, but the group had a good season in the Hunter region. The famed outlaws Ned Kelly and Kruger were still attracting the numbers, but Bobs was still the main drawcard.

Martini was true to his statement of always assisting charitable institutions where he could and one evening he donated a third of the takings to the Newcastle City Band Contest Fund. He later assisted them by working alongside the band when they were challenging other bands. The band reciprocated and performed for the buckjumping show on at least one occasion.

As usual the show was a huge success on Saturday 23 September, but Martini was unable to perform because of an unexplained imposition.

On the evening of 2 October Martini gave a Mr Cook, the vice-president of the Wallsend Hospital, a donation of £4.16s, one third of the evening’s takings, for the hospital.



Martini’s New Outstanding Bucker

© Chris Woodland

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Cloncurry – Richmond – Charters Towers – Winton – Muttaburra

It is in Cloncurry in late April that we first hear of a horse that will be as famous as Dargan’s Grey. No name is given for this buckjumper at this stage, but it is mentioned in this line from The Evening Telegraph (Charters Towers):

An outlaw from Bryamine (( Bryamine station. )) threw Waite. No local man tried Dargan’s Grey.

Playing to a large audience on 3 May a W. Allen, in attempting to ride a horse called Kruger, was thrown and trampled on, causing injuries. Dargan’s Grey threw a man by the name of Campbell twice and another, a H. Parker, once.

In early June the North Queensland Register (Townsville) reported that the buckjumping show would open in Richmond where there would be ample opportunity:

… for the local riders to show their adhesive powers in the pigskin.

A few days later the same paper showed a photo of a Martini tandem mule team harnessed to a small miniature trap with a driver aboard.

Martini’s mules harnessed to a miniature trap. Note Martini’s name printed on the side of the trap.

While displaying a photo of the crowd-drawing Dargan’s Grey in the advertisement below, a sketch of a rough rider astride a wild buckjumper was also included. From now on many of the press articles were mere copies of the text from these advertisements.

An advertisement showing the famous buckjumper Dargan’s Grey, looking in poor condition, but still very capable of emptying the saddle.

The entrepreneurial showman had also discovered the telegraph wire, to be known as the telegram, and he notified the Charters Towers’ press to inform them of the buckjumping show to open in their town at the Cremorne Gardens on Wednesday 22 June. Readers were assured that the old grey is still unconquered and:

… there is still the £100 challenge to anyone who can sit him.

The show had also picked up a small Spanish horse known as a jennet, which is a notorious bucker.

At one of the exhibitions in the Cremorne Gardens, Dargan’s Grey threw an Aboriginal by the name of Jack Collins in 18 seconds and also threw Waite very heavily. The ad shows, that there were several other attractions for the audiences. There was also SPECIAL SEATING ACCOMMODATION FOR LADIES.

In Richmond Frank Armstrong from St George was on Dargan’s Gray for only one-and-a-half seconds and was in the local hospital for ten days. The bucker Bryamine had still not been dubbed the name he will be known for until this day. The show played in Richmond for most of July and provided the only entertainment for the otherwise miserably dull town. The township of Richmond soon emptied when the shearing began and all the men left for the stations for the mustering and shearing.

Early August in Winton saw Martini’s Rough Riders playing to good houses after which they moved on to the Muttaburra races. They were there at Longreach when the races took place there on the 23 and 24 August. Travelling shows always attempted to attend the various functions such as annual shows, exhibitions and horse-races as the usually quiet townships would become heavily populated with the men, women and children streaming in from the stations, mines and missions to join in and contribute to the infrequent entertaining diversions. Waite rode all the rough horses in Longreach, and the local reporter penned:

Waite is a magnificent horseman. Good as he is Dargan is his master.


Barcaldine – Blackall – Tambo – Charleville

Martini and his entourage arrived at Barcaldine for the races. Dargan was as successful as ever and the Western Champion (Barcaldine) had this to say:

Martini, who was with Fillis’ and other big circuses, gave splendid exhibitions on the horizontal bars; he is a champion in his line-indeed, he does his work remark ably well, and performs several blood-curdling act[s].

They next performed at Blackall, then Tambo and Charleville, working southward. It was at Charleville that Aboriginal Black Alick from Boonah said after being thrown from Dargan’s Grey: Dat feller, him budgeree Yarraman. (( Good horse. Budgeree meaning good and Yarraman horse. )) It is now mid September 1904.

Roma – Toowoomba – Dargan’s Grey Injury

From Charleville they head due east and performed at Roma on 4 September. Almost everywhere, they were received with moving accolades in which the various performances were often detailed, Martini’s remarkable feats on the bars, Miss Mena Val’s tight-wire walking and other talents of hers, Billy Waite’s spectacular horsemanship, the members of the group who may be singing, playing musical instruments, dancing or stunt riding and, of course, the youngsters that continually provide much amusement in their attempts to ride the mule and donkeys, and the serious buckjumpers, particularly the old grey.

There was an ad in the Darling Downs Gazette in December that was the first of its kind. Martini now includes in his ads:

Two years and six months Touring Queensland, and now Returning from the Gulf.

Of course the ‘Two years and six months,’ would have to be adjusted as time passes.

They reached Toowoomba by late December and enjoyed a large audience on the 24th but held no performance on the evening of the 28th so as to give the horses a rest. Martini also donated 5/- (five shillings) to the local ambulance brigade.

It was in Toowoomba that Dargan’s Grey, the famous buckjumper that drew large crowds wherever he travelled, received a serious injury. The papers said Dargan’s Grey could not perform as he had wrenched his fetlock in a contest in Toowoomba. They added:

the 20 years old Dargan’s Grey has thrown all riders who mounted him, except for three exceptions. One of his masters was the ill-feted Harry Morant (the Breaker).

The age of the famous buckjumper varies from time to time.


The Days of Martini’s Buckjumping Show

© Chris Woodland

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Enter Billy Waite, the Great Horseman
This image of Billy Waite  was taken was taken shortly after he defeated Lance Skuthorpe at Brisbane in 1907.

This night we hear for the first time of a man who was to gain legendary status in the world of rough riding. An Aboriginal man from the Longreach area, Billy Waite, with Martini’s assistance, was to become one of the most popular buckjump riders in his time. A well-built and handsome man, with marvellous riding ability and showmanship, he was to become a favourite with the thousands who would see him performing around the country and overseas.
On Martin’s Roughriders (( Roughriders were sometimes referred to as ‘sticking plasters’. )) last night in Cairns, or so the advertisement stated, Dargan’s Grey proved to be a ‘rough un’, throwing Waite and a local man. The Morning Post said that: the little pony outlaw is wonderfully fast at disposing of his mounts.

The show did other performances around Cairns, but probably at another venue rather than where the annual show was held. At one event a Mr E. C. Earl attempted to ride Dargan’s Grey for a wager and actually remained in the saddle for one circuit of the ring before the inevitable occurred.

Cairns to Port Douglas and Mossman by Ship and Return.
Mareeba – Charters Towers – Croydon – Normanton
Thursday Island

The press announced that Martini’s show would be leaving for Port Douglas and Mossman on Wednesday 17 June 1903. Several days before their northward journey Martini’s group joined a group of about 600 people and attend an unveiling ceremony for a Dr Koch, a late resident of Cairns. Martini and his troupe would often attend such social functions. No doubt it would help his good name and, of course, his business.

The paddle steamship Lass o’ Gowrie sailed out from Cairns on the 17th with Martini’s Rough Riders aboard. Press reports are now less frequent until an advertisement in the Cairns Morning Post of 3 July says that Martin’s Rough Riders will open in Mareeba:

Go and see the great Outlaw, Dargan’s Grey, and other amusement – on 7th July.

It appears their venture to Port Douglas and environs was a limited one and they returned to the vicinity of Cairns and visited the Atherton Tableland.

The entertainers travelled through Charters Towers – where they amused the locals with their various talents – then worked their way to Croydon, a gold town in the savannah country 529 km west of Cairns. Croydon was the name of a 5,000 square km pastoral holding which was settled in the 1880s. Gold was discovered in 1885 and the new mining town took the name of the pastoral station. One can assume that the group had a successful season there with the large population of miners and associated businesses supporting their endeavours. It was late September 1903 and four months were to pass before they again received mention in the press.

This was the occasion when they make their way to the Gulf Country town of Normanton, which takes its name from William Norman who manned a ship in the search for the ill-feted explorers Burke and Wills some forty years earlier. In the 1890s a trainline was built between Croydon and Normanton. From here ships freighted gold from the mines of Croydon, and delivered heavy steam driven machinery, goods and supplies to those residing in this isolated mining area and to the immense cattle stations. There was also a large population of First Australians in the earlier days before they were removed to reserves such as Doomagee and Mornington Island. However, the Aboriginals were still around in good numbers when Martini passed through. The Indigenous people have always been passionate rough riding participants and audiences, so we can assume that Martini would have done well in Normanton and similar areas. The Aboriginals were always enthusiastic to try their luck in riding the buckjumpers.

It is doubtful if Martini’s Rough Riders and their circus cavalcade would have fitted on the Gulflander train which ran from Croydon to Normanton as the train only ever had four, then three, carriages. With temperatures in the mid 30s and very dry conditions there would have been minimum feed for the animals as they made their way through the colourful, dusty and sundrenched landscape.

From the Port of Normanton we can safely assume that Martini and retinue accompanied their animals and wagons on a ship to Thursday Island. The next time we hear of them is at the lower Gulf Country town of Cloncurry where they opened 16 April 1904. It is obvious the travellers returned from Thursday Island to Normanton, which is about 380 km north of Cloncurry.