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ISACS Member - Spraoi St Patrick's Parade 2017 | Photographer Graham Cullen

Limerick to unveil circus Memorabilia collection at John McCarthy’s Circus Bar Exhibition


Tony McCarthy, Circus enthusiast, historian and and heir of the McCarthy Circus archive presents to the public for the first time ever, one of Ireland’s finest collections of Circus Memorabilia, dating from 1895 – 1966.  
Irish Street Arts, Circus and Spectacle Network (ISACS) will be present at this significant launch and step towards bringing this fascinating collection to the attention of the public.

The Irish Street Arts, Circus and Spectacle Network
are delighted to be supporting Tony in drawing attention to three generations worth of an Irish circus collection. This living archive of pictures and circus arts has been assembled and created by four generations of the McCarthy’s family from Cappamore, Co. Limerick and exhibited in McCarthy’s Circus Bar. The exhibition is part of the Circus 250 commemorations celebrating 250 years of Circus in Ireland and the UK.

The launch will be taking place on Friday, March 16th, at the Limerick Museum in Franciscan Friary, Henry Street at 6 pm. The museum will also be specifically opened for the exhibition on Saturday 17th and Sunday 18th March from 2 pm to 5 pm. Admission is free.

This project is in collaboration with Limerick Culture and Arts Office and Limerick Museum of Limerick City and County Council.


For more details, listen to Limerick live95fm interview of Tony McCarthy exhibition curator of the McCarthy’s Circus Bar Exhibition and historian, and Dr. Mícheál Ó hAodha visiting lecturer in the history department at University of Limerick.

About the John McCarthy Circus Archive

For more than a century, the McCarthys have had an intimate link with traveling circuses, the distinctive culture and traditions of the “Big Top” in Limerick and the unique artists and families that have kept this culture alive over the centuries, through good times and bad. Spanning the era of William McCarthy’s Circus Field, the traditional “build-ups” and the parade to his son John McCarthy’s (1885-1966) institution that was the Circus Bar in Cappamore (a place where some of the most well-known international circus families regularly stored their props in the off-season).

The John McCarthy Circus Archive comprising more than 400 unique circus posters and in excess of 200 photographs, many of them extremely rare was born. This unique cultural resource enhances our knowledge of the history and development of the circus not only in Ireland, but on the international stage also.

To date, four books have been published as based on materials in this archive and further research is planned for the near future. In keeping with the cyclical nature of circus, the John McCarthy Circus Archive continues to grow and expand, and just as one generation’s immense work is done, the next begins - “The show must go on!”

The fact that a social record as detailed and as unique as John McCarthy’s  Circus Archive survived the Irish War of Independence, the Civil War and the two world wars is testimony itself that this archive was meant to be showcased and returned to the people of Limerick one day. This is a unique social and visual history archive one which stands without comparison in terms of circus history anywhere in Europe and indeed worldwide.”

Dr. Mícheál Ó hAodha, Visiting Lecturer, UL and UCD.

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Irish Street Arts Circus and Spectacle Network

Irish Theatre Institute, 17 Eustace St, Temple Bar, Dublin 2, Ireland
00 353 (0)87 0541812