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He juggled fame and murder

Thomas Horton was once billed as Australia's Greatest Juggler. His stage name was Anglo and in 1903 he travelled to London to perform where he met with the Hamley Brothers, owners of the world's oldest toy store and company. They agreed to publish a book he had written, a full-length piece on juggling entitled The Art of Modern Juggling. It was published in 1907, three years after his death.

Thomas Horton. Courtesy: good living

Born in 1879 in North Adelaide, Thomas did not have an easy life with both parents held in Parkside Lunatic Asylum. He suffered from heat stroke and when he fell out of a 13 foot tall tree at 10 years old, he sustained head injuries. On top of that he also had a bad stutter.

He learnt to juggle as a boy and would go on to create many original routines that wowed and delighted audiences everywhere. He was also a bootmaker and made many of the props he used in his act.

After returning from England in 1903, Thomas married Florence Lovell. It was an abusive relationship and finally Florence ran away from her husband. Only two weeks later, Thomas spied his wife walking in Adelaide with friends. It was reported he approached Florence and said he had a present for her.

Then he shot her.

Anglo in action. Courtesy: good living

Thomas was arrested, tried and found guilty of his wife's murder. His thoughts on the matter were captured in the following letter he wrote to the Hamley Brothers on May 11, 1904:

Dear Messrs. Hamley:

I thought that I would just drop you a line to tell you of my misfortune. Since I left London, I have had varied luck. The first thing on landing at Adelaide I was greeted with the news of my wife's death, which took place two days before. A few months after I married again, and then my troubles commenced afresh.

My second marriage was in every way a complete failure. I had no idea what sort of a woman I was taking for my wife. Everything that I could do to try and live with her in happiness was futile. She so worried me that I hardly knew what I was doing. She left me after we had been married 3-1/2 months and went home to her people. Had she been satisfied and contented with leaving me, all would have been well, but unfortunately for me such was not the case.

She used to carry on with other men and one Saturday night I met her in the street. I got wild and shot her dead. You may quite imagine my position then. I, of course, was put on trial and the jury brought in a verdict against me. So tomorrow, the 12th, I die. I do not think that I have any more to write about, so will thank you in anticipation and wishing you all success and a long farewell, I am,

Yours Sincerely, T. Horton.

Thomas was hanged the next day.

He had requested to be buried in the West Terrace cemetery but the law prevented this from happening. Instead he was buried in the Adelaide Gaol cemetery in the North West angle of the gaol between the outer walls.

The reference to Thomas' final resting place. Courtesy: M Beaven, Findagrave


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