When I was a little tacker in the 1950s,I always enjoyed the treat party at the manor, held by Mr and Mrs Campbell early in the new year for the children of Knowstone parish. Jelly, blancmange and fancy cakes. One Christmas, a super-duper magician dazzled us party-goers with silk handkerchiefs pulled out of mouths, a white rabbit from a black silk top hat and other conjuring tricks. He had us spellbound and in fits of laughter with his Punch and Judy show. To my delight, my dad told me that he was a distant relative through marriage.
Recently, while researching my family history, I discovered he had been born in London and was a tailor by trade in Chittlehampton. But magic was the love of his life, because from the 1920s through to the 1950s he was a magician who enthralled audiences throughout Devon, driving thousands of miles to perform in villages and towns.
He worked under the slogan "Spencer Vivian, Enter-tailor" and in 1938 he appeared on the BBC in a show called "Westward Ho!", billed in the Radio Times as "a man of mirth and magic who has appeared in front of Lord Clinton, Lord Fortescue, the Viscount of Sidmouth and Sir Basil Peto".
Staunch socialist, preacher and peace worker, his name lives on today, as he was a founder member of the Devon Magic Circle Club. In my memory he lives on as the only man to pull a penny out of my ear – a conjuror extraordinaire, described by my aged maiden aunt as a man with more tricks than a cartload of monkeys up his sleeve. Where she'd seen a cartload of monkeys I never found out.
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