Professional Magician. He is credited with helping to bring magic from street and country fair performances into theatres, to reportedly being given his stage name by Sir Walter Scott, and later revered by the magician Harry Houdini as one of his inspirations. After being orphaned at the age of 10 he joined a travelling drama group, and at the aged of 17 he began to perform magic. At the age of twenty-three, he performed at the castle of Lord Panmure, whose endorsement inspired him to put a touring show together which lasted for three years. He moved to London in 1840 and first appeared in the New Strand Theatre where he used the name “Wizard of the North“. He was a great showman and responsible for uplifting the art of magic to a new social level for the theatre going public of the day. His success came from his extensive use of advertising and popular shows which captivated his audience, and the removal of illusions that did not get a favourable response. He was famous for a lifetime of successful performances of the dangerous ‘bullet catch’ illusion which, although he not invent, he made so popular that several of his rivals copied. He is also credited as the first magician to pull a rabbit out of a top hat. Again, the trick had existed before in different forms, yet, he was the first magician that performed this classic trick on stage. 1845 saw the completion of his second theatre in the City of Glasgow, but four months after opening the theatre burned down. He lost all his equipment and suffered great financial loss. However, as a true showman, and with the help of friends, he launched a new show at London’s Covent Garden. In 1846 he toured Europe and in the following year travelling to Hamburg, Stockholm, and St. Petersburg, where he met Czar Nicholas I, who arranged a command performance after a chance meeting. On his return to London in 1849 he performed for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, and the following year toured Canada, America, Australia and Hawaii very successfully. In 1854, he held what was to have been his farewell performance in Aberdeen, but the success of this show was enough to inspire him not to retire. He then spent a great deal of his time exposing fraud spiritualism that was rife at the time. He was instrumental in exposing the famous Davenport Brothers who had gained much notoriety with their fake spirit cabinet act. His show moved to the Lyceum Theatre in London then onto the Covent Garden in 1855. The following year after a gala performance, the theatre burnt down destroying all of his properties and making him bankrupt for the second time in his life. As a real professional though this setback only made him determined to keep going. In 1859, after a brief period as an actor, he began another world tour. In 1862 his son left his father's troupe and began his own independent career as a conjuror. This started a bitter feud between father and son and the two never spoke again. Greatly in debt he returned to England in 1864. He toured once more in 1866.
Bio by: Peter Cox
Headstone restored by Harry Houdini who also endowed a trust for the perpetual upkeep of the grave