W. D. Ford - The Vanishing Wizard
This gentleman provides a true mystery. In June 1852, a Mr. W. D. Ford advertised a forthcoming season in Maitland in the Hunter Valley of New South Wales:-
Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser, June 19, 1852
Mr W. D. Ford begs to announce to the the Ladies, Gentlemen, and the Inhabitants generally of East and West Maitland and surrounding neighbourhood, that he intends opening the building lately known as the THEATRE, in the rear of Mr. I Gorrick's "Fitz Roy Hotel", West Maitland, as a "TEMPLE OF MAGIC" for the purpose of giving NIGHTLY ENTERTAINMENTS in his MAGICAL ART. These Wonderful Amusements have never been opened to the colonial public, but may be imagined to possess every feature calculated to entertain the spectator, when it is remembered that Mr. F. is a a Pupil of the celebrated "WIZARD OF THE NORTH," whose wonder performances have astonished the whole British Empire - her Majesty being a patron of these arts!!!
The Opening Night, and the nature of the Entertainment about to be given, will appear in a future advertisement; also the Prices of Admission, and other necessary arrangements.
The advertisment contain its fair share of bombast, and an attempt to hang off the coat-tails of the Wizard of the North in Britain (presumably J.H. Anderson). However, nothing further is heard of Mr. Ford in this region, and no performance seems to have eventuated.
Some possible explanation might come from a series of Sydney advertisements, several weeks later, in both the Empire and Sydney Morning Herald papers. Mr. Ford seems to have had trouble getting his bearings, as the Empire advertised him as the Wizard of the South, while the Herald had him as the Wizard of the North, both at the same time! Apparently he was no longer a pupil of The Wizard, but the wizard himself.
Empire (Sydney) July 15, 1852
MALCOM'S ROYAL AUSTRALIAN CIRCUS, York Street, OPEN EVERY EVENING.
The proprietor respectfully invites the public to visit this celebrated place of amusement. The interior of the circus being enlarged and shingled, renders it weathertight and comfortable. The dress circle is divided into separate boxes, with doors, and the side boxes are also divided. The extensive decorations are in active progress, as well as the STAGE. The Equestrian feats performed by the male and female artistes for grace and elegance cannot be surpassed.
WIZARD OF THE SOUTH - JOHN MALCOM has the honour to announce that he has entered into arrangements with Mr. Ford to exhibit his EXTRAORDINARY MAGICAL POWERS at his CIRCUS, YORK-STREET in a few days, of which due notice will appear.
The STAGE at his Circus being now finished, the Wizard's performances can now be witnessed to great advantage.
John Malcom’s Circus, at the rear of the Adelphi Hotel in York Street (between King and Market Streets) was undergoing expansion with the addition of a stage. It would be one of Sydney’s major equestrian and acrobatic circuses until 1856, when the venue underwent several name changes, from the Royal Lyceum for a time in 1854 to the Royal Albert, and Queen's Theatre from 1873 to its demolition in 1882.
That being said, there is no evidence that any performance by Mr. Ford ever took place, despite advertisements continuing until July 21. The mysterious Mr. Ford, having never performed, is not heard from again, and we are left guessing as to who he was, and where he went. “Ford” being a common name, it cannot be easily traced, but a W. D. Ford is shown on shipping lists arriving at Port Phillip in December 1852. Also, in July 1852, a “William Ford” was committed to gaol for one month as a ‘dangerous lunatic’. Whether magic and lunacy go together is a matter for mere speculation!