How a tiger on the loose in Sheffield mauled a circus attendant and brought the city to a standstill

Amur Tigers at the Yorkshire Wildlife Park. Picture: David Roberts
Amur Tigers at the Yorkshire Wildlife Park. Picture: David Roberts
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It seems barely conceivable nowadays that a circus show involving an untamed tiger could be held in a theatre in Sheffield.

But, back in December 1933 this was exactly the case and it provided the background to one of the most shocking and dramatic scenarios in Sheffield to date.

The Empire Theatre, situated on the corner of Charles Street and Union Street in the city centre, was hosting a one-week circus.

However, the scene soon descended into pandemonium when a tiger got loose whilst Ernest George Dalton, 30, cleaned its cage at the side of the stage.

Screams could be heard around the theatre as shocked theatre-goers watched the tiger maul the cleaner as attendants rushed over to the cage.

The tiger had leapt on top of a terrified Mr Dalton, from Devon; clawing at his neck, shoulders and back before he was finally beaten away with shovels, iron bars and other weapons.

Rajah, the untamed Bengal tiger, dashed into a cellar underneath the stage and the doors were quickly closed upon him while Mr Dalton was taken to Sheffield Royal Hospital with his injuries.

The Times reported on December 3 that the 'beast' defied the attempts of trainers for more than three hours, as well as fireman and police.

Finally the chief trainer, Mr J de Kok, Superintendent Breaks of the Sheffield fire Brigade, and Mr Yesserick, manager of the circus, forced the tiger out of the cellar with a high-powered hose.

Rajah's siege of destruction was not over yet though as the tiger destroyed musical instruments and tore apart the furniture inside the music room where it was being held.

It was revealed afterwards that the tiger was not performing in the circus but had been in training and had escaped from its cage to get the meat.

Incredibly, despite the panic and furor surrounding the incident, the show continued in the afternoon and evening.

However, it seems that Mr Dalton had been fortunate to survive the terrifying incident .