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The Ballad of Jumbo

By Rev. C.J. Barry Kentner (“Rare Bear”)

On September l6th, l885, One of the great circus tragedies occurred in St. Thomas, Ontario. Jumbo the Circus Elephant died after being hit by a train. Here is the story, penned in poem….in 1963.

T’was a rainy night, September 16th
In 1885,
When Jumbo the famous
Circus Elephant died.
In St. Thomas, Ontario,
This tragedy occurred
And I’ll tell you ‘bout it now,
Just in case you haven’t heard.

My Story starts in the year of Grace
1861
When a baby pachyderm was chosen as the one
To Grace a Paris Park,
And later London Zoo,
Where for 17 long years
Jumbo Pleased the public view.

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P.T. Barnum, when he heard
The mighty Jumbo tale,
Began negotiations
To Bring about a sale.
It took ten thousand dollars
But the mighty deed was done,
And Jumbo ate the last of those
Tasty British buns.

Jumbo, the elephant
Bound for greater fame
Jumbo the elephant
Of Barnum and Bailey fame.

For three full years he toured
The entire continent about
And everywhere he went
You could hear the people shout.
Daily thousands paid the price
To view his massive hide;
Until that fatal day
In 1885.

Special freight 151
Of the Grand Trunk Road,
Was west-bound for St. Thomas
With a heavy load.
Bill Burnip, at the throttle, peered ahead
Into the rain,
but failed to see the crew loading
The Circus Train.
Then seven tons of Elephant and
Five tons of steel
Came together in a collision
that would make your head reel.

Now he’s become a legend
Since that train came round the bend’
And struck Him to his knees
Before the crowd he’d pleased.
Yes mighty Jumbo fell,
But his ghost lives on to tease.

Jumbo, the Elephant
Died the way he came
(Mighty Big)
Greatest of the Stars
To wear the Barnum and Bailey Name.

C.J. Barry Kentner (1963)


The frame of Jumbo was stuffed, and presented to the Tuffts Museum of Washington D.C. P.T. Barnum…always a showman, said that Jumbo was killed while saving Tom Thumb…another elephant, but this has turned out to be not quite true. The real Tom Thumb was a little person who was hired by Barnum. Whether there was or was not an elephant named Tom Thumb is unknown…at least to this scribe.


Barry was born in Toronto, Ontario in 1935 and schooled to Grade 10, but continued educational pursuits until age 65 when he graduated from Open Word Bible College. He started working for Spitzer and Mills advertising in 1952, then moved to the Broadcast arena where for 62 years he was News Director and Talk Show Host at several Canadian Radio Stations. He was one of 5 consultants who managed to lobby for Christian Radio in Canada, and in the last five years before retirement, he was News Director of Canadian Altar.Net News, a network of 25 Christian Radio Stations across Canada from Charlottetown PEI to Campbell River BC.
Barry Kentner is a semi-retired pastor.

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To read more from Rev. C.J. Barry Kentner, check out his book, “Trains, Tracks, Trestles and Round House Tales” by contacting him at barrykentner@outlook.com.

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