, Newburyport, MA


May 16, 2013

Two local men and their love of the circus


All of Mr. Beal’s circus materials, and it was a voluminous amount, was left to the Harvard College Library. “Through the Back Door to the Circus” may be seen at the Archival Center in the Newburyport Public Library.

The other local circus person was the Rev. Edward S. Sullivan. He was assigned to the Immaculate Conception Parish in Newburyport from 1924 to 1931. Father Sullivan was commonly known locally and elsewhere as the “Circus Priest.” His love of the circus started when he was a young boy. He, like Mr. Beal, was also well known and respected throughout the circus industry.

There are probably not too many local people still alive who can remember him, but there are many who most likely remember their parents or others referring to the beloved “Circus Priest.”

For many years up until the time of his death, Father Sullivan was the national chaplain of The Circus Fans of America, Inc.

In July of 1952, Father Sullivan visited Camp Sea Haven on Plum Island and gave a talk and showed films of the circus to the great enjoyment of the children there recovering from polio.

On Jan. 10, 1970, Father Sullivan conducted the annual blessing of the circus at the Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey winter quarters in Venice, Fla. Moments after the ceremony he was stricken ill and he died almost instantly, surrounded by his “Family.”


Joe Callahan is a former fire chief of Salisbury who is interested in historical accounts of the area.

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