1835 – 1871
Probably born in Angola, though some think he was form The West Indies, Martini Moccomo was “a man of indomitable courage, whose 12 years of performances with the lions and tigers of Manders’ Great (then Royal) Menagerie gained for him a reputation second to none as a tamer and as a man.”He performed in Newcastle in January 1858 (Newcastle Courant, 1 Jan 1858). His act consisted of chasing an assortment of tigers and lions round the ring with his whip, while firing guns, which appeared to make the animals furious. He got them into a corner, but then relaxed so much that they all played with him. In 1862 a young lion got him by the hand and he had to take to his bed. He was attacked by a tiger in Liverpool in 1862 and by Wallace the lion in Sunderland 2 years before his (Maccomo’s) death. Some thought he bullied the cats, others were amazed by him showing a fondness that ‘if not real is wonderfully like it’.
Maccomo’s extremely successful performances led to many other black entertainers working as animal trainers, although he was not the first, having replaced Billy Strand, from Manchester. He died in the Palatine Hotel, Sunderland, on 11 January 1871, from rheumatic fever. And was replaced by Mazarti (Tom McCarthy).