In 1889 when a small lad of six stood along a street in Newcastle, England,
his hand held by his father as he gazed up in wonderment at the unbelievable
sights passing the street in front of him. They had travelled all the way from
Edinburgh, Scotland to see such sights.
Wonderful, noisy, exciting, such as he had never seen for this was the grand
parade of the already legendary showman from America and purveyor of the Wild
West, W.F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody and his scores of rough riders, sharp
shooters and horsemen gathered from every corner of the globe, then touring
the British Isles.
Approaching gunshots signalled the arrival of the central figure of this unusual
group when the unforgettable sight of Buffalo Bill with his snow white flowing
hair goatee drew near.
He was mounted on a magnificent dappled grey horse of 15 1/2 hands and wore
a pair of tight, fine leather riding boots up to his thighs & guantlet
gloves. In front of him about 30 feet walked a man who would toss a glass ball
in the air every few yards each one shattered with a bullet and a roar from
Buffalo Bill's gun. The crowd reacted with wild enthusiasm at the ease and
remarkable showmanship of this statuesque figure. It is not hard to understand
how such a startling event could leave a lasting impression on a youngster's
mind, to remain there for a lifetime, and this was Thomas W. Bishop's first
contact with the "Wild West".
Although he saw Buffalo Bill Cody again just after the turn of the century
when he presented his lavish show in Niagara Falls, New York, he was to say
in later years that he could never forget that first childhood impression of
him. This, probably more than anything else, prompted the young Bishop brothers,
Thomas and Robert to heed the beckoning CNR posters and accept Dr. Barnardo's
offer to place them with a farming family in southern Ontario. As soon as they
had saved some money and paid off their passage, they headed west to Olds,
Alberta - "the land of golden opportunity" in 1908.
However, when they got there they found the going tough, some settlers were
selling out, leaving, others going broke and they too eventually sought to
return "home". Getting east was more of a problem than it had been
getting west. And after a long journey "riding the rods" in and under
empty box cars back to Ontario, both brothers eventually settled and established
However the western spirit was hard to suppress and in 1914 Tom was to receive
an invitation to put on a "trained horse exhibition and wild west display" to
raise money for the troops of the first world war.
|TW Bishop's wild west show
That first show was a great sucess and soon there followed many wild west
shows, nearly all of them hi-lighted with a performance of his High-schooled
horse "Saladin". During the first world war Saladin invariably brought
the house down by climbing a pedestal and pulling the trigger of a shot gun
that fired at a dummy 'German Kaiser'.
Younger brother Bob because of his agility and aptitiude for stunt work always
took the part of a horse thief or similar indesirable and usually met his fate
by being shot, dragged and hung or simply being burned at the stake by Indians.
T.W. Bishop's early Wild West Shows featured scenes from the taming of the
Eventually marrying, Thomas Bishop with his wife Eva and children Lorna and
Thomas Lyell Bishop formed the 4-B corral...the 4-Bishop's Corral, the home
address of the now famous 4-B Ranch Rodeos and Wild West Shows.
Thomas W. and his daughter Lorna and her husband Chuck Aylett became founding
members of a number of Canadian and Ontario horse associations including the
Western Horse Association of Ontario and the Ontario Rodeo Association.
Thomas Lyell as a child was to learn to trick ride and trick rope. Together
he and his sister Lorna were soon performing in and around southern Ontario,
even appearing on the 'Cliff MacKay Melody Ranch', a live CBC television program
in the 1950's.
After leaving a promising radio broadcasting career to perform
in England in 1965 at a Canadian Exposition (with his new bride janet) he
began producing wild west shows and rodeos full time.
Tom was to produce rodeos
all across eastern Canada and the north eastern states. His wife Janet was to
trick ride with him and his sister. Then starting in the 1960's he also began
work as a stunt man and wrangler, first with an appearance on CBC's Forrest Rangers.
By the late 1970's Tom was to make the transition from rodeo producer to providing
western entertainment to corporate parties and events. Throughout the 1980's
Tom continued to provide horses and wagons and stunt work for such series as
'Forever Knight', Global's 'Matt and Jenny' and CTV's 'The Campbells', American
mini-series such as 'Salem Witch Trials' and 'Anne Rice's Feast of All Saints'.
By the 1990's the third generation, daughters Sally, Sarah and son, Tom Jr.
expanded the wild west show tradition now in to it's nineth decade.