We have just learnt that Michael Pearse – real name, Pearse Halpenny, has passed away today at St. Christophers Hospice, South Croydon near his home.
Michael was not only a talented juggler, having taught hundreds of people, including one of the UKs top professionals, Steve Rawlings, he was also a wonderful comic – with perfect timing, married with his Irish accent, his performances stormed every venue he played. The internet is awash with great write-ups and photos of his performances – a favourite with magicians. He used to finish his act by placing a teapot, milk jar, cup and saucer on a wooden tray that had been covered with a handkerchief – balancing the tray on three wooden sticks, the opposite ends of which were pushed into a rubber thimble, with a fourth stick that went through a small eyelet in the handkerchief. The whole lot was then balanced on his chin, and then he would whip away the fourth stick, which would take the handkerchief with it, leaving the tea-set still on the wooden tray – and all this whilst telling his wonderful irish jokes.
He was a very gentle, softly spoken man, but once he was on stage it was nearly impossible to stop yourself from laughing out loud, no matter how many times you had watched his act. His working life was as a foreman for Mansell, teaching and performing in his evenings and weekends until he retired and then going semi-professional during his retirement. He also “dabbled” as he called it, in magic, with Ring on Rope being one of his favourites. He had many interests outside of juggling; he ran the 19th Purley Scout Group for many years and performed at many “Olde Time Music Halls” with amateur companies such as Croydon Stagers. During his early years Pearse travelled with “The Great Levante” show, arriving at the next venue a few days earlier than the tour, to allow him to cut trap doors in the stage of the next theatre, ready for the show !!
On a personal note, I met Michael through his wife Val, who was my dinner lady at high school, and to save having to go outside during lunch, into the cold, I would show her magic tricks. She told me many times I should come over and meet her husband who also had an interest in Magic – which I eventually did, and spent many nights talking magic and juggling with Pearse. He taught me how to juggle, and allowed me to drive him to and from the Gym in Bromley on a Thursday night where he taught juggling, whilst I was learning to drive.
I know Pearse will be sorely missed by a great number of people, and our condolences go to his wife Val and the rest of his family.
Rest in Peace dear friend.
Photos by Mark Hesketh Jennings
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