Tears for a clown

Mourners gather at Cricklade’s St Sampson’s church for the funeral of Patrick Austen

Mourners gather at Cricklade’s St Sampson’s church for the funeral of Patrick Austen

First published in News Swindon Advertiser: Photograph of the Author by , @BerenCross

THE man behind the make-up which created Professor Wotnot was remembered in a funeral service attended by legions of friends and family in Cricklade yesterday.

Patrick Austen, who died at the age of 59 on February 19, was the subject of touching tributes from family members at the St Sampson’s Church ceremony.

Patrick, who was born in Cambridge on March 25, 1954, became best known for his circus role as the clown Professor Wotnot, which he portrayed for the best part of 30 years in the Cottle & Austen Circus.

A cortege, made up of more than five cars, including two pristine Rolls Royces, slowly rolled into Bath Road, bearing Patrick’s coffin.

Tears poured down the faces of the pallbearers, who carried their friend and family member into the church, flanked by mourners.

More than 300 attendees witnessed the service, with standing room only. Tributes from his granddaughters brought about the most emotion from those looking on.

After the opening sentences from Reverend Dr Shirley Danby and a hymn, Roza, Jorja and Joana took to the microphone and shared their thoughts with the service.

The eldest of the three reflected on the strength Patrick had shown during a period of ill health she had suffered, and how encouraging he had always been towards her.

Rev Danby, using the thoughts of Patrick’s family, described the circus legend as a keen mechanic, a man who could fix anything at any time of the day.

His weekly visits to the local pub on a Friday were also mentioned. He enjoyed sharing the week’s events with friends at his local, or sitting with his family into the early hours around a fading fire at home.

Patrick was famed for handling everything the circus had to offer. After becoming involved with Gerry Cottle’s circus at the age of 14, he did not leave the circus industry until the 1990s.

He was just as comfortable handling bears and elephants as he was throwing knives and making people laugh as the clown of the show.

He had been known to love portraying Professor Wotnot because of the way it made himself, others, but especially children laugh.

The minister said he had become the very best clown in the business.

A poem written by Patrick’s brother, Michael, was read by his daughters. It read: “Today we are here to celebrate the passing of my best mate.

“A gentleman so big and strong, very timid, seldom wrong. A burly big granddad, uncle, cousin; what a lad.

“Now as a clown he was real fun, I think he got that from our mum.

“I know that he will be sadly missed, the crowds of people is proof of this.”

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