From the Darlington & Stockton Times of January 14, 1871

THE headline of “Death of Maccomo, the lion-tamer, at Sunderland” would really have caught the eye of the reader of the D&S 150 years ago.

Martini Maccomo was the most famous lion-tamer in the north, probably because his act was so dangerous. He was said to have been born in Angola (although he might just have been a Liverpudlian called Arthur Williams who invented a glamorous back story), and he was billed as “the African Wild Beast Tamer”, “Angola's Mighty Czar of All Lion Tamers” and “The Hero of a Thousand Combats”.

He would take on 20 lions and four Bengali tigers in the ring, running round them while flicking whips and firing guns (he once shot a member of his own audience), goading them into anger and then taming them so they became as calm as kittens.

Most times.

Sometimes, they bit him – a tigress only let go of his arm on one occasion when a heated iron was applied to her teeth.

In Sunderland, the D&S reported that the great Maccomo was with Manders’ famous menagerie when he “died at the Palatine Hotel, Borough Road, from epilepsy. Deceased had been ill for nearly a fortnight”.

And so, in Bishopwearmouth Cemetery, there is a large headstone above the grave of a great lion-tamer.