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'He's just amazing' - circus star Tom (91) fought off virus and three heart attacks

Medics didn’t think he’d survive ambulance trip


Tom after beating Covid-19 and three heart attacks at the age of 91

Tom after beating Covid-19 and three heart attacks at the age of 91

Tom Duffy on his horse

Tom Duffy on his horse


Tom after beating Covid-19 and three heart attacks at the age of 91

The incredible 91-year-old head of a renowned circus family has not only beaten cancer twice but has miraculously survived three heart attacks in the weeks after winning his battle with Covid-19.

Tom Duffy, of Duffy's Circus, is now back at his Dublin care home and urging his family to get back touring - unaware that his beloved big top may be facing its final days.

Tom, who tested positive in April, attracted huge online support from the public who were delighted when he finally overcame the virus.


However, since then the remarkable ringmaster has suffered three heart attacks and a bleed on his bladder and his family were told at one stage that he may not survive the trip to hospital in an ambulance.

But Tom is a fighter and is now urging his only son David to get back on the road - not knowing that the circus may not win its battle against Covid-19.

"My dad is amazing. He beat cancer for the first time 25 years ago when he said he was too busy to die, despite being given six months to live," said David.

"Then 15 years ago, he had an operation to remove a kidney after the cancer returned and he was back in the circus ring just five days later.

"He's been on the road for 90 years and survived tough times when they travelled in horse-drawn caravans without electricity, so we had no doubt he'd beat the coronavirus.

"He was back living in his care home and has had three heart attacks since.

"He was on morphine and at one stage, the medics didn't think there was anything more they could do.

"But then he seemed to try and fight back so they decided to move him to Tallaght Hospital, warning us that he may not survive the ambulance journey because he was very weak.

"He spent nine days there where a bleed on his bladder was also detected and now he's back again and in great spirits. He's just incredible."

However, David admits that he hasn't told his father the whole story of the challenges the circus is facing.

"He knows that we haven't been able to work because of Covid-19 but thinks everything will be OK again," he said.

"He's asking us to stick to touring around Dublin initially so he can come along and give us advice.

"But we're not going to tell him anything more until we have to."


Duffy's Circus has been at its winter headquarters near Navan, Co Meath, since the Covid-19 restrictions were applied last March.

"We won't be back on the road until February at the very least and have probably a 20pc chance of survival," David said.

"We need to earn about €40,000 a week just to break even and with social distancing and restrictions on numbers, I'm not sure how we are going to attain that.

"The circus is our life. They say that circus people have sawdust in their veins and that the show must go on - but this time we may just not get there."