When Buffalo Bill rode into the Blue Toon

One of the posters of the Buffalo Bill tour.
One of the posters of the Buffalo Bill tour.

Who would have believed that one of the most famous characters in Wild West history actually visited Peterhead?

Well, it’s true...

On August 28, 1904 three special trains carrying the entourage of Colonel WF Cody and his Wild West Show pulled into the town’s station on Queen Street.

It’s hard to quantify the impact this visit had on the town, it would be the equivalent of Formula One coming to Peterhead today!

William ‘Buffalo Bill’ Cody became a rider for the Pony Express at the age of 14 following his father’s death.

He received the nickname Buffalo Bill after the American Civil War when he had a contract to supply Kansas Pacific Railroad workers with buffalo meat.

During the American Civil War he served the Union from 1863 to the end of the war in 1865. Later he served as a civilian scout for the US Army during the Indian Wars. He received the Medal of Honour in 1872.

Buffalo Bill started performing in shows that displayed cowboy themes and episodes from the frointier and Indian Wars.

He founded Buffalo Bill’s Wild West in 1883, taking his large company on tours in the United States and beginning in 1887, in Great Britain and Europe.

The shows were billed as taking place on the Roanheads Park but actually took place on the ground where the municipal bowling green and tennis courts are today.

The showground itself was rented from Jimmy Sutherland of transport fame for £10 (provided he had exclusive access to all the horse manure!) and the water for the various animals was supplied from the town’s water supply by the Burgh Surveyor TJ Scott at a price of £2 for the two days.

Accommodation for the troupe was provided by Agnes J. Smith of the Royal Hotel and James Reid and Sons provided both the livery and the billboard lot on Queen Street.

The livery consisted of three country teams of horses and one town waggon, all at 10 shillings each.

The rental of the billboard lot was charged at 5 shillings.

Two shows were held on Monday 29 August 1904, the first show in the afternoon attracted 9,000 people, the evening show on the same day was attended by 12,000 people.

Such was the popularity of the two shows that barely a fisherman went to sea over the weekend and the price of fish in the local market went through the roof!

Cars were still in their infancy in 1904 so the vast majority of the show patrons attended the spectacle by bicycle,.

Two cycle shops in the town took advantage of this and advertised that they would store people’s cycles for a small charge.

The cycle shops in question were John Johnston junior of 28 North Street and Charles Ingram of 15 Queen Street and no doubt amassed a tidy sum for their efforts !

The various members of the company that ventured out in the town were followed incessantly and were looked on with awe and wonder by the crowds that followed them. Had you been in Buchanhaven on the Sunday morning you would have met Bill and a large contingent of his Indians taking in the view “ower the watter”!

Three of the Indians later attended the afternoon’s Salvation Army meeting, with Colonel Cody later writing a letter to the Adjutant thanking him for tending to the spiritual wellbeing of his company.

The Peterhead Sentinel; Buchan Journal commented at the time: “Cossacks in turbans and gabardines, vaqueros with broad and curly brimmed hats, cowboys with broad and curly brimmed hats, cowboys with shirts and ties that did not seem to call for much washing walked jauntily along the pavement, not neglecting the lasses.

“Stalwart Indians stalked through the streets, their coal black hair and coloured plumes showing high above the heads of the crowds that followed wherever they appeared”