Friday 19 June 2020

The lions still roam

The Lawrence Lions books are still available for purchase. If you would like to purchase a copy please email

Wednesday 5 December 2018

RADIO NZ Interview 2018

 Interview on RadioNZ 2018
Click on the picture to check out the RadioNZ interview and podcast.

It is fantastic to have this story to help keep the story of the Lawrence Lions alive for future generations.

Thursday 30 March 2017

The story continues - now 39 years on...

Still 24 degrees in Lawrence at the moment and the Lawrence Premier rugby team is practising. It would be a perfect night for a circus! 

Hard to believe Carlos' circus was performing at Simpson Park, Lawrence 39 years ago! Where were you?

The Lawrence Lions book is still available through Trade Me or the Lawrence Information Centre. Or message the page.

Wednesday 30 March 2016

38 years ago today...

This evening 38 years ago some extra guests took part in the Lawrence Rugby Club training..

Thursday 12 March 2015

Mail for the Lions from Romahapa School

Today the Lawrence Lions received some mail from the children at Romahapa School.  They have recently read 'The Lawrence Lions' and decided to use it to inspire their writing by imagining that the lions had escaped near them!  The stories are all bound together into a copy of 'Romahapa Junior Room Version of ... The Lawrence Lions'. 
Excellent to see the Lawrence Lions story inspiring children to write.  Well done Romahapa School.

Tuesday 3 June 2014

Truth is Stranger than Fiction

Occasionally I get some interesting emails regarding 'The Lawrence Lions' none more so than the following... 

Hi there, I wonder if you can help me. I had no idea about the Lawrence Lions and while recently visiting Lawrence took this photo of what looks like a very small lion cage in a farm yard near Weatherstons. I posted it on my blog jokingly saying "I wonder where the lion escaped to" and one of my subscribers then told me about the Lawrence Lions. Truth sure is stranger than fiction!! 

Please take a look at Shellie's blog by clicking the photo below. To see some truly magnificent photos of Lawrence at its best. (Click Gabriel's Gully Lawrence on the blog Archive for the photos)

Sunday 18 May 2014

A Poster from the Past

What a surprise today to see an original poster from Circus Carlos. Wayne McEwan recently got the poster from an old Ring Master. He has just had the poster framed and brought it to Lawrence for a visit. Exciting to see it is in the hands of a real magician and another piece of the past is secured.

Sunday 2 March 2014

News footage of the Lawrence Lions escape

I thought you may enjoy seeing some news footage relating to the night the lions escaped from the circus in Lawrence in 1978.Click on the photo to view the video clip.

Saturday 14 December 2013

Best Wishes for Christmas and the holiday Season

If you are visiting Dunedin take time to visit the Lawrence Lions, Sultan and Sonia at the Otago Museum's Animal Attic - still looking good 35 years on. 

If you are driving through to Central Otago stop off in Lawrence the town that the lions escaped in. 
  • Have a coffee at one of the cafes,
  • Visit the Museum for a dose of history,
  • Walk around Gabriel's Gully the site of New Zealand's first payable gold field
  • Visit the Anthem House where the NZ National Anthem music was composed!
  • Cycle on the newest bike trail in NZ, (NB that New Zealand's first bike was also made in Lawrence! )
  • Shop till you drop at the best gift shops in the district
  • Take time to linger in Lawrence
...our famous little town for so many reasons.

Tuesday 11 June 2013

Sultan and Sonia join the Sleep-Over

The two little girls on the right of this photo are granddaughters
of one of the characters in The Lawrence Lions book
Last week Sultan and Sonia received some visitors late at night when the Otago Museum had closed! 

Waitahuna School pupils stayed at the museum for a sleep-over and during the night they quietly crept through the dark corridors to the Animal Attic trying not to set off the alarms. (Similar to a scene out of Mission Impossible - but not quite that quiet!)

Then they were read the book 'The Lawrence Lions' in the company of the famous pair.  Sultan and Sonia didn't seem to mind at all.

Saturday 30 March 2013

35th Anniversary

Today is the 35th  anniversary of the Lawrence Lions escape. On 30th of March 1978 the Lawrence Lions Sultan and Sonia escaped from the circus  and became a part of our town’s rich history. 

Sunday 20 January 2013

Today's News

Exciting news today with the arrival of the Otago Museum Calendar.  Sultan the lion features as Mr February in the Calendar titled 'Showcasing spectacular specimans from the Animal Attic'. If it wasn't for the circumstances that night 35 years ago the Lawrence Lions would not be remembered today.

Friday 28 December 2012

Falling in love with Lawrence

I thought you may be interested to read a story that featured in The Press on 26th December. It is written by Mike Crean who used to live in Lawrence in the 70's. To some of you it may bring back some memories of Lawrence. Click on the photo to read the article.



Wednesday 19 December 2012

Merry Christmas

A huge thank you for your support of The Lawrence Lions Book since its launch in September. The book has made a big splash in Lawrence and is making ripples around the rest of New Zealand. The feed-back received has been really appreciated. Our newest stockists are Whitcoulls Dunedin, Book City Take a Note (Centre City) and Alexandra Paperplus. If your local store hasn’t got it, feel free to ask them to stock it.
It has been a privilege to secure one of Lawrence’s famous stories in print for future generations. Have a Happy and Safe Christmas.

Tuesday 20 November 2012

Sultan and Sonia's visitors

Recently Sultan and Sonia had a visit from some of their biggest fans, the 5,6 and 7 year olds from Lawrence Area School.  These children have really enjoyed listening to 'The Lawrence Lions' book on numerous occasions.  They have also asked a lot of questions about the night, why it happened?, why couldn't they recapture the lions? and even 'how do you stuff a lion?(and that was a serious question). One wise little 6 year old summed it up when she said 'Do you know if the lions weren't shot they would be dead by now, and no one would even remember them'.  It is interesting to note that approximately 13 of the children had parents living in and around Lawrence on that historic night and now they will also remember that famous night to share in the future.

Wednesday 14 November 2012

A letter to share

I was surprised to get this lovely email tonight from John Darby who was responsible for getting the Lawrence Lions for the Otago Museum. Luckily the book has already been printed as some of his comments conjure up some interesting pictures!
Hi Clare,
Firstly, congratulations on your little book, I managed to buy a copy when I recently went through Lawrence. I do like it, especially the illustrations. Not sure if the following is of any interest, but I was the person that negotiated the Lawrence Lions for the museum. There are one or two quite interesting stories behind the acquisition that I doubt that have been recorded and these may be of interest to you.
Firstly, was the problem with the Department of Agriculture who ordered their destruction by incineration, initially believing that the animals had been brought into NZ. Not withstanding that the animals had been touring NZ for the last year or so; I had to work my way up the hierarchy ladder until I found someone who would agree that they could go to OM. My last contact was the Ministry of Ag Head office in Wellington. A good day passed before I could get agreement for OM to have them, being very much aware that the animals would be slowly decomposing and that the longer they were out of a freezer, the less likely we would be able to have them taxidermied. It took almost a full day of negotiations.
 I made my way to Lawrence early Friday morning. Though I left Dunedin early, I found that the circus wanted to have a sort of "funeral service" for the lions and this was to be conducted by the local minister after the afternoon performance, which from memory was at 4pm, a time frame not anticipated. By the way, I think they called themselves Circus Carlos, not Carlos Circus. There was a certain pathos about that afternoons performance, particularly as two of the performers were the children of the circus owner, two boys, one about 9, the other about 11. Their performance was one of juggling on a foot high rope which really did not work as they frequently fell off or dropped balls, but more usually both. In later years the boys became known as the notorious Harris Gang of Christchurch
.The service was a very emotional thing for the family, much wailing and tears and finally, the lions were loaded into my Ford Transit Van. I might say that at this stage the smell from them was extraordinary, (carnivores start to decompose very quickly, they had been covered in a tarpaulin all day in the sun). With all windows open, I drove out of Lawrence and about 20 minutes out of Lawrence as I was following a Newman's bus, it went off the road and ran into a ditch (blown front tyre). I pulled over and approached the driver to offer help. The driver had quite a bad cut on his leg, insisted that he was fine, but could a couple of the ladies sit in my car (one was quite hysterical).
I then said that was OK, but I had a couple of lions in the back! All the chatter and talk on the bus stopped immediately, and I then qualified my comment by saying that they were dead. The bus was full of what appeared to be American Tourists and it emptied in a flash-much to the relief of the
driver. Somewhere in the States there will be hundreds of mostly Polaroid images of the passengers as they posed for countless photographs of two dead lions in the back of my van. I do recall how delighted the bus driver was as this kept the passengers occupied until a relief bus arrived and he sort of hinted that this was all part of the tour experience and that they would not be charged extra.
It was late dusk almost dark by the time I got to the Museum, much later than I had hoped. I had arranged with Polarcold on Portsmouth Drive to hold the animals in their freezer, but they and the museum staff had all finished for the day. I slid the animals out of the van in what was then the courtyard at the back of the museum and left them on the ground overnight. Problem was how to get them to the freezer. At that time I was a qualified kayak instructor and we used to invade Moana Pool every Saturday morning and we had the pool to ourselves until about 7.30. I then arranged for a number of our club members to come to the museum after our session was finished and lift the lions onto a trailer so that I could get them to the freezer. The point of this story was that I asked them to be very careful and not to grab the lions by their fur, for it was already releasing. If you look carefully on the right shoulder of Sultan, you may notice a significant gap, somewhat taxidermied over where Dr David Pilditch, an intensive care specialist at Dunedin Hospital promptly grabbed Sultan by the mane. Among other things, this gap in his mane dictated the orientation of Sultan when we did the diorama of the lions when they were first displayed. Finally, if you wish to complete this story, you will notice that a piece of the bottom part of the case door that housed Sonia and Sultan in the Animal Attic has a piece chiselled out of it. It was only by chiselling that piece out that we were able to fit Sonia in to the limited display area. I rather suspect that that missing piece will puzzle display staff to come.
Finally, the lions were responsible for a minor accident in Christchurch when I went to pick them up after being taxidermied. The only way they could fit in the van was to have Sultans head projecting part way over the front passengers seat. I am fairly sure that the nose to tail, (quite minor) at the Riccarton traffic lights was due to the lady drivers look of horror as she pulled up alongside me. The message I got from the top was that If I wanted to display the lions at the museum, then it was my responsibility to raise the money to have them taxidermied. There was of course keen competition between a number of service clubs to raise the money to get them stuffed, the Lions club among them, who missed out to another service club. At the time this happened I was the Assistant Director of the Otago Museum and in the absence of the Director made an executive decision to acquire the lions for the Museum. When the Director returned to the museum a week or so later his only comment was "Thank God they were not bloody elephants"!.


Tuesday 13 November 2012

Book Review

 The Lawrence Lions book has had its first book review.  If you would like to read the review from George and Elisabeth (aged  4 and 7) please click on the 'We love Books' image above.