Old tricks

Old tricks

Magician David Haggarty has conjured up a record – after SIX DECADES of casting spells over crowds.

David, 84, has spent 64 years wowing audiences with his incredible tricks and has no plans to hang up his wand any time soon.

Last month, he performed at the Magic Circle’s annual Christmas bash in his hometown of Paisley, Renfrewshire – for the 60th consecutive year.

David said: “I still love magic – my sleight of hand might not be as quick these days but I think I do well for my age.

Can’t sing, can’t dance

“When I started out I couldn’t sing and I couldn’t dance so I decided to take up magic even though I had never watched a magician before.

“But I quickly developed a magician’s brain and I became a bit of a daredevil.

“People used to say ‘I bet you can’t do this’ and I would prove them wrong.

“I started off with changing things into budgies and canaries before moving on to doves and then a horse.

“I then escaped from a sealed coffin which was set on fire. That probably started my career off properly.”

David first picked up his wand in 1950 and went on to build a catalogue of amazing tricks and hair-raising stunts that would make even Penn and Teller tremble with fear.

Despite his determination to find bigger and better feats, many planned tricks fell foul of the authorities.

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On one occasion, David tried to have himself locked in Paisley Prison in order to carry out a stunning escape, but was knocked back by the chief of police who said the trick would be a bad advert for security at the ‘nick’.

Authorities also prevented David making a lion disappear – despite him having secured one with only four teeth from Wilson’s Zoo in Glasgow – because he refused to tell authorities where the big cat would reappear.

But during one memorable performance in 1958 – which incredibly met health and safety requirements – he hired a friend to fire a bullet at his face before catching it with his teeth.

David, who also worked as a control operator at Rolls Royce, said: “I was banned from doing that in Paisley so we had to set it up in Perth.

“Of all the places to pick, they chose a slaughterhouse. I had my own marksman who was a first class shot.

“It was obviously very dangerous and if you don’t know what you are doing you could end up getting shot.

“It was out in the open and was a bit windy but I managed to do it.”

His favourite trick was a gory illusion in which he appeared to cut off a woman’s tongue.

He said: “Six grown men in the crowd fainted the first time I did it, including a newspaper reporter.

Is there a doctor in the house?

“We hired out scalpels and other equipment from the hospital and we had to have doctors in the audience in case it went wrong.”

Daredevil David soon became notorious across Scotland for his magic skills and he quickly began to build a large collection of silverware.

He won the Scottish Conjurers’ Shield three times and in 1958 he became the only Scot to win the World International Brotherhood of Magicians’ Dittia Shield.

Last month, David – who has never married because of his magic career – showed he still has the ability to leave audiences stunned after he turned doves into a five-foot crocodile at the Magic Circle bash in Paisley.

He added: “When you get old your body gets old too so I can’t do some of the stuff I used to.

“But I’m still enjoying magic and it makes me happy so I plan to keep doing it.”

By Darren Hamilton