Bobby Leach (born 1858 in Cornwall, United Kingdom; died April 26, 1926 in New Zealand) was the second person to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel, after Annie Taylor, and the first male to do so, accomplishing the feat on July 25, 1911. He spent six months in the hospital recovering from injuries he sustained during the fall, which included two broken knee caps and a fractured jaw. Leach had been a performer with the Barnum and Bailey Circus and was no stranger to stunting. Prior to his trip over the falls he owned a restaurant on Bridge Street and would boast to customers that anything Annie could do… he could do better.
Unlike Annie Taylor before him, Bobby Leach achieved some success from his endeavour. For several years he toured Canada, the United States and England, recounting his harrowing journey at vaudeville shows and lecture halls, exhibiting his barrel and posing for pictures.
Leach returned to Niagara Falls, New York in 1920 and operated a pool hall. While in his sixties he attempted to swim the whirlpool rapids but failed after several attempts. During these aborted attempts, Bobby Leach was rescued by William "Red" Hill Sr., a riverman, who knew the Falls well and became well known in the area for later rescues.
In 1926, while on a publicity tour in New Zealand, Leach injured his leg when he slipped on an orange peel (according to some reports, it was a banana peel). The leg became infected, and eventually gangrene necessitated the amputation of the leg. Despite this extreme procedure, Bobby Leach died of complications two months later.
- Bobby Leach at Find a Grave
- Info Niagara
- University of Houston
- Images from the Niagara Falls Public Library (Ont.)
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