Peter Bissell, who brought joy to thousands of sick children as one half of popular clown duo Peebo & Dagwood has died from cystic fibrosis.
Peter Bissell, who brought joy to thousands of sick children as one half of popular clown duo Peebo & Dagwood has died from cystic fibrosis.

Farewell Peebo: Sad end to twins’ beloved double act

TOGETHER until the bitter end, twin brothers Peter and David Bissell, better known as Queensland's popular clowns Peebo & Dagwood, have been tragically separated.

Peter died today, at age 46, after a brave and remarkable fight for life. David was by his side, as always.

Shortly after 5pm, David posted on the Peebo & Dagwood Facebook page: "It's with a broken heart and much sadness, to share with you, that my beloved beautiful twin brother 'Peebo' has passed away.

"No more pain, no more suffering. He lived life, he loved life and he laughed. He has touched so many lives and inspired many. He made people laugh and smile. I love you bro and I miss you."

The brothers have battled cystic fibrosis since birth, yet they looked past their own debilitating illness to bring joy to sick children in hospital for more than 20 years.

They have also performed at birthday parties, corporate conferences and on TV, including on Logie-award-winning renovation show Backyard Blitz, with Scott Cam, Jamie Durie and a cameo from Karl Stefanovic.

Cystic fibrosis is the most common life-threatening genetic condition in Australia. Mucus builds up in the lungs, making breathing difficult. Other organs, especially the liver, pancreas and intestine, also become damaged. There is no cure, and the average life expectancy is 38.

Twin brothers Peter and David Bissell, better known as Queensland’s popular clowns Peebo & Dagwood. Picture: Facebook
Twin brothers Peter and David Bissell, better known as Queensland’s popular clowns Peebo & Dagwood. Picture: Facebook

In a moving video posted on their Facebook page on Tuesday night, David said: "Peebo said he's had enough and he has, what he's been through for the last three to four weeks, 10 people wouldn't have gone through in a lifetime, and he wants to live, he's got a lot to live for, but it's been hard to keep him comfortable.

"The end is near, he has started a morphine infusion, not sure how long he's got, but to be here with him is where I need to be.

"We've had many hurdles ourselves to jump, but even though there've been so many medications over the years, we've always found that laughter was the best medicine."

The brothers have openly charted their health issues online, garnering tens of thousands of messages of support from across Queensland and around the world.

As well as being clowns, they were motivational speakers and lived by the motto, "suck the guts out of life".

The pair have both been hospitalised this year, with David rushed to intensive care on February 3, also with liver complications.

"What are the chances?" Peter said at the time. "That we both are fighting for survival with similar liver trouble at the same time. Twin thing for sure."

Brisbane clowns, Peebo (Peter Bissell) and Dagwood (David Bissell) in late 2017. Picture: Mark Cranitch.
Brisbane clowns, Peebo (Peter Bissell) and Dagwood (David Bissell) in late 2017. Picture: Mark Cranitch.

The tumours on Peter's liver were considered inoperable because of his failing kidneys and an earlier double lung transplant (David underwent the same operation, also in 2005).

Yet right up until the end, he remained stoic.

"Unfortunately, things don't look too good for me, but it's hard to keep a good clown down," Peter said few weeks ago.

On February 15, he said: "When the battle seems too big, when it wrestles your life from your grips and all that you know, stay in the fight, stay strong, believe in the unbelievable … lean on all that love and support."

Parents Bob and Narelle at Peter's bedside. Picture: Facebook
Parents Bob and Narelle at Peter's bedside. Picture: Facebook

On February 6, he posted a poignant photograph of himself and his only child, 11-year-old daughter Amelia, with the words: "Daddy daughter hospital cuddles, so precious, forever loved my little angel xx."

The brothers' courage and determination have been sorely tested over the years.

Since their premature birth in August 1973, they have battled to survive.

Their parents Bob and Narelle - both carriers of the cystic fibrosis gene, resulting in a one-in-four chance with every pregnancy of having a CF child - were told their sons wouldn't live through their first night.

Twin brothers David and Peter Bissell battled cystic fibrosis all their lives.
Twin brothers David and Peter Bissell battled cystic fibrosis all their lives.

Then they were told that they wouldn't see their second birthday, then their teens, and then adulthood.

At age 24, the twins lost their sister Tonya to the same crippling disease. She was 27.

But they continued to defy the odds.

In an interview with The Courier-Mail in 2017, David, then 44 and taking 50 tablets a day, said "the drugs keeping us alive are killing our other organs".

"But we don't sit on our bum and say 'poor me' and set up a GoFundMe page, we get out and live life."

Their clowning career began, humbly and organically, with their early hospitalisations - David at 15 while still at Dakabin High School, and Peter at 19.

On February 6, Peter Bissell posted this poignant photograph of himself and his only child, 11-year-old daughter Amelia. Picture: Facebook
On February 6, Peter Bissell posted this poignant photograph of himself and his only child, 11-year-old daughter Amelia. Picture: Facebook

"We'd do card tricks to entertain the others," Peter said in 2017, from his home in Woody Point.

"You're in an environment where your friends are dying around you and you're sick yourself, so humour would distract us.

"Dave had started riding a unicycle, so a friend suggested we dress as clowns and do her daughter's birthday party, and then Cystic Fibrosis Australia booked us for its children's Christmas party.

The brothers brought joy to thousands of Queensland children. Pic Mark Cranitch.
The brothers brought joy to thousands of Queensland children. Pic Mark Cranitch.

 

"We quickly learned that if you juggle, you get a laugh, but if you juggle and drop the ball you get a better laugh, so clowning is probably the only career where you make a mistake and don't get a kick up the backside."

In a video posted in the wee hours of February 5, Peter acknowledged the love and support of Peebo & Dagwood's fans.

Hooked up to drips and shuffling through the hospital to visit David in ICU, he said: "We are still in the fight.

"Sometimes those mountains are pretty hard to climb, but we have a huge support of people all around us, all over this planet, hoping and praying that Peebo & Dagwood can somehow pull through this."

Peter was wearing his daughter's blue and pink floral dressing gown.

"She said, 'Daddy, you've got to wear this … it's going to give you strength and keep you warm'."

Peter is also survived by his parents Bob and Narelle Bissell.



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