King’s Lynn’s legend Juggling Jim remembered by relative he never knew
- Credit: Ian Burt/Archant Library
On the anniversary of much-loved street entertainer Juggling Jim's death, the people of King's Lynn are trying to keep his memory alive - including one woman who only found out they were related after he died.
Just like anyone else, Gemma Clark would often walk past Juggling Jim and throw a few coins in his hat. But she never realised how closely connected they really were.
Mrs Clark, 36, a project officer at the Norfolk Coast Partnership, from Gayton, was at work when she answered her brother's call on February 15, 2017, the day of Juggling Jim's funeral.
'He said: 'You will never guess what - we are related to Juggling Jim,' Mrs Clark said.
After initially brushing off the comment as a joke, the story of how she was a distant relative of Juggling Jim, whose real name was Anthony Bowen, started to unfold.
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Mrs Clark's mother was put into a children's home when was 14 years-old, and she had lost contact with her mother's side of the family, which included her uncle Leonard Bowen and her cousin Anthony.
But her aunt kept in contact with both, visiting them from London from time to time up until Anthony Bowen had become estranged from the family and took on his new persona.
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When Leonard Bowen had died in January 4, 2017, Gemma's aunt travelled to King's Lynn to attend his funeral and returned a few weeks later for his son's funeral.
'I knew she was going to a funeral because she went to his dad's and told me about his son dying,' Mrs Clark said.
'That was the first time I found out I have a great uncle living in Gayton, in the same village where I lived.'
Juggling Jim was found dead in a property in Nelson Street on January 23, 2017. A post mortem revealed he had died of pneumonia aged 62.
As her aunt lived outside of Norfolk she had never known what ever became of Anthony Bowen and never expected hundreds of mourners at his funeral.
'She went to the funeral thinking it was a small affair but realised he was a massive celebrity.' Mrs Clark added.
After she received the shocking news, Mrs Clark said she felt a mixture of emotions and thought about the times she walked past him and threw a few pound coins at his feet.
Mrs Clark added: 'I felt this immense guilt, if I had known I would have tried to speak to him, buy him coffee and give him money. I must admit I felt quite proud to be related to him, he was quite special.
'I don't know anything about his youth or history, I know as much as anyone else really, but I know he was really close to his dad.
'My aunt did say his dad had mental health problems and he got help for it, but when he saw it in Anthony he told him he needed to get help too.
'But Anthony refused, he just wanted to do what he wanted to do.'
Now Mrs Clark hopes to get a plaque installed at Juggling Jim's favourite busking spot in the High Street, for the town to remember the santa hat-wearing entertainer.
'I'd like to think he would have engaged with me but because of his mental health problems I'm not sure if he would have responded. 'This is why I think a plaque would mean more to him, because he wanted to be famous.'