King’s Lynn says goodbye to Juggling Jim
- Credit: Ian Burt
Hundreds flocked to Lynn Minster to pay their last respects to the much-loved street entertainer, who passed away on January 23.
Many of the 300 or so mourners who packed out King's Lynn Minster for Anthony Bowen's funeral service wore his trademark Santa hat.
Mourners gathered outside his favourite busking spot on the High Street in the afternoon before being led in a solemn procession through the town, towards Saturday Market Place.
His coffin was brought into the Lynn Minster to Scott Joplin's The Entertainer, adorned with an array of colourful flowers, a guitar, santa hats and his namesake juggling balls.
Canon Chris Ivory told mourners they had gathered to celebrate the life of a precious man and to remember the human being underneath the entertainer. Many people at the funeral would have heard about Juggling Jim's life for the first time after his death on January 23.
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Anthony Bowen was born in Magdalen in January 1955 and lived there with his parents Leonard and Evelyn, and his stepsister whose name was not disclosed.
His mother died in 1978 when has was 23 years old, and he left Magdalen for London to pursue a career in showbusiness.
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'He wanted to make people smile. He found it hard himself certainly in his childhood.' Canon Ivory said.
Anthony Bowen - or Tony as he was best remembered by those who knew him - had a brief stint in a comedy duo and worked as an Andrew-LLoyd Webber look-alike.
He moved to King's Lynn in the early 1980s and performed with theatre group King's Lynn Players and Watlington Players where he also ran a disco.
Around this time, he suffered a relationship breakdown.
'It was not an easy world, he lost his mother at 23 and he was not lucky in love,' Canon Ivory said. 'He courted a young woman who left him for a life elsewhere.
'Often we hear that behind a comedian is a broken heart but he still made us smile.'
He was diagnosed with schizophrenia just before 1991, a mental illness which his father also suffered from. It was around this time he disappeared from his friends lives and his new persona took over.
John Harris, 74, from Heacham, worked with Anthony Bowen in 1984 at the Princess Theatre in Hunstanton.
'I have always been an entertainer,' he said. 'I met Tony and his former comedy partner Selwyn at the theatre.
'I played the piano and they performed on stage, they were very good. 'Then I remember Selwyn said to me I have to let Tony go as he was unreliable.
'We lost in touch and several years later I found him in King's Lynn juggling very badly.'
Juggling Jim would be seen in town playing a broken guitar and mumbling a song to himself, sometimes for hours on end.
He lived for a time in Hillington Square before being moved to Maltings House on Nelson Street where he spent the last years of his life.
A neighbour of his, Peter Willingham, 35, who now lives in North Lynn, said Juggling Jim was very private and had no friends.
'He was happy and proud. He used to knock on my door for hot water as he would run out of electricity.
'He used to get a lot of kids throwing things at his window, he would come out to see where they were. I would open my window and tell them to go away.'
Canon Ivory said: 'I'm not sure he wanted a beautiful guitar, the broken guitar was part of the act. He shows us something about ourselves, that life isn't always easy.
'He was sometimes not treated well. He was at times abusive and abused at times, but a few people cared for him very much and very deeply.
'He was a familiar sight in town, everyone knew who he was.'
Hymns of Lord of all Hopefulness and Lord of the Dance were sung, followed by an uplifting juggling act by children's entertainer Sally Beadle which received a roaring applause.
Mr Bowen's coffin was led out of the Minster to Leo Sayer's One Man Band and buried next to his father, who died two weeks before him, in Gayton churchyard.