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Benedict Lovelace and the Travelling Show
Published in Australia
Fiction - Young Adult, Historical Fiction

Print: 978-1-925447-35-4
ePub: 978-1-925447-36-1
Smashwords: 978-1-925447-36-1

Date of Publication: 30 Nov -0001
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Benedict Lovelace and the Travelling Show

Jeff Hopkins

Published by Moshpit

Find out more about Jeff Hopkins: Author's website | Twitter


Benedict Lovelace engages 19-year-old Tommy Turkin to do some rat catching, renovations, and recruiting for his bold new ‘project’.  Minnie Dix joins Tommy to provide some much-needed domestic help for his expanding troupe, which numbers ten when Johnny Sharp arrives.  Tommy Turkin’s ‘Golden Boys’ train hard, swim well, and learn a host of new skills in Old Fremantle without really knowing what their role is going to be.

Christmas and New Year bring further surprises, and at the end of January, 1898 the Travelling Show, expanded by Silas Appleyard and his ‘Gospel Group’, head for the West Australian goldfields.  As they progress town by town towards Kalgoorlie, not everyone in the ‘unofficial gold capital’ of Australia looks forward to their arrival.

Michael Doyle and ‘Old Man’ Casey anticipate the problems that Benedict Lovelace and Travelling Show may bring.  They try to enlist the help of the goldfields policeman, Sergeant O’Malley, and his assistant Constable Thompson, with limited success.  A blind boy, Jimmy Gimmick, and his guide dog, Sam, further complicate matters, which race to a conclusion involving deception and death.

Will this spell the end for the Master Showman, Benedict Lovelace, and his troupe, or does he still have some tricks up his sleeve?

Chapter 1: Thomas William Turkington and the Gentlemen’s Outfitters Since 1892

Thomas William Turkington was careless. That was the first thing Benedict Lovelace said to him when they met in Fremantle Prison on the 10th of October 1897. In fact Mr. Lovelace listed a number of things about which Turkington was careless. Included in the list were his appearance, both sartorial and personal, his manner of speech and most important of all his ‘modus operandi’. This latter criticism was expressed in the strongest terms by Mr. Lovelace, who made the point, quite correctly, that if Turkington had not been so careless, he would not be incarcerated in that threatening limestone institution at all. Mr. Lovelace could not be accused of hypocrisy in this regard because he was being held on remand and in subsequent days, his case would be dismissed, due to a lack of evidence and he would walk free for the fourth time in as many years. Benedict Lovelace was a slippery fish.

However, Mr. Lovelace was also a very good teacher and as former apprentice carpenter, Thomas William Turkington slaved away doing his year’s hard labour he remembered the lessons that his brief encounter with that meticulous mentor had taught him. On hot summer’s days, stripped to the waist and sweating profusely, as he broke limestone rocks or built limestone walls, Tommy would occasionally rest on his pick, or put down his trowel and ponder the things Benedict Lovelace had said. Tommy was not strong, but he was well proportioned and wiry and with attention to his diet and the experience of twelve months hard labour, he knew he would get stronger.



Most importantly he wanted to. He didn’t have any real plans, but he knew he wanted to do things differently when he was released. When his time was done and the Prison Governor shook his hand and wished him well, Tommy determined there would be changes. He resolved never to be so careless as to wind up in this location ever again.

At nineteen with no family and prospects, Tommy walked under the arch of the imposing façade of Fremantle Prison and into freedom determined to be a new man. Surprisingly, none other than Benedict Lovelace greeted him outside the gaol and that new life, as a new man, began immediately.

“Thomas William Turkington, a free man at last. Welcome back to the world of doing want you want to.”

It was the skilful, clever voice of Benedict Lovelace as he offered the lean, but wiry, young man his hand in a gesture of friendship. It was a repeat of the gesture he had shown previously on the other side of the wall. Tommy stopped short. No one had ever made an effort to show him any kindness before, certainly not his family who he hadn’t seen since he was a small child and now ‘out of the blue’ this man had made the effort to come to the gaol gates to be there for him. How could he have possibly known this was the day of his release? Why would he have bothered to come and greet a carpenter’s apprentice who was a convicted petty thief, who he had only met once before inside? These questions were swimming in Tommy’s head, but firstly he had to put the record straight on another matter.

“It’s Tommy Turkin now, Mr Lovelace. A new name for a new man!”

“Admirable sentiment, Tommy. I like the change, as I liked you from the first time we met. We are going to make a great team!”

“What team?” said a surprised Tommy Turkin.

“You and I, Tommy, we are going to be great!”

“I really don’t understand what you mean, Mr. Lovelace.”


Part 1: The Set Up

“You will Tommy, you will. For the moment there is much to do. Just trust me.”

There was really nothing more to say. Tommy Turkin, carrying his world in a small bundle, simply smiled and Benedict Lovelace warmly reciprocated and they fell in step with one another and left the walls of Fremantle Prison well behind them. It was a short walk to the town down the limestone path from the gaol and a simple right turn to the impressive new Town Hall and then a left into the high street, unimaginatively named exactly that.

A casual observer would barely have given a second glance to the elegant and well dressed Mr. Lovelace in his black frock coat, white shirt and striking red necktie, with his top hat, walking cane and black shoes, somewhat dusty after the limestone path from the gaol. They may have questioned his walking companion, the newly named Tommy Turkin, who did look a little dishevelled. Tommy was only of average height and therefore was shorter than the imposing Lovelace in his top hat. Tommy wore working clothes and boots; the garb he had been wearing on the day of his arrest. They had been returned to him on the day of his release, after twelve months in convict canvas. He had long brown hair, which quite neatly framed his sharp but not unattractive features and he bounced along. Up on his toes as he walked, Tommy affected the spring in the step that should have belonged to someone with more prospects than he had. However, as they turned into High Street and headed west, Tommy could not have known that his prospects were about to look up considerably!

Across Market Street Benedict Lovelace and Tommy marched until halfway down the next block, they stopped in front of the impressive façade of Highams – Gentlemen’s Outfitters since 1892. Percival Higham had founded his clothing store in 1892 and had not really prospered. He took small commissions from merchants in the town for modest wardrobes only. He was almost at the point of closing his doors for good when the gold rush began. The influx of fortune seekers to Fremantle, who



were planning to make their way to the newly discovered goldfields at Coolgardie, and later Kalgoorlie, changed his business forever. Prospectors and miners needed outfitting and although he had to lower his standards, in terms of the range of materials he carried, Mr. Higham made the adjustment and prospered. He sent clothing on consignment to the goldfields and even toyed with the idea of opening a store in the rapidly expanding gold town of Kalgoorlie. However, as yet he had not and as the end of the century approached he had the best of both worlds. He had developed a flourishing trade in miners’ and general clothes, and a smaller, but equally profitable line in gentlemen’s outfits.

Benedict Lovelace was one of Mr. Percival Higham’s best customers. When Mr. Lovelace called he ordered two of everything. A black frock coat with matching waistcoat and trousers was always matched by an order for a white outfit of similar design and quality. Mr. Higham only questioned this unusual request for white suits once, and when Lovelace winked and said:

“It’s for the costume trunk, Mr. Higham. It’s another one of my Travelling Show performance outfits.”

Mr. Higham never asked again, even when some of the requests for gentlemen’s designs became quite eccentric and bizarre. The reason Mr. Higham never quibbled or queried was because Benedict Lovelace paid and he paid handsomely, in cash and on time. In trade, customers like that were rare and valuable. If Mr. Higham had known that he was the only merchant Mr. Lovelace paid, he might have been more wary.

The two front display windows of Highams were neatly if not flamboyantly arranged with gentlemen’s outfits on the right hand side and miners and working clothes on the left. The two display windows yawned a wide mouth onto High Street. The yawn then tapered through a twelve-foot long arcade of display windows to a modest, but welcoming set of double doors that gave access to the clothing emporium. Benedict Lovelace pointed the way with his cane and ushered Tommy Turkin into


Part 1: The Set Up

the precinct of his fashionable friend. However, it had been sometime since Mr. Lovelace had called and business had been sufficiently good for Mr. Higham to hire an assistant and it was this assistant, Garrick Brash, who greeted the pair as they stepped into the linen and serge scented domain.

“Welcome to Highams, may I be of some assistance?”

The sight and sound of Garrick Brash surprised even Benedict Lovelace, who was in truth surprised by very little in his dealings with humanity. However, when Brash spoke even Lovelace was flummoxed. Benedict Lovelace loved enunciation and elocution, as later events will reveal, but this young man’s approach and attitude defied description. Tommy Turkin, with twelve months hard labour recently behind him, found the whole thing quite astonishing and he had seen some ‘old lags’ at their worst. So he shelved bravado and slipped behind his mentor for protection until he could get his head around all of this.

“And you are?” asked Lovelace rather formally.

“Garrick Brash, at your service, Sir. I am Mr. Higham’s assistant.”

“And where is Mr. Higham?”

“He’s in the new office on the mezzanine at the back of the store.”

Tommy heard ‘mezzanine’ and he knew he was well out of his depth, but Mr. Lovelace seemed well in control. So Tommy satisfied himself that he was holding the rearward position and waited for what was to develop.

“Please, be so kind as to inform Mr. Higham that Benedict Lovelace has called to make some purchases.”

“Certainly, Sir!”

Garrick Brash skipped his way down the full length of the long, but narrow, store and then signalled to the ‘new mezzanine’, which Lovelace noticed after following the young assistant’s



progress. He turned to Tommy Turkin and said:

“Business must be booming for Mr. Higham.”

Tommy, quite frankly, did not know what to say, but a reply would have been somewhat superfluous as Mr. Higham, once summoned, fairly flew down the stairs from the mezzanine and skated along the shop floor to greet Lovelace like a long lost friend. Garrick Brash, with his particular walk followed along in Percival Higham’s wake.

“My dear Lovelace, how do you do? It has been far too long, what is it twelve months?”

“Closer to eighteen, Higham, but like you, business has been good and I have been kept away.”

Higham was enthusiastic:

“Yes, yes, I understand and I can’t complain. It’s gold fever you know Lovelace and miners and prospectors must have clothes to wear.”

“Indeed they do Mr. Higham and they have the money, or the dust to pay for them too.”

“They do! They do! That’s what puts a smile on both our faces, Mr Lovelace. However, time is money and money is time. What can I do for you?”

Lovelace now turned to Tommy Turkin and pulled him from his protective position behind him into open shop space so Mr. Higham could ‘run his eye’ over him. As the clever tailor made mental notes, Lovelace explained his requirements:

“Clothes for my new protégé, Mr. Higham. He needs refitting.”

Mr. Higham retreated one step and was clearly taken aback by Tommy’s clothes. However, the proprietor was too polite to comment, he merely frowned. Regrettably, to his side and behind him, Garrick Brash, living up to his name, put both palms to his cheeks and exclaimed:

“My goodness, he does that!”


Part 1: The Set Up

Tommy almost panicked and bolted for the door, but Lovelace had a good hold of him as he moved him into an observational position and he now strengthened his grip. Mr. Higham silenced young Brash with an icy stare and regained his suit-side manner.

“Forgive my young assistant, sometimes he speaks before he thinks. What exactly did you have in mind for your young....friend?”

“He is my new assistant, recently arrived back in the town and he will need a complete make over.”

“Complete makeover, Mr Lovelace?”

“Yes indeed. Select clothes from both sides of your window displays, if you please, Mr. Higham. Work clothes, two sets and one outfit of your smart young gentlemen’s apparel. He will need underwear as well. Lets say three full changes.

Lovelace paused as if indulging himself in a private jest, then added:

“Plus a bowler hat. I rather fancy young Turkin would look good in a bowler hat.”

“Expensive, Mr. Lovelace!”

“Cash, Mr. Higham, as always! Oh, and by the way, he will wear the young gentlemen’s outfit when we leave your shop. You can burn his current garb.”

Garrick Brash couldn’t help himself:

“With pleasure!”

Percival Higham almost exploded at his assistant: “Mr. Brash, know your place, if you please!” Then more calmly and congenially:

“Mr. Brash will assist your young friend. What about you and I go around the corner to the Imperial Café for some light refreshment, and we can catch up on the news.”

“Excellent idea! Tommy, you go with Mr. Brash. He will look 9


after you.”

Tommy winced and Garrick Brash minced over to the counter where he picked up a tape measure and signed to Tommy to come to him and lift his arms above his head. Tommy did so with trepidation. Benedict Lovelace and Percival Higham watched the pantomime briefly and for different reasons and then turned together and walked out of the front door for tea.

Garrick Brash was surprisingly efficient. After taking Tommy’s measurements he led him to the area below the mezzanine, which had been converted into two quite spacious fitting rooms. Both fitting rooms had back doors, which led to the tailor’s workroom. He ushered Tommy inside and told him to remove all of his clothes and place them in the service space next to the door. When he was ready he should close the service space door on his side and ring the bell. Garrick Brash explained he would reciprocate by placing new clothes in the service space and so on.

“This way your privacy is completely preserved. It’s Mr. Higham’s idea and customers seem to like it. Each time you are fully dressed in a new outfit, come out into the store and I will check you out for fit.”

Tommy gained a little confidence and closed the door to the fitting room and was amazed at the three versions of himself that he saw in the mirrors around the walls. Somewhat nervously, Tommy removed all his clothes and placed them in the service space and rang the bell. When he turned back from the little alcove he looked at himself fully naked in the mirrors. Twelve months hard labour had certainly done the trick. His body had matured and although he was still lean, he could see for himself that he was wiry and strong. A bell that indicated he should open the service space door cut his self-admiration short. In it he found wonderful new clothes of a quality he had never dreamed of owning. He dressed with alacrity and admired himself, this time fully clothed, in the mirrors. When Tommy emerged from the fitting room even Garrick Brash was impressed; the young man he saw in front of him wore clothes well.


Part 1: The Set Up

The whole makeover of Thomas William Turkington was completed with a haircut and shave and then Benedict Lovelace booked them into the National Hotel, where after an excellent meal, they retired for the night. Lovelace was pleased. He had a new right hand man, and tomorrow he would put him to work on his latest project.

Chapter 6: Introducing Jimmy Gimmick and Sam, while Michael Doyle and ‘Old Man’ Casey Celebrate Christmas on the Goldfields

Meanwhile, a little under four hundred miles to the north and east of the port town of Fremantle, Jimmy Gimmick was preparing for what would be the loneliest Christmas of his life. Kalgoorlie was a gold town and it was booming. Hungry for gold, prospectors were pouring into the new unofficial gold capital of the world. The hungry, haunted look in the prospectors’ eyes spoke of only one thing – gold fever. They came in all shapes and sizes and there were the needy, as well as the greedy. Few gold seekers had time to notice, but those who did, wondered about Jimmy Gimmick. He didn’t seem to fit into any category. Those that did pause, in their headlong rush and did notice the boy and his seeing eye dog, Sam, just shook their heads and pondered on what a blind boy, of such a tender age, was doing in this town. The place was rapidly becoming a living expression of the seven deadly sins and seemed no place for a youngster, with a disability, to be on his own.

Jimmy Gimmick was not yet fourteen, but he was a striking youth. He stood a little over average height in his shoes, which he rarely wore, and was quite well put together physically. For all intents and purposes he looked well fed. He had straight black hair that was cut in a severe fringe across his forehead.



His eyes were dark in more ways than one, as most casual observers quickly concluded. He moved slowly but purposefully through the hustle and bustle of Kalgoorlie life, with the assistance of his guide dog, Sam.

If Jimmy Gimmick was a striking youth, then Sam was a very beautiful dog. He was a Labrador and was jet black. He had all the characteristics of that breed which led observers to believe that there was no mixed blood in his genetic makeup. Sam was a young dog, fully grown by his second year and now at three he had an amazing temperament. Walking ahead of Jimmy Gimmick and being held on a loose lead, he seemed unfazed by the ‘sound and fury’ that was constantly around him. Being such an attractive dog, sometimes even hardened miners would pause briefly to give him an affectionate pat, but as soon as they saw the unwavering stare of his young owner, they guessed the dog was the boy’s eyes and they retreated without comment. On more than one occasion a miner celebrating a lucky find would press coins into Jimmy Gimmick’s hands, after they had patted the dog. On one memorable occasion Jimmy felt a small nugget placed in the palm of his hand. He was embarrassed and humbled by the charity, but he kept the nugget as a good luck charm.

No one really knew where the blind boy and his dog had come from. They were simply there one day. Jimmy Gimmick had pitched a tent a mile and a half to the north and the east of the main street of town. Some wondered how a blind boy could do such a thing and even more surprising that he did it during the night. One day there was an empty space not far from Michael Doyle’s tent and the next day, there was a neat little tent with most of the equipment a new prospector would bring to the goldfields. It was all a bit curious, but miners and prospectors are busy people rushing headlong into new wealth and a new life, or into ruin and disaster and they simply accepted the fact that a boy had arrived and that was that!

Michael Doyle, who was the acknowledged leader of the miners on the goldfields, had taken a little more interest and he ‘looked


Part 1: The Set Up

in’ on the boy, from time to time, just to make sure everything was going as it should be. Michael Doyle had made a rapid rise to a position of prominence on the goldfields. He had arrived only a few months before, but he quickly had a presence at miners’ meetings and his eloquent and persuasive language guided headstrong and often inebriated gold seekers through some delicate scrapes, some of which had the potential of causing major upheavals and riots. Everyone looked up to Michael Doyle.

Michael had a modest claim only and he scratched out a living and that was about all. Apart from that no one knew much about him. He drank moderately and did not smoke and apart from ‘Old Man’ Casey, with whom he spent long hours locked in discussion, he didn’t have many close friends. Michael Doyle was always concerned about illegal activities on the goldfields and he seemed to take a particular interest in gold stealing and shaft tampering. Whenever anyone reported incidents like this Michael was always on the scene, with his charming and calming manner, trying to persuade angry miners not to become a vigilante group and seek out the culprits like a lynch mob might do.

Michael was standing outside his tent when Jimmy Gimmick and Sam emerged from theirs and he waited until the boy was in earshot before he spoke:

“Off into town again, Jimmy?”

Jimmy Gimmick restrained an eager Sam, who wanted to get on and turned in the direction of Michael Doyle’s voice.

“Yes, Mr Doyle. I want to go and see Sergeant O’Malley this morning and it is always easier to find him before lunchtime.”

Instinctively, Michael Doyle walked across to Jimmy and Sam and he gave the dog a vigorous pat, that was answered with a whole body shaking in excitement and a wagging tail. Then almost in a whisper, Doyle said:

“You take care, son.”



“I will Mr. Doyle. Sam and I both know the way.”

Then as an afterthought Jimmy added:

“Could I get you anything from town today, Mr. Doyle?” “No, not today, son.”

“Goodbye then.”

Jimmy released the strain on Sam’s lead and they were away, skilfully weaving a path through the ramshackle arrangement of tents and early morning cooking fires. The mile and a half to town was a good walk and Jimmy and Sam travelled at a slower pace than most. It was a sharp morning, as most were in this part of the country, but already the hint of warming was in the air and Jimmy knew it wouldn’t be long before the heat of the day would begin to stifle both men and beasts on the goldfields. Just near the four large water condensers, Jimmy paused and sat down encouraging the dog to lie down at his feet. It was a regular ritual on these walks.

In a rambling way Jimmy spoke to his dog, Sam and conducted a one sided conversation. Sam rested peacefully. A dog can be a good party to a one sided conversation. They listen intently to the words trying to work out what their next task will be, but they never interrupt, answer back or challenge any of the points that are being made. However, all dog owners know that the silent canine audience is sometimes the best and only kind with which a troubled personality can share some of their innermost thoughts. There was no one anywhere near them, so Sam was hearing everything Jimmy said exclusively and alone and Sam knew how to keep a confidence.

Jimmy talked about his family and how he missed them. He particularly remembered his mother and tried to recreate that smiling face in his mind’s eye as he spoke. He told the young dog, Sam, that he hadn’t seen his mother for over ten years and his memories of her, at less than four years of age were vague. He reassured Sam that his mother wasn’t dead, she had just gone and he couldn’t tell the lovely dog where she was now. He just


Part 1: The Set Up

hoped she was well and happy in her new life. Next he spoke of his brother, Jonathan, who was in the city. He hoped everything was going well with him. He told the dog stories of how they played together as little boys and how much they enjoyed one another’s company as they had grown up. He stressed it was hard to have no mother around and also to have your brother away in the city. However, he reassured Sam that Jonathan had plans to travel to the goldfields and it might not be too long before they would be together again. Jimmy Gimmick secretly longed for that day. Not once in his long monologue did Jimmy refer to his father. He knew he must never do that, not even to Sam. It would be too dangerous for both their sakes. When he fell silent Jimmy and his guide dog, Sam, just sat for a while and then the boy stood and instinctively the dog rose with him.

“Good boy, less than half a mile to go now. Not too far and I’m sure Sergeant O’Malley will give you a good long drink and something to eat too.”

Then thinking aloud, Jimmy added:

“I wouldn’t mind something to eat myself. You’ve got to admit though boy it hasn’t been as hot as some days we’ve had to make this trip. Still it won’t be long. Come on Sam, let’s keep going.”

Jimmy walked past the condensers and then made the long sweeping curve that took them to the top of the main street. It was dusty and busy and Jimmy reacted to Sam’s lead as they moved to the left hand side of the street out of the path of wagons and wheelbarrows that were being pulled and pushed by horse and man alike, striking out on their journeys of hope. Dreams of a lucky find and a triumphant return to a new life in the city or even another state or country filled and fuelled the miners’ hearts and minds as they set out. Jimmy Gimmick and Sam were travelling the wrong way against the flow of humanity.

When Jimmy Gimmick returned to his tent after a successful journey into town to see Sergeant O’Malley, his thoughts turned to Christmas as well. There would be no happy family occasion



that had been so much a part of his life, in earlier days, at this time of the year. How would he even spend Christmas Eve and the day itself? There was little doubt that the miners would be drunk. The ‘Grog Tent’ would be packed to overflowing on the night before Christmas and many miners would stagger home in the early hours of the morning when Sergeant O’Malley finally got around to closing the ‘Grog Tent’ down. The next day there would be no work and lots of late risings and many, many more sore heads. Jimmy Gimmick knew he could not be a part of any of that, so how was he going to celebrate the big day? The answer came from Michael Doyle who put his head into Jimmy’s tent on the afternoon of Christmas Eve.

“So what are you plans for Christmas day, son?” “I don’t have any, Mr Doyle.”

“Well what about joining ‘Old Man’ Casey and myself in my tent for a festive lunch?”

“Thank you very much Mr. Doyle, we would really like that.”

“Oh yes, I nearly forgot the dog. Bring Sam too, we’ll find something special for his Christmas Dinner as well.”

With that Michael Doyle was gone and Jimmy Gimmick thought that things were looking up. There would at least be a Christmas Dinner like he had always had in the past. As it turned out it was much more than that. Michael Doyle and ‘Old Man’ Casey prepared a delicious dinner between them and just before they sat down to eat, both men thrust wrapped packages into Jimmy’s hands. Jimmy opened the packages with enthusiasm and felt the contents in his hands. Slightly confused by the leather and metal harness, Jimmy listened to ‘Old Man’ Casey’s explanation:

“It’s a walking harness for your dog. I saw one once in the city. It fits around his chest and shoulders and you hold the handle. It works much better than a lead and it takes the strain from the dog’s neck. It will make Sam look like a real guide dog.”

Jimmy was speechless, but ‘Old Man’ Casey went on proudly: 58

Part 1: The Set Up

“I made it myself and even though I do say so, I think it’s a good piece of work.”

Michael Doyle supported the old man’s contention:

“It certainly is that, Casey. You are a clever old man.”

“A clever old former saddler, remember, Michael Doyle.” “I know, I know, and you haven’t lost any of your skills.”

Michael described the harness in detail to Jimmy and together they fitted it on Sam. ‘Old Man’ Casey had a tear in his eye when he saw his finished work fully fitted. Jimmy’s second present was a mouth organ. Michael Doyle explained its history and was glad he could give it to someone who would appreciate it. Then it was time for Doyle and ‘Old Man’ Casey to get their surprise. Jimmy Gimmick fitted the mouth organ to his lips and played a classic old ballad expertly. Sam found his voice and howled in unison. When Jimmy had finished the song, the three laughed heartily and fell upon the Christmas feast with genuine relish. For Jimmy Gimmick it turned out to be a much better Christmas than he could ever imagine when he had arrived on the goldfields just weeks before.

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