Ernest Elliott was a born entertainer. He had learnt how to play the piano by ear as a child, and was putting on Saturday afternoon shows with his friends by the age of 11 or 12. He learned conjuring tricks, ventriloquism, had a Punch & Judy show, and at the age of 18 formed the Merry Vagabonds Concert Party, which gave local shows during the few years leading up to the outbreak of the First World War.
After the war Elliott continued performing semi-professionally, but longed to do something more novel. Elliott had been watching a Leicester performer called John Goddard for a number of years, whose act involved human marionettes. Goddard was looking to retire, so Elliott thought he would give it a try.
Elliott’s friends helped him get the props and equipment he needed for his act. One friend, a cabinet-maker, made him a marionette theatre similar to those in Punch & Judy shows. Another helped him make the figures’ bodies. As Elliott had run the family’s tailoring business, he had the skills to make the figures’ costumes himself.
Elliott’s first paid performance was in 1922, and eventually he got so many engagements that he had to employ someone to run the shop on his behalf. He became free to travel the country with his show, even performing for Princess Margaret at the height of his career, and making a number of television appearances.
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