Welsh Newspapers

Search 15 million Welsh newspaper articles

Hide Articles List

10 articles on this Page



A BAMBLEB'S JOTTINGS. ♦— THE aristocracy are all out of town, and the pro- fessional and mercantile men are, for the most part, taking their holiday in the country. At least, if "Paterfamilias" cannot leave his business for the whole week, he has provided apartments for his family at the sea-side or in some rural district, and visits them occasionally, as opportunity offers. This is, therefore, the blank time of. the year in London. There is only one class of persons who assemble in larger numbers at this period than at any other, and that is the betting fraternity. We will endeavour to give a slight sketch of the vari- ous gradations connected with horse-racing, and will first take The Aristocratic Racing Man. Our nobility are, for the most part, brought up to respect the horse and to study his various cha- racteristics. The qualities of a horse is one of the points of daily conversation, and a challenge is frequently given and accepted at an after-dinner chat. The first steeple-chase is said thus to have originated:—When two guests at a noble table had each spoken of the superior merits of his own animal, they at once rose from dessert, mounted their horses, and, seeing the steeple I of a church at a distance, made this the goal. They started from the nobleman's lawn, and by the light of the moon, over hedge and ditch, went the two sportsmen, making the nearest cut to the church, which was distant about four miles. There was no umpire to declare the winner; but as one herse came in a field in advance of the other, there could be no dispute; Born and bred to regard the horse as superior to all animals except man, no wonder that they take an interest in the turf. Many have breed- ing establishments for thoroughbreds; even the Queen herself is known to possess a very large one, and the colts and fillies from the Royal j stud often fetch large prices, and are bought for racing purposes. A special interest is always felt for those horses which have been reared under the eye of this or that nobleman; and a Royal Hunt Cup or a Queen's Vase is ] still considered the finest ornament to a great person's side-board. Amongst noble lords ide connected with the turf we may mention the present Premier, and Earl Derby; these, with many others of like stamp have always been regarded as 1 the soul of honour; yet horse-racing has been one of their hobbies; and who can deny them the privi- J} lege of following the bent of their inclination ? The 1 Earl of Glasgow, one of the oldest noblemen con- j nected with the turf, has sometimes had as many as forty horses in training at once. He is exceed- 1 ingly fond of matches, and will frequently, at a Newmarket meeting, make up a dozen matches, varying from < £ 1,000 to < £ 500 each. At one time he scarcely won one match out of six, and it was j the custom invariably to bet against him. Un- fortunate Lord Glasgow" was the general exclama- tion. This reaching his lordship's ears upon one j occasion, he said, What do you mean by calling me unfortunate, with .£190,000 a-year ? If I choose 1 to spend < £ 20,000 a-year upon horse-racing, what is ] that to any one ?" However, of late years this veteran sportsman has taken the advice of Admiral J ROILc) before he made any match, and has latterly] been as successful as he was before unfortunate. < To be a member of the Jockey Club is the great end and aim of the sporting nobleman; and this is as difficult to obtain as a seat in Parliament, or a place among the members of an exclusive j West-end club. The person nominated must be 1 well introduced, and has then to abide by the ballot, when one black ball will exclude him. We 1 need not say that the rules and regulations for horse-racing are framed by the Jockey Club, and that everything is there conducted in the most I honourable manner. 1 Tattersalls' is the great rendezvous of that section of the aristocracy who take an interest in betting; and here they meet with the pro- fessional bookmakers. It is here that younger < members of the aristocracy and the squire- archy, who have just come into possession of j wealth, and City men, who ought to know better, often seek to increase their fortunes by back- ing their own opinion of the merits of this or that horse—a course of proceeding which not unfre- quently brings about consequences the reverse of what they had expected. It is a thousand pities quently brings about consequences the reverse of what they had expected. It is a thousand pities that racing is encumbered and disgraced' by betting men as it is. The princes of the turf- men like Lord Zetland and Lord Fitzwilliam -mak e it a rule never to bet; but their habits I are unfortunately the exception, and not the rule. Members of Tattersalls' used to meet at what was termed the Corner," because the house of the celebrated auctioneers was at the corner of Hyde-park. The lease of the premises, however, having expired, the Messrs. Tattersalls have erected a splendid building in Regent's-park, where the members meet on Mondays and Thursdays weekly, and previous to any great event coming off, upon such other days as they may appoint. It is an amusing sight, for once, to see gentlemen betters, book in hand, going round to the principal book-makers asking, What can you lay me against General Peel for the Leger ?" Two to one," might be the reply, "I-will take five monkeys to two," might be returned." Done," the book-maker may respond; and in one line the bet is booked, each looking at the other's memo- randum. Perhaps some one with less means will follow up by taking five ponies to two. For the I benefit of the uninitiated we may say that in sport- ing parlance a monkey is.£50?, a century is £ 100, a pony £ 25, a tenner .£10, a flimsy = £ 5, a sov. or a quid £ 1. We will next describe the manners and customs of The Professional Racing Man. Amongst this class are many broken-down gen- tlemen who have lost the greater part of the wealth they formerly possessed by gambling beyond their means. They thus turn to making books-that is, laying against horses; and to do this effectually they make horse racing the one great end and aim of their life. Their minds become entirely absorbed in it, they can think of nothing else, and are quite surprised that any other subject can be mooted. Everything they do or say is "horsy;" their conversation is in- variably upon what was done at the last meeting, the next handicap, or the Sillinger "—alias the St. Leger. Their dress is decidedly "horsy"— tight pantaloons, a sporting cut coat; and their jewellery bears the representation of a horse's head, a horse-shoe, a bridle, a bit, or even a saddle. A friend of ours was once thrown amongst some professional racing men, and he was looked upon as a perfect idiot .because he did not know when Goodwood was run and what horse won it. A Conservative gentleman was boldly taking the part of General Peel wham he had heard called a "duffer;" but was roused to his senses by hearing that the horse could have been beaten a length further for the Derby if the rider of Blair Athol had perse- vered. A very polite gentleman, on his way to Worthing, during the Goodwood week, asked his companions in a first-class carriage if they had seen Enoch Arden," by Tennyson, and was about to offer them the book, when the two gentlemen replied, "What was his dam? Never heard of him." "Did you never hear of the Poet Laureate ? said the former gentleman, amazed. I have seen the Poet run," was the reply; "I suppose you mean him, and I think him about the worst horse I ever saw run." The polite gentle- man quietly evaporated, and sought a seat in another carriage. It is.said to require as good a head, and to take as much study to make a good book-maker for horse-racing purposes as for the highest professional career. We look with wonder sometimes upon a man springing up as a mush- room out of the ground, and in a few short months entrusted with tens of thousands of pounds. Who has not heard of the carpenter who commenced with the proceeds of the sale of his tools, became a leviathan book-maker, and settled down in a few years with a fortune of < £ 100,000 ? But then it was said he had a peculiar aptitude for the busi- ness. The principle lies in betting against every horse in the race, and whichever comes in first, the bookmaker is a winner. Thus, if there are fifteen horses in a race, a book-maker may lay ten to one against each, and gain a third of the money after paying the winner. But the public will not back every horse, and thus a lesser price is given against the favourites, and the book-maker takes his chance to win on the outsider. But as in many walks of life we hear of only the successful persons, while the others are lost to our view, so in horse-racing: to one that succeeds, twenty at least signally fail, and come to poverty, disgrace, and ruin. AnothersetofmenwhohauntTattersalls' arewhat are termed betting agents, who perhaps scarcely speculate themselves at all, but put the money on for others, receiving a commission for doing so. These are men of known integrity, whose word would be taken for very heavy sums; and they are entrusted with money to invest, because if the owner or the trainer were themselves to do so, they would receive less odds. These men are much more numerous than is supposed, and make certain of their obligations being fulfilled before the event comes off. It is for their benefit that a com- paring day" is fixed upon before any great meeting. They point out to their employers upon these days what they stand to win upon certain horses, and how much they will be liable for should they lose. Perhaps they have been able to get the long odds against a horse which has since become a favourite, and they ask their employer if he will "hedge;" that is, supposing he has taken < £ 2,000 to < £ 50 about something which is then quoted at 10 to 1, or even 5 to 1, as the case might be, he would recommend that the person so favoured should lay the quoted odds-say, .£500 to < £ 50, or .£250 to < £ 50—thus saving himself, and standing so much to nothing. Regular business- like men are these, and obtain handsome incomes without risk; but they are peculiar in their man- ners. Nothing will induce them to divulge for whom they invest the money, or any stable secrets they may be entrusted with. So. far, we have spoken of honourable men, whose word is their bond, and who prefer paying a debt of honour to p 11 any legal claim; and now we must come to Little Men and Outsiders. Persons who have not been behind the scenes can scarcely understand to what an extent gam- bling in horse racing is carried on in London. The Legislature some few years ago passed an Act to prevent this, and they declared it illegal for any betting to take place within any building; and the taking of money for such purposes was made punishable by fine. Our readers will remember how many cases were brought before the magistrates in London when the Act was first passed, and the heavy penalties inflicted; but it was found that the Act did not provide for bets made without a building, consequently Regent's-park became a betting ren- dezvous, and crowds assembled daily in the open air. Book-makers—some being creditable ones- assembled, and took the half-crowns of the appren- tice boy, the crowns of the working mechanic, the half-sovereigns and sovereigns of the well-to-do tradesman, and the five-pound notes of men who had more money than brains. In the centre of London, Bride-lane was also selected as a spot where money could be taken; but the crowd became so great that the authorities interfered, and. policemen were placed there to order every one who stopped the thoroughfare to "pass on." The book-makers persisted in walking up and down till the whole thing was declared a nuisance, and the local officials put an end to it. Other spots were, however, selected. "The ruins," a space of ground near the Underground Railway- so called from being the site where numerous houses were condemned and pulled down—now affords small betting men the chances they long sought. Here amotley group maybeseen every race day, and shabby-looking book-makers take to them- selves a stand, composed of a couple of boards for their feet to rest upon. They are attended by an assistant, who carries a frame withlists pinned upon it, or a book with printed betting lists enclosed, tell- ing the prices laid against each horse. The book- maker, lest any one should not understand him, hallos out, "I'll lay agen anything in these ere races for a win, or one, two, three. What's it to be? Here's, long odds agen anything." We are told that there are even a few of these who pay if the horse wins, because they find that honesty is the best policy: that is to say, if they can find it a paying game, it is better to pay and keep their position, and daily earn money, than run away with a lot at once. John Snooks or Bob Styles invest their 2s. 6d. or 5s., and receive a card, with name and address of the book-maker, and a certain number which has reference to the entry in his book; and, in the majority of instances, if the horse wins, and the card is presented the following day, the amount won is paid; but there are others upon this ground who try it on for once and then bolt. A similar scene is enacted daily in a small street at the back of Meux's brewery, and other places: but enough has been said to show how the law is evaded. We must now add, from quiet observation, our own practical view of the matter, which is, that the encouragement of gambling of this kind produces the greatest misery amongst the poorer classes. The desire to be suddenly rich is very pre- valent in London. A hard-working mechanic, who previously has been content on his small earnings, has heard of an exceptional case, where a poor man has gained some large amount by a small investment, and he wonders why he cannot do the same. He perhaps sees the very man who has won the large stake, who tells him of another certainty in which he is going to invest. The poor mechanic, instead of taking home to his wife his weekly earnings, gambles with it, loses, and brings misery and wretchedness to his family. A gambling spirit has taken possession of him, and he determines to recover what he has lost: he goes to the pawnbroker, pledges everything he pos- sesses, loses again, and is driven to helpless despair. Instances are not rare of this kind of thing, and further instances are not rare where misguided youths have made use of their masters' money to invest in what they have been told is a certainty. They borrow the means from their masters' money; having lost once they try it again, calming conscience by promising themselves that they will refund all when they win; the time never comes, and the youth of previous good character becomes an occupant of the gaol. But worse than all we have described are a lot of men who live upon this system without the slightest idea of paying, should they lose we mean The Welshers. This is a name given to a class of persons who visit race-courses in the country and taverns in London, tempting the unwary to invest their money, and dividing the spoil amongst their fellows. It is persons of this kind that we would especially guarel countrymen against. They are dangerous persons to be found in company with, yet they frequent the most respectable taverns, and form themselves into a clique. A countryman—ay, and even a Londoner—might fall in with what he would consider a gentlemanly man. After some I conversation, racing will be brought up, and the welsher will say he knows how to gain .£20, and quietly seduces the countryman into an opinion that a certain horse must win, and, according to the length of purse, persuades him into a willing- ness to invest .£1 or £ 5. He will then say that a friend of his of high standing will lay more than any one else, and he will take his victim to another tavern, where his colleague is found. The money is invested, and, no matter whether the horse wins or loses, the victim is swindled, and the money divided amongst the clique. This goes on to a greater extent in London than can readily be credited, and the law appears powerless to prevent the unprincipled vagabonds carrying on their system of swindling. This is one of the classes who are denominated as living by their wits. Space will not permit us to enter upon the numerous touts" that swarm round sporting houses, or the "tipsters," the "hangers-on," &c. Perhaps they are too contemptible to give any attention to. We would, however, observe, that if any of our readers fall in with such characters, we would advise them to get rid of them as quickly as possible.



[No title]






[No title]