Some Old-Time English Bookmakers.: Thormanbys Tales of the Good and Bad Members of the Ring., Daily Racing Form, 1908-05-07


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SOME OLDTIME ENGLISH BOOKMAKERS Thormanuys Tales of the Good and Bad Members of the Ring Everyone who knows anything of the turf now ¬ adays will admit that the professional bookmakers are a respectable body of men gossips Thorman by In the London Sportsman They are as good citizens and as honest persons as any of their neighbors They are usually of a generous disposi ¬ tion and liberal donors to charitable institutions Some of them even attain municipal eminence and have been mayors and town councillors of the bo ¬ roughs in which they dwell There may be and no doubt there are sonic wrong mis among them but that is only what is to be said of every other profession Then is no flock without some black sheep and I should say that there are as few in the fraternity of bookmakers as elsewhere So much for the professional bookmaker now Hut Is was not always thus The name by which thev gener ¬ ally went Legs indicates the light in whicli they were regarded They were proficient at cards and billiards as well s uncommonly well posted in turf matters Yet through their turf transactions many of them came into touch with the best sportsmen of the day On the turf at any rate the Legs money was as good as anyone elses lie vjs always ready to pay liberal odds and ho always piid up when he lost One of the earliest and most successful was the notorious Col OKelly owner of the immortal Eclipse Dennis OKelly was an accomplished maker of matches and judge of racing as well as a phenomenally successful breeder but there was a very strong smack of the blackguard about him Originlily a sedanchair man his elegant legs and line figure took a ladys fancy and she started him in life as a jlntleman He to be in harmony with his new position in life took to gambling and at flrat was far from being lucky lie had actually got hold of the ladys last 100 when fortune smiled upon him and In not only got back all he had lost but ti000 besides But it was nut so much luck as ability that led him on lo fortune and to the rank of cdouel lie made his calcula ¬ tions so carefully that bets which were matters of chance with many with Him became certainties And yet he was not happy for with all his money he could neither get into any of the London clubs nor could he become appointed iiVf a member of the Jockey Club at Newmarket This annoyed him dreadfully and he never missed having a lling at those members of the aristocracy who he thought were tlie cause of his being blackballed on every occasion lie had put up for election But though Dennis OKelly could not get into society by tlie front door he managed to climb in Iiy the back stairs With his guardian angel Charlotte Hayes whom he first met in the Fleet Prison and to whom he owed his escape from the debtors inferno and his elevation to prosperity lie kept open house at liis beautiful Cottage at Clay Hill near Epsom The society which the colonel and Charlotte entertained was certainly mixed but it included some of the highest per ¬ sonages in the land The Prince of Wales the Duke of Cumberland the Duke of Orleans Lord Egremont Lord Grosvenor and many other noble sportsmen condescended to partake of the magnifi ¬ cent hospitality dispensed so charmingly by their lively and entertaining host and hostess The wines were superb the cuisine of tlie choicest and the motto of the house was the jolly old Uabelisiiii one Do what you please It was Liberty Hall in the broadest sense and yet strange to say though an inveterate gambler elsewhere OKelly would allow no gaming at Clay Hill and when on his deatli he bequeathed Ids tine estates of Clay Hill ami Cannon Park to his nephew the bequest was coupled with a condition that his heir should forfeit J r 00 for every bet he made on the turf A curious clause surely in the will of a man who owed all his success and fortune to lucky specula ¬ tion in horse racing racingAnother Another and less pleasing specimen of the class was Dick alias Captain England the most thor ¬ ough of rutlians On one occasion his temper led him into a tragic encounter There was a Mr Peter Le Itonles a wealthy brewer of Kingstonon Tliames with whom Dick had some extensive gambling and betting transactions Mr Le Houles gave England a bond as security for large sums borrowed and lost But when called upon to pay he repudiated the bond on the ground that lie had been robbed and swindled At first Dick took no further notice of the insult but meeting Le Itoules at Ascot races liis temper got the better of him and IKS roundly abused the brewer in public de ¬ nouncing him as a swindler who would neither pay Ills debts of honor nor refund the money lie had borrowed Le Houles promptly challenged England and they fought a desperate duel at Granforn Bridge in Middlesex on June IS 1794 Six shots aploci were exchanged and with his sixth shot England mortally wounded his antagonist Dick fled from the country and took refuge in Paris But there he was mistaken for an aristocrat by the revolutionists of the Iteign of Terror and sentence to deatli Ho was actually standing beneath the guillotine waiting his turn for execution when the reprieve arrived and he was saved In tlie nick of time timeHe He thought it better then to go back to England and face the law which he had outraged rather than remain amongst those bloodthirsty French fanatics So he returned and gave himself up to justice He was tried for murder but the jury found him guilty only of manslaughter and he re ¬ ceived the lenient sentence of one shilling lino and twelve months imprisonment without hard labor After that his character was no more called in question and he pursued his calling until he died peacefully eightyBut in his bed at the age of eighty But the real fathers of the betting ring and In ¬ ventors of the art of bookmaking did not come on the scene till the first decades of the nineteenth century Crutch Robinson Jem Bland Jerry Cloves Myers Richards Mat Milton Tommy Swan of Bedale John Justice John Gully and William Crockford For the most part the early bookmak ¬ ers had been grooms and hangers about racing stables Many could not write their own name or read even tlie contents of a race card But If they could neither read nor write they could sooin as a celebrated Yorkshire sportsman used to say against anyone Board schools could not have taught them much In the way of figures and their feats In mental arithmetic were marvelous They could keep a complete table of variations in their heads headsLet Let us take a passing glance at some of the most notable among then First and foremost comes old Crutch Robinson a little shrewd wizenfaced man whose coat hung on his back like a towel on a rail a queer uncouthlooking creature who spoke a dialect which seemed a cross between Lancashire1 and Yorkshire but withal a straight ¬ forward man and as sharp as they make them No one seemed to know who he was or where he came from That his origin was of the lowest there could be no doubt and there was a tradition that he had Iveen a stable boy somewhere and that his lameness which necessitated tlie use of a crutch from which he gained his nlck name arose from In 1 Coatinuea oa slxtt page SOME OLDTIME ENGLISH BOOKMAKERS Continued from first page juries inflicted by the kick of a horse I have never heard the details of any of the great coups made by Crutch Rohiiison in his day but I be ¬ lieve he throw in for an enormous stake In St Giles Derby having had the tip from Gully and Rldsdale that every other horse in the race had been made safe But his craft and knowledge wore so great that It was seldom he failed to come well out of a race raceIt It was at Doncastcr perhaps that old Crutch was soon in his glory though Newmarket too knew him well In the long room of the Saluta ¬ tion on the St Leger eve or leaning against the outer wall or sitting at the horse block flinging his chaff and sarcasm right and lett but watching the market with the eye of a hawk Crutch Rob ¬ inson held a unique place among the sporting char ¬ acters of the first half of the nineteenth century His antipathy to favorites was notorious The hotter the favorite the fiercer Old Crutchs an ¬ tagonism If anyone said that a horse was dead amiss or fit to run for a mans lift he never be ¬ lieved it and he was equally skeptical about their doing such great things in private Xar nar Thou knawcst a great deal about it I dar say was his steorotyped reply when he heard of these mar ¬ velous trials which arc so rife before the Derby and then came his inevitable proposal Ill bet tuee live pun I may as well have my expenses expensesThis This antipathy to favorites was so rooted that if anything was backed against the field for large stake lie would invariably stand the latter for livo hundred

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