Tales of Old Newton Races


I can vouch for this little anecdote:

In a certain office in Earlestown there were eight clerks working and not one of them could get off to attend the races. A horse named Kim Bolton came to Earlestown as a strong tip for the Manor Cup. Almost everybody in Earlestown and Newton backed it. Green and plum cap were its colours. Now these eight clerks put five shillings each down, and it was arranged that one of them would slip out of the office, a quarter of an hour before the race, go up to the course, back Kim Bolton with the two pounds, return with winnings, all inside half an hour.

The race was timed for three oclock, and at 2.45 the clerk chosen for the job left the office. His nearest way was up New Road and along the back line where, as I have previously mentioned all the gamblers gather together. He could not resist having a look at the three-card trick being done, and it so happened that the sharper had only just got together another little lot of mugs. Consequently, when the clerk pushed his nose in, the sharper was throwing the cards on the board for the first time, when the confederate always puts the usual half-crown on the queen and before anyone has a chance to back it, the sharper turns the card up, which, of course, is the queen, and the confederate receives five shillings. On this occasion it so happened that the clerk was quicker than the confederate (to start with at any rate), for he planks the two pounds down on the queen. Of course, it is very easy to pick the queen on the sharpers first throw, though he only allows his confederate to put any money on; yet in this case the clerk had his on. Then it happened like lightning. Before anyone else put any money down, someone from behind shouted, ” Police,” and at the same time the clerks billycock was pressed over his ears and he got a smack across the jaw and a good hard kick in the stern. By the time the clerk had forced his hat back over his ears, the sharper, cards, money, and the little group had fled. He was back at the office before the race was run. Its a fact; and Kim Bolton won at three to one against. Hed picked the “lady ” all right.


The next little group we come to is all head and ears watching a man selling half-crowns. This gentleman is a Palmer, and another of the gambling fraternity who, I believe, deserve all the money they get. He stands on a raised platform with a table in front of him, and to get his audience he puts a couple of handfuls of half-crowns on the table, then calls out : ” Now, gentlemen, Ive got to give these half-crowns away, and at the same time, I have to see that only the deserving people get them. Should I throw them haphazard amongst you it would not only cause a commotion, but a free fight would certainly ensue. I am going to distribute these half-crowns in such a manner that it will give each and everyone of you an equal chance, and I may tell you, gentlemen, that each and every half-crown on this table is a genuine coin of the realm.”

At that, he picks several of them up and rings them on the table, one at a time, of course, and there is not the slightest doubt but that they are all good ones. He then once more proceeds: ” Now, gentlemen, there is just one condition that I ask you to comply with before I commence to. distribute these half-crowns. Ah, I fancy one or two of you are saying to yourselves, I thought there was a catch in it. Believe me, gentlemen, there is no catch whatever. I have here a number of purses (at that he takes a purse out of a boxful he has on the table) which I am going to sell to you to keep your half-crowns in. Of course, I know you are sportsmen enough not to expect me to give you the purses as well as the half-crowns. The only condition that I want you to comply with is: that whoever buys a purse, he does not open it while he is standing here, as it would not be fair to himself or me either and, gentlemen, as one Englishman to another, I ask you to comply with that one condition.” He then takes up one of the purses, opens it and holds it in his left hand. He next proceeds to take up four half-crowns and drops then one at a time into the open purse and, after closing it, he commences: ” Now, gentlemen, who will give me five shillings for the purse? I am selling the purse only. Who will give me five shillings for the purse?” No response. By this time he has quite a good crowd around him and most of them hardly know what he is selling, not being there at the conmencement. He knows this, and before anyone has a chance to buy the four half-crowns and purse for five shillings he empties them on to the table, saying: ” There you are, gentlemen, four half-crowns along with the purse I wanted to sell you for five shillings, and not one of you had the courage to buy it.” Of course, he has the crowd round him now and he plays on their feelings as he proceeds in a rather low but confidential tone: ” Gentlemen, if I were to offer you those cheap, German-made watches which I can buy at 24s. a dozen, you would tumble over each other to buy them from me at 30s. each. Believe me, gentlemen, these half-crowns are each and everyone genuine. All I ask you to buy is the purse, but on no condition must you open it while standing here.”

He once more baits his hook in this manner. Holds an open purse up with his left hand, then drops eight half-crowns one after the other into the purse, saying: “One, two, three,” etc., until he has dropped the eight in. ” Now, gentlemen, Ill take fifteen shillings for the purse.” After a very slight hesitation, he says: ” Will anyone give me ten shillings for the purse?” Like a flash, one man standing in the centre of the crowd calls out, ” Here you are, Ill buy it.”

No doubt, dear reader, you have twigged by now that the man who buys the first purse is a confederate, and this is the reason why he stands in the centre of the crowd and buys the first purse. The confederate hands his half-sovereign up and receives the purse, which he at once opens in full view of those around him.

Of course, there are eight half-crowns in it, which he displays, at the same time saying: “Im well satisfied, these are good half-crowns all right.”

Heres where the Palmer once more comes in and gets the sympathy of the crowd by saying, in that low, plaintive voice of his: “Now, gentlemen, Ill leave it to you. Do you honestly think I have had a square deal with my first customer?” “No, you havent,” comes from several in the crowd.

“Thank you, gentlemen, it is good to know there are a few sports left in England yet. All I ask is, that each one who buys a purse does not open it while standing around here, yet the first one who buys opens thq purse straightaway.”

The confederate then calls out: ” Im awfully sorry, mister, but I clean forgot about it, and I wouldnt have opened it on any condition if Id only thought about it.” “Ill accept your apology, sir,” says the Palmer, “and as I only sell one purse to each man, he cant open a second one.”

He once more proceeds with the purse and half-crowns as before. You not only see the coins drop into the purse, but you hear them jink as they drop on each other. After closing the purse, he once more says: ” Now, gentlemen, who will give me ten shillings for the purse?”

Several hands go up in different parts of the crowd and, at the same time, calls of ” Ill have it,” can be heard. “Gentlemen, Ill serve you all in your turn, and I do hope you will observe the , condition of not opening the purse,” cries the Palmer. Had the confederate not opened his purse, the Palmer would not have sold one in a blue moon; yet he commenced to do good business. Into every purse he sold, eight half-crowns were dropped, one after the other. Well, it appeared they did, and the one condition of not opening the purse while standing there was only a gag. There was not the least doubt many of them opened the purse on the sly, and when they saw that it contained eight pennies, not a word of protest was said to the Palmer, but to themselves they whispered, “Muggins.”

I happen to know how this palming trick is accomplished, but as one sport to another, I hardly think it fair to explain it, so I will content myself by saying once more: “The Palmer deserves all the money he gets.”

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