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Banburyshire Family History

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go back to the last page you were on Memories of the 50s : The Course Clerk, Mr. Toby Jug


Grandpa's home was basic, warm, and never without visitors. There was no concept of generation difference; participation in activities was expected from everyone, regardless of age. After the toast and dripping sandwiches (with those lovely brown swirls) the table was cleared, the fire backed up, and out came the racing game.

A piece of green canvas, marked out in lanes, was stretched tightly across the table and securely clamped. One end of this canvas incorporated an handle; at the other end stood six horses with jockeys, facing said handle. Turning the handle rotated a crankshaft, causing the canvas to vibrate and the horses to move slowly and sporadically across the table, toward the handle and the finishing line.

Each participant, of whatever age, was issued with farthings to invest; the maximum wager being one per race. Total monies gambled were shared equally between winning punters. No reward for places. Any fallers were of course (pun) out of the running. Despite the horse figurines having no integral base, standing balanced on four outstretched legs, they were surprisingly stable (pun).

The basis for selecting the overall winner varied, depending probably on course politics, but all monies were returned to the course clerk, Mr Toby Jug.

A critical necessity for success in this activity was a reliable power source. <modest cough> As with silent film cameramen, best results were obtained with a constant speed of rotation, but a finishing spurt was appreciated and expected by an excited field.

There were a few house rules, surprisingly omitted from those printed inside the box lid. Grandpa always had the green horse. Any fallen horse backed by Great Aunt Alice (bless) was immediately reinstated. Course knowledge was beneficial. The horse with no tail had no advantage in weight. The going in the outside lane could be made heavy by surreptitious scratching of the track surface with finger nails during the race.

This experience stood me in good stead. In later years, as an apprentice, when acting as a bookie's runner, I was never tempted. I had learned to recognise a randomly-based activity.

Written by Smokey