Its Not What You Know… The little man at Wimbledon

first_img[dropcap]M[/dropcap]y father made a book at Wimbledon for over 50 years.He made a book in the enclosure known as the middle enclosure. It cost 4 shillings (20p) to go in and it was the length of the straight between the second and third bend.There were three other enclosures, two known as the outside enclosures, they were between the first and second bend and the third and fourth bend and cost just 2 shillings (10p). The other was known as the ‘big enclosure’ or ‘inside’. That cost 8 shillings (40p) to get in. This enclosure was between the last and first bend with the finishing line in the middle.I went to Wimbledon in 2013, and it cost £6 to go in. There is now only one enclosure and it was depressing to see the stadium. In my opinion it needs pulling down, but that’s just my opinion, after remembering what it was like in the old days.When I went to Wimbledon, I worked as a tic-tac (the person who does sign language when placing bets) or as the bag man (the person who gives change and pays out winning bets). I only bet at Wimbledon when my father was on holiday.Let me tell you what happened one night when I was working as the bag man.It was a cold winter’s night, not sure when it was, possible it was 1966.It was either the third or fourth race, I noticed a small man standing by the entrance. He was wearing a cap which was pulled down and a scarf which was pulled up over his mouth, only his nose and eyes were visible.My father was known as the bookmaker who put up his prices first. Other bookmakers before racing would come to him and ask for his prices as he was considered the best judge at the track.On this race my father marked up the prices of the dogs as usual, no sooner had he finished marking up, the small man walked up to my father and said: “Can I have £200 on trap 2”.My father replied, “certainly sir”.As the small man walked away, I said I know that man, but I don’t know from where.A £200 pound bet was not considered a large bet, it was a good bet, but in the 60’s, no matter which track you went to in London there would be at least 20 punters having £200 bets every race, six punters having £500 bets and two punters having £1,000.My father said that he had a fancy for the dog the small man had backed, so he said to Lionel (our tic-tac man) place the bet with other bookmakers (laying of the bet).The race was run, the dog pissed home (meaning it won very easily!) by 5 lengths and in greyhound parlance that’s a long way.The little guy comes in and draws his money, as he walks away I said to my father, I am going to tail him (follow him).I follow him out of the enclosure, he carries on walking to the exit and leaves.The following week around the third or fourth race the little guys appeared. It was still freezing cold as he had the hat pulled down and the scarf pulled up.Thinking about it now, it must have been on Wednesday night, as by then I was making a book at Wembley on Fridays.Sorry back to the story, as like last week, my father put up his prices, when he had finished the little guy walks in, “may I have £200 trap 4”.“Certainly sir” my father replied. I said to my father that’s the guy from last week, he replied “I know, Ii know, Lionel lay off the bet”.The race was run. It pissed home.The little guy comes in draws his money, I tail him, same as last week, straight to the exit.We now think that this guy is not studying form and that someone is telling to back these dogs.Sure enough the next Wednesday meeting the little guy appears.It was the fourth race, the distance of the race I think was 660 yards or one and half times around the track. It turned out that he never had a bet on any other distance.His reason being that if the dog missed the break, or got bumped, it still had time to recover.The weather must have been getting better, as this time he is still wearing the hat but the scarf is only around his neck.I recognised him right away, I had seen him on television lots of times.Who is it ? You enquire.At the end of the story, I will tell you.This time, the same as before, “can I have £200 on trap 1.”The same answer, “certainly sir”.But this time my father said to Lionel, lay off £500, which meant we were having his £200 and our £300 on the dog.Same result. It pissed home.This went on for another 4/5 months, without him ever backing a loser.What was his name you enquire….. not yet, it’s coming soon.We never had more than £300 on the dogs, we did not want to get greedy .Now comes the night I remember most of all.There was a dog named Backbencher, it was owned by a group of backbench MP’s.Don’t ask me how I remember its name, I still have trouble remembering what happened last Thursday.I even remember the trap it was drawn in, it was trap 4.Well the little guy arrives. As usual my father put up his prices, the little guy walks up.“Can I have £400 on trap 4.”“ £400” my father asked the little guy. “Yes please”.“Certainly sir”.We lay off the bet adding our own money as usual.The race started as the dogs approached the first bend, there was a lot of bumping going on, all of a sudden a dog gets knocked over – it was trap 4 Backbencher.The race continued with Backbencher still on the floor, as the greyhounds approached the third bend, Backbencher was at least 50 yards behind and it could not possibly win.What happened next, you may find hard to believe.The hare broke down. (not what you know).The race was declared void. All money returned.A short while later, there was a announcement made, saying the race would be rerun after the last race.Just before the rerun the little man comes to us and asked if he could have the same bet as before.“Certainly sir”.This time the race was run without any trouble .Backbencher leads all the way and wins very easy.Please, if you can look up Wimbledon’s records, you will find this is all true.That was the last time we ever saw the little man on the dog track.Oh ! You still want to know who the little man was?Ok , let me continue and tell you about the night my wife and a couple of friends went to celebrate my birthday.We went to a night club in Hanover Square in London’s West End.In those days night clubs were places where you could have a drink, a meal and watch a cabaret.On entering the night club we were asked my name and had I booked. We were shown to a table, it was towards the back, it was ok. We would still be able to see the show but it was not the best table by far.We had been there for two or three minutes when the maître-de comes over and said “Mr Newman, if you like to follow me, we have a better table for you”.“Of course” I replied.He took us to a table right in front of the stage.As we sat down a bottle of champagne was put on the table.I said to the waiter “I have not ordered it”.No sir, the man in the corner had.I looked to where he was pointing, yep, it was the little man from the dogs.He came over to our table, shook my hand, said how nice it was to see us and hoped we would have a great evening, then whispered in my ear, “please don’t mention Wimbledon”.The name of the club was Danny La Rue (after the great showman).The little guy was Danny La Rue’s stooge.His name was Ronnie Corbett.last_img read more