William Day.

Reminiscences of the turf, with anecdotes and recollections of its principal celebrities online

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when Sir Charles Bunbury's Eleanor carried off both trophies. The
victory of Pyrrhus the First must have been a bitter pill for old
John Day, who had purchased him at Doncaster ^as a yearling,
Mr. Gully agreeing to go halves with him. The horse never ran as a
two-year-old, and John Day, being in want of money, valued his share
of Pyrrhus at the end of the year at 100, which Mr. Gully promptly
gave him.'

Now, whatever knowledge the writer may have had of
this matter, without the charge of egotism I may say I
am likely to know more, and may not therefore be thought
captious in stating the actual facts. Pyrrhns the First
was never at Doncaster, and therefore could not have
been bought there as a yearling. Having thus disposed


of the writer's assertion as to where he was bought, by
showing where he was not bought, I come to answer that
of Mr. Gully's ever having had more than a half-share in
the horse, and the possibility of his having given my
father 100 for the remaining half -share. It is not at all
unlikely that my father, like other trainers before and
after him, may have been in temporary need of money.
But no one can for a moment suppose that he would have
done anything so absurd as to have accepted 100 for his
half-share of the horse from the ex-pugilist, when, had
he felt disposed to part with it at the time, he could
readily have got twenty times the amount by offering it
to anyone else. But I will go further and show, in
the most conclusive manner, how my father became
possessed of Pyrrhus the First, and what he gave for
him and his dam.

In 1843 he bought Old England (or, as he was then
called, The Fortress Colt) of Colonel Bouverie, of Delapre
Abbey, Northamptonshire, for 150, as a yearling ; and
liked him so much (probably having had a taste of his
merit), that, in the autumn of that year, he went and
saw the Colonel again, and asked him what he would take
for the colt-foal by Epirus, then by the side of his dam.
The answer was : ' John, I will sell you the mare Fortress
and foal for 250, if you like to have them ;' and at that
price my father bought them, and they went straight to
Danebury ; which spot the colt, the future Pyrrhus the
First, never left until he was sold after winning the
Derby. So I have no need to repeat that the horse was
never the sole property of Gully ; and it will be seen that
' the bitter pill,' so genially spoken of as having been
taken by ' old John Day,' was never administered ; but
instead a sweet antidote in the shape of his retention
intact of a share in a valuable animal . So, too, in respect


to Old England, although undoubtedly Gully was pleased
to call the horse his own, and to usurp a discreditable
control over him which he was not entitled to exercise
an attitude of which, I believe, he lived to repent during
the whole period of his running my father had a half-
share in him.

I may here relate an interesting incident in connection
with the re-sale of Fortress herself. Before leaving
Danebury, on his temporary retirement from business,
my father sold his horses in training, and mares and
foals. The then Mr. Richard Tattersall, father of the
late gentleman of that name, was officiating. Before the
sale, Lord Caledon wrote to my father to say he wished
he would go as far as 2,000 guineas for Fortress for him,
he having offered previously that sum for her. This he
agreed to do ; but forgot all about it till near the fall of
the hammer, before the limit was half reached; when
my father, naturally in some haste, made one bid, and
bought her. He at once informed Mr. Tattersall that
the mare was bought for Lord Caledon. But the great
salesman was mightily annoyed.

' Sir,' he said, in a towering passion, addressing him-
self to my father ' sir, it is the first public lie I have
ever been made to tell !' referring, we must presume, to
the fact that the sale was without reserve ; and assuming,
also, that my father had, in this open fashion, put a
reserve on the animal.

I could not then, I cannot now, see the justice of this
uncalled-for attack on an employer by a man in his
business capacity. The horses, advertised to be sold
without reserve, were absolutely sold as advertised.
Lord Caledon was but a public purchaser like others.
Would the imperious auctioneer demand that he must
first consult him? Or why should Lord Caledon not


give my father, as well as anyone else, the commission
to buy for him ? I do not say it was politic on the part
of the seller to accept the office, but it was more in-
jurious to him than to the purchaser ; and if it had any
other result it was advantageous to the public to his
detriment, in having a depressing effect upon the re-
maining part of the sale. That the sale suffered through
the ungenerous imputation, I do not doubt.

I may not agree with the truth of the assertion,
though it is as old as the hills, that auctioneers are paid
for saying things in the truth of which they do not
believe thus falsely describing matters and things en-
trusted to them for disposal as a matter of duty. But I
may ask, who ever heard of a piece of furniture, old and
useless, being described in any other way than as ' this
beautiful piece of antique furniture, strong and extremely
useful, which it seldom falls to the lot of any auctioneer
to have the honour of submitting for public competition '?
Was there ever a hack so old and infirm but has been
said to be ' well-seasoned and quiet '? And whenever
was a thorough-bred one sold that was not pronounced
by the astute auctioneer, before the fall of the hammer,
to be ' worth double what he was going for, as many
of the great races were entirely at his mercy, and at the
stud alone he would be worth considerably more than
the trifle he was offered at ' ?

Gully's character was certainly blackened by one of
the gravest faults ingratitude to those who assisted
him when he could not assist himself. This blemish
was especially glaring in the case of his friend Mr.
Bidsdale, whom he insulted and horsewhipped in the
hunting-field. The incident is thus recorded by a con-
temporary :

' The success with which Gully and Mr* Bidsdale met


did not cement their friendship, and their quarrel came
at last to a climax in a personal encounter in the
hunting -field, when Gully mercilessly thrashed his
former partner, after which Mr. Eidsdale brought an
action for assault that terminated in a verdict with 500
damages for the plaintiff a decision which met with so
much approval from the bulk of the spectators in the
crowded court, most of them hunting-men, with whom
" Bobby" was very popular, that they gave a rattling view
holloa, in which the learned brethren of the Bar and the
eminent Judge himself were maliciously reported at the
time to have cordially joined.'

The same authority goes on to say : ' This was not the
only serious contretemps in which Gully was engaged,
for he and Mr. Osbaldeston had words on one occasion.
The Squire challenged Gully, had him " out," and sent a
ball through his hat. " Better through my hat than my
head," said the ex-prizefighter, as he picked up his head-
gear, and coolly surveyed the bullet-hole, his own taking
no effect.'

The ex-bruiser, I should think, would know as much
about handling a pistol as a cow would a musket ; and
in firing it would be as likely to hurt himself as his
brave, but injured, little opponent. The causes of the
quarrels he had with others I need not mention. He
was of a tyrannical and overbearing disposition, ex-
tremely avaricious, and, like men of his class, not over-
scrupulously nice in the acquirement of wealth. He
knew how to worship the rising sun. Of his quarrel
with my father I may perhaps say a word, needless
though any explanation is. He contrived to set his son
John against him, making a small rift end in an open
rupture, which would have been peacefully concluded
but for his ' blowing the coal,' aided and abetted in this


disgraceful business by his faithful ally, Harry Hill. I
must admit with sorrow, not altogether mingled with
shame, that to the machinations of this worthy pair the
downfall of once glorious Danebury must be attributed.
It is but poor consolation to know that retribution over-
took them soon after the completion of this sorry work,
and brought with it ' an end of all their greatness ;'
whilst on their retirement from the scene of their former
glory, they were but little missed and soon forgotten

Of Harry Hill and other members of the confederacy,
I shall have something to say later. But I may relate
here that he was the cause of much unpleasantness at
Whitewall, when Mr. Scott was for the time somewhat
indebted to him. It was, I believe, in West Australian's
year ; and (the then) Lord Derby getting an inkling of
what was going on, smartly settled both the difficulty
and the man, by giving the latter a cheque for what was
due to him, and cutting asunder his connection with that
formidable stable. As for Danebury itself , like the Stock-
bridge Market of old, it ' now starts from its slumber
in vigour again.' It has of late undergone a thorough
renovating, and is one of the most complete and prettiest
racing establishments in England ; and under the guiding
hand of the talented jockey, the lessee, his friends hope
it will triumphantly excel even the palmiest days of yore.

I should here observe that though Gully had many
horses of his own, and so also Hill, which were worked
independently, the two were confederates, and may be
said on the whole to have been successful (I am speaking
of the time since I knew them). Amongst those they
jointly owned were, I think, Pitsford, Cymba, Hermit by
Bay Middleton, Little Harry, Trumpeter, and other
serviceable horses, which would have made fortunes for



moderate men. But they were insatiable, and felt poor
from not having more, and took doubtful methods to
increase their store to which I must presently refer. I
must not omit to say of Gully, before concluding my
notice of him, that he was by no means popular with
those who knew him best on the turf ; and though not a
bad judge of a horse, was often ' reputed wise for saying
nothing.' For he would muse for hours over his big
cigar without uttering a word, and was as reticent in all
his affairs as he was in ' the House ' when an honourable
member. The barrels of beer that he had placed in the
streets of Wakefield did more towards securing him a
seat in Parliament than his powerful oratory in appeal-
ing to the good sense and honourable feelings of the
independent Liberal electors.

In private life he was reputed to have been a moderate
liver. He was especially fond of carving his own joints,
a habit doubtless acquired in early life, when he was in
the purveying business. He hunted, and this amuse-,
ment on one occasion nearly cost him his life. Before
changing his dress for dinner he went to one of the sheds
to look at some beasts he had ' up feeding.' One of
them, disliking, I suppose, the colour of his red coat,
turned on him, and but for the timely assistance of the
herdsman, the attack would have proved fatal. He never
struck a man with his fist after leaving the P. E. ; but
once with his elbow pushed half a dozen policemen who
were standing in a row down like so many nine-pins.
For what reason he did this extraordinary feat is not
recorded, nor what was the consequence of his interfer-
ence with a body of intelligent and active officers whilst
on duty. But we may, perhaps, assume that, with their
accustomed indulgence to a public character, they let
him off, rather tha.n run him in,


Gully was twice married, and had a large family ;
though I believe but one or two sons survive him. He
died at a good age, about eighty, after losing most of his
money and parting with Ackworth Park to his dear and
generous friend Hill. He was buried in ground conse-
crated for the purpose near the house, his last dying
request to Hill being to see this done, that he might not
be laid by the side of his wife. For, being a Unitarian,
he was not fond of the Roman Catholics, a religion
which, when living, she professed.



Commissioners and their instructors How Gully and Hill made for-
tunes Laying against * dead uns ' Gulling the public Universal
temptation A view of turf parasites in 1832 ; Richardson, Bland,
and others.

Harry Hill ; origin ' A thimble and a pea ' Lord George's con-
tempt Exposed by Mr. Rayner Disadvantages of lying Hill's
dress and diversions; loses 20,000 Frank Butler 'carpeted'
Caught on the Stock Exchange ' An economic principle ' Intes-
tacy and disappearance of his money.

Mr, Pedley as a bookmaker and songster Wins the Derby with
Cossack Subsequent poverty An incident at Chester races
Joshua Arnold Saucebox sold below his value Mr. Turner, an-
other of the clique The moral, and a plea for it.

IN my reference to the ' Danebury Confederates,' in the
last chapter, I observed that Messrs. Gully and Hill were
not satisfied with the legitimate receipts of their joint
ownership of racehorses. Without receivers there would
be no thieves, we are assured. I may affirm, there would
be no dishonest racing 'commissioners' did not men
moving in a social circle above these poor tools dis-


honestly instruct them. Men calling themselves gentle-
men were found as unscrupulous in days gone by as any
that exist to-day ; and probably will be so until the end
of time. I, at all events, see no power that may be
counted upon to crush this regrettable feature in racing
matters. It is an evil not easily detected, although
known to exist ; and too powerful, I fear, to be grappled
with at present.

As a matter of fact, we may be content to know that
Messrs. Gully and Hill did not amass the enormous sums
which they at one time put together by the innocent
process of backing their own horses, or even by laying
against them in the rare instances in which such a course
is justifiable. Yet this always doubtful practice cannot,
in any sense, be considered other than dishonest in the
case in which laying commissions are accepted. For the
agents, who receive them, know that the horses so laid
against will not run ; and it is their own interest to see
that they do not. Thus the backers have no chance of
winning, which makes the transaction as dishonest,
according to the rules of racing, as it must be odious in
the sight of every man of principle.

As for the practices of Messrs. Gully, Hill and Co., we
may learn something from what appeared recently in the
columns of the Sporting World. The writer says : ' In
fact, it was out of the " dead uns," which used to be the
chief source of profit to the operator in the days prior to
the telegraph and training reports, that Fred Swindell,
like Harry Hill and others, derived the bulk of his large

And well may the result named have been attained.
For with Hill offering to lay, and Gully to back, and
Joshua Arnold willing to do either or both all being
confederates the public was completely mystified by the


adroit art of these professors, and could [not ^possibly
know what would be the course which, in their own
interest, it would be best to pursue. So far, perhaps,
there was nothing illegitimate in such action. But we
must remember that many of those employed, partly
from innate dishonesty, and partly from the example
set them by their employers, become worse than their
instructors ; and not content with laying against * dead
uns,' took to laying on their own account against the
horses they had undertaken to back for their owners.
Moreover, to carry the system to success, it became
necessary to bring into requisition the services of stable-
boys, jockeys, and others. And their aid was secured in
a manner to defy detection. What evil motives have not
been, as the result of these nefarious practices, rightly or
wrongly imputed to well-known jockeys, who, in conse-
quence, have suffered the severest penalties ? Or it may
be again asked, how many disreputable * commissioners '
have not made their fortunes out of these dishonest
manoeuvres at the expense of their confiding patrons ?

To Messrs. Gully, Hill, and their confederates may be
attributed, if not the initiation, at least the perfecting of
this pernicious system. As to the state of the turf at the
time, and the manners of these its parasites, let us hear
what ' Sylvanus ' has to say, writing of Doncaster in

' We remember the scene in the betting-rooms at Don-
caster in Margrave's year, when old Frank Bichardson,
the blacksmith, a noted turfite, a man who once con-
fessed to a friend that nothing but sobriety had kept him
from being hanged, was in the room with the Bonds, who
had a horse in the St. Leger called Ludlow. These men
were tabled, with old Beardsworth of Birmingham
formerly driver of a hackney-coach, but then keeper of


livery-stables Frank Bichardson, and a man called
Wagstaff, an audacious fellow, whose teeth literally
fitted into each other, like two cross-cut saws, set to-
gether as a shark's ; and surely such a lot, though mag-
nates of the ring and turf, taking all in all, were never
brought before the public even at a race-meeting. This
was on the eve of the St. Leger, when the din made by
the Margrave clique, the Ludlow tribe, and the Scott
division, all yelling and blaspheming in concert, or
rather discord, might have been, nay was, heard in the
theatre, though the building is situated some streets
distant from the pandemonium .

' It was said the old Duke of Cleveland partly pulled
the wires on this occasion, and to see his white sardonic
countenance, and Gully's threatening, overcharged brow,
with Crockey's satanic smile and working jaw, surround-
ing the table, as the party explained, was to view a
picture worthy of the pencil of a Rembrandt. Old Ord,
of Beeswing notoriety, also mounted the table, howling
drunk, and unshaved for a fortnight, and denounced the
gang as a crew of robbers and miscreants, for whom the
gallows would be too good; at which the room only
applauded ironically or groaned approval. Then Jemmy
Bland, an atrocious "leg" of the ancient top-booted,
semi-highwayman school, and old Crbckey got set by the
ears like two worn-out mastiffs, and had a few words
through their false teeth. The quasi fishmonger,
paddling his arms in his peculiar way, brought some
of his early Billingsgate to bear, and floored old Jemmy,
after a few rounds, with some withering slang and not-
to-be-parried innuendo, though the opponents made a
fight of it to the last.'

If we are to judge of a man from the company he
keeps, I don't think that Mr. Gully would stand very


high in the esteem of his countrymen in the present day,
if there be any truth in what I have transcribed. Nor
would his doubtful reputation be enhanced by the fact
of his close connection with the renowned Harry Hill, of
whose personality and doings I may now say something.

Like Padwick and Gully, Hill kept horses at other
places than Danebury ; but how many in number, or
what they were, it was difficult to ascertain. Tradition
speaks of his origin as being a boots at a public-house,
It runs thus : ' Mr. Henry Unwell, a racing star of the
first magnitude, notwithstanding he was erewhile an
under -boots at an hotel in Manchester, and made his
way up to town on foot, carrying his furniture then but
a small table and thimble, with a few peas on his

The same authority goes on to say that Lord George
Bentinck would sooner himself keep on his feet in his
own apartments for half a day, than let a fellow like
Hill sit down in his presence. From this circumstance
we may infer that Hill, like Gully, used to bet for his
lordship, and I presume for or against his own horses.
However, he soon made money, and was allowed to
associate with men quite as particular in the selection
of their company as was Lord George himself, though it
is not unlikely that, in many cases, the association in
this way was more from necessity than choice.

On one occasion Harry Hill was fairly caught and
publicly shown up. A Mr. Bayner, of histrionic fame,
was, like many men, fond of dabbling in the seductive
game of betting, and usually entrusted his commission
to Hill, whom he was foolish enough to look upon as ' his
friend.' Meeting at the rooms at Newmarket, where
bettors most do congregate, Mr. Eayner asked Hill to
put him a pony on a certain horse, which the latter


agreed to do. The horse won ; and the next day Hill
was asked for the money, according to custom, at the
White Hart, opposite the rooms, in the presence of a
motley group.

'I did not put it on,' was the reply, 'and forgot to
declare so before the race.'

The excuse was too lame to be admitted for a moment ;
and, in an intolerable if natural rage, Mr. Rayner de-
nounced him in no measured terms as a scoundrel, and
the very prince of the low profession he so ably repre-
sented. Hill made no reply. He stood mute and
motionless, his countenance blanched with fear. He
felt the accusation keenly, although it is likely it was
not the first occasion on which his word had been ques-

' The wretch that often has deceived,
Though truth he speak, is ne'er believed.'

I do not introduce the couplet with any intention to
suggest that Hill was likely to be speaking the truth ;
but merely to show that, owing to his antecedents, he
would not have been believed if he had done so. The
truth of this incident is undoubted. I had it irom a
gentleman still living, who witnessed the scene and
heard every word that passed. This, with other things,
will give a pretty clear notion of what Mr. Hill's char-
acter was even in his business transactions, in which it
behoves men the most dishonest to be circumspect and
correct in their dealings with their customers, or they
would soon have none to deal with.

From betting, and his other curious transactions on
the turf, Harry Hill soon amassed a princely fortune,
the whole of which, miser as he was, he did not retain
to the end. He was always to be seen in the evening


at the Coach and Horses, Dover Street, Piccadilly, not
in the most select company. He was slovenly in dress,
wearing a faded black suit that appeared to have been
made for his grandfather, so ill it fitted him. He was
not particular as to cleanliness, and his hard features
were too surely an index of the working of his mind.
His conversation was licentious and vulgar; though I
do not doubt that he himself may have esteemed his
vile wit the essence of cleverness. ' Indebted to his
memory for his wit, and to his imagination for his
facts/ he would crack his sides with laughter at his
own personal and ill-timed gibes, not being ashamed to
utter what others would blush to hear.

' Fate never wounds more deep the gen'rous heart
Than when a blockhead insult points the dart.'

In spite of lack of education and a dense ignorance of
most things, he had common-sense in the knowledge of
how to look after his money. Yet, like others more
deserving, he had his reverses. His heaviest loss was
in the St. Leger, in West Australian's year, when Frank
Butler was carpeted before Colonel Anson and Mr.
Bowes, and told his fate if he did not win. This sum-
mary and very needful procedure naturally upset the
plans of Hill and his colleagues, by which, in the
method described, they had made sure of benefiting
themselves at the expense of the unwary. Hill at once
changed his tactics, hedging all he could, which was
but little, it not being easy then to find anyone that
would lay. This incident led to his expulsion from the
Whitewall stable, as I have before related, and to his
losing 20,000 on the race. Once, on the Stock Ex-
change, like Mr. Padwick, he thought he knew some-
thing in fact, more than those accustomed to the


speculative amusement of dealing in scrip but found,
after losing 40,000 in one year, that however clever
he was, he was now matched with others who knew
more, and was never afterwards seen in the vicinity of
Capel Court.

He lived some years in retirement after the death of
his friend Gully. He would be seen occasionally at the
Hampton Court sale of yearlings, indulging, to the last,

Online LibraryWilliam DayReminiscences of the turf, with anecdotes and recollections of its principal celebrities → online text (page 5 of 27)