Mr Hanks, Bookmaker

My dad believed in place betting each way so if a horse came in second or third you got a bit back

Mr Hanks lived in Burdon Street and the men had to catch him somewhere else to put a bet on, for it was against the law to make a bet unless you had a bookmakers account, a sore point with my father who never lived to see working men betting legally.  What he would have made of today’s betting shops I do not know.

Mr Hank’s favourite places were the gents’ toilets against the Railway Station and under the bridge under the Backworth line opposite the Percy Arms. When my dad gave me a bet, he gave me strict instructions to have a look around before rushing up to Mr Hanks and putting the bet into his hand.

I can still remember my dad’s pseudonym ‘Old Mow’.  All the men who bet had one in case the police caught a bookie (which they often did).  They would not know who had placed the bets.

I’ve mentioned previously about my family’s close relationship with the Bennett’s.  Well, this was true of our dad’s.  Stan (Mr Bennett) always had friendly arguments with my dad.  When it came to their betting, Stan was an all or nowt man.  He backed on the nose.  My dad believed in place betting each way so if a horse came in second or third you got a bit back.  I never knew if they ever tried each other’s way.

Once, my dad had a good win because he sent me up to Peart’s Newsagents with a note to get 5 Manikin Cigars.  When Mr Peart opened ‘the note’, it was a £5 note.  Back then, they were large white things the size of an A5 piece of paper.  My father had signed the back (which you had to do) as shopkeepers insisted. He wrapped my dad’s change in paper, gave me the cigars and told me to go straight home.  I ran all the way.  I think I was about 14 at the time.

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