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Newmarket memories of racing tipster Prince Monolulu
A History of the World
By Jon Wright
BBC Suffolk

Ras Prince Monolulu at the Epsom Derby, 1923
Holding forth at the Derby, Epsom in 1923

Suffolk's third object for A History of the World is one of Prince Monolulu's jackets displayed at Newmarket's National Horseracing Museum.

The man was as colourful in character as his wardrobe and was a familiar sight at Britain's racecourses from the 1930s to the 1950s.

"It was completely over the top, completely burlesque," said Alan Grundy the museum's assistant curator.

"Taking and backing a Monolulu tip would have been part of the fun."

Fashion tips

Two jackets worn by Prince Monolulu at the National Horseracing Museum in Newamrket
The jackets are part of a larger Monolulu display in Newmarket

Along with the embroidered jackets, Monolulu sported a feathered headdress, adding to his height and visibility at racecourses across the UK where he sold his tips in envelopes.

"He was quite an impressive figure, but well known in Newmarket," said Joyce Nevill.

She now works at the Horseracing Museum, but, as a 17-year-old, she served behind the counter in one of the town's chemists.

"It was at the top of the town, for a gentleman called Mr Moore who loved a bet.

"When we saw Prince Monolulu striding about the town, he'd stand out on the front steps and shout 'what do you know?'

"He started to come into the shop, but I was scared of him! I used to go to the loo when he came in.

"He seemed such a tall man and he had these massive feathers, but he was very polite. But he came to see Mr Moore because he got paid for his bets."

'I gotta horse'

Prince Monolulu in front of the racing crowds

Monolulu's catchphrase was 'I gotta horse' and he made his money selling tips, handed over in sealed envelopes.

Alan Grundy said: "He obviously knew a lot of people in the racing fraternity, but what his actual record was of winners to losers I don't expect is written down anywhere.

"When there were photographs on Derby day, invariably there would have been one of him in the crowds with his jackets and ostrich feathers in his hair, so he was very prominent in those days."

Along with postcards from Monolulu and signed race cards, the National Horseracing Museum has a copy of his autobiography, as told to Sydney H. White.

In the introduction, the book acknowledges that Monolulu regularly contradicted himself when telling stories about his past, but some facts about his life seem to be consistent.

Peter Carl Mackay (1881-1965), rather than being a chief of the Falasha tribe of Abyssinia (modern day Ethiopia), came from the Caribbean.

At the 1920 Derby he tipped outsider Spion Kop to win, earning a big payout from his own bet, and also gifts from punters who'd followed his advice.

Prince Monolulu's autobiography I Gotta Horse
The National Horseracing Museum has a battered copy of the autobiography

Journalist Tony Morris, who has been writing about racing for nearly 50 years, met Monolulu as a child, being bold enough to ask for an autograph.

"The famous story about Monolulu is that in 1958 he was very caught up in the deeds to Ballymoss who had won just about everything there was to win in Europe," said Tony.

"He went to America for the Washington International and apparently lost every penny he had backing Ballymoss who could only finish third.

"But, as always he bounced back."


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