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MR BENZON'S AUSTRALASIAN EXPERIENCES., Issue 8042, 19 October 1889, Supplement
MR BENZON'S AUSTRALASIAN EXPERIENCES.
fFsoM Ocr London Correspondent. 1
London, September 6. Having been safely seen on board the Rosetta by several good friends, we proceeded to make ourselves as comfortable as circumstances would permit by engaging good seats at the table in the saloon and fixing up our cabin as Well as we could according to our idea of comfort. I must, however, premise my observations on the passage out by remarking that I am quite at one with Mr Oscar Wilde as regards his opinion upon the ocean. He was disappointed with the Atlantic—l detested the Bay of Biscay, Mediterranean, Red Sea, Persian Gulf, el, hoc genus omne. How any sane individual, gifted with even indifferent ideas upon thv subjects of comfort or of pleasure, can seiioujly advocate the charms of a life upon the briny ocean I am perfectly at a loss to comprehend. The deadly d illness of the voyage is only equalled by the discomforts u fellow has to put up with. It is all very woll talking about the' excellence of the cuisine upon a liner. Very likely, when compared with the efforts of bygone chefs, the modern cook is altogether a creaturo of infinite merit; but for all that I should be perfectly contented with the fare dispensed at Verry's for the rest of my existance, and leave the good things provided by steamship companies for those who enjoy them more than I do.
It was horribly cold, too, in the Bay of Biscay, and the Rosetta rolled, the consequence being that mal de mer claimed the Krge majority of the passengers as victims. By the time, however, that we got to Gibraltur—a miserably dirty place, the chief attractions of which are a moderate mar ket and a lot of big guns, which make a hideous row when fired—it got warmer, and if Morton had not practised the flute quite so assiduously existence for a time would have baen almost tolerable. After leaving Gibraltar all sorts of people came turning up, having got over the sea sickness which had confined them to their cabins during the eirliec part of the voyage, and things really began to get lively for awhile, though it is wonderful how soon one gets tired of associating with a lot of people with whom one has no solitary feeling in common. Besides, I wps nearly driven mad for some days by neuralgia, so was very glad to get on shore for a change at Malta, where a fellow swindled me into giving fifteen shillings for a lace handkerchief, which I was told afterwards would have been dear at half-a-crown. Our next trip ashore was at Port Said, the beastliest hole I had ever been in \ but I was considerably amused at the donkey boy 3, who had named their charges after Mrs Langtry, Mrs Brown* Potter, Madame P»tti, and lots of other prominent ladies. And then we got through the Suez Canal, and landed at Suez, whieh is worse than Port Said, and dirtier* The only pleasurable experience I had of this dreadful place was watching «, filthy old hag's tooth being pulled out; it seemed quito a relief to witness the discomtituro ot a person who had Contributed towards populating this loathsome town. At Suez a lot more passengers for the East came ou board, much to the discomfort and disgust of U3 all, for the Red Sea is a part of the world where one likes to have plenty of elbow room, and no crowding. VVe had a frightful time of it until we got to that fiery called Aden, where, of course, we landed, aud went to see the water tanks ; not that they were really worth looking at, in my opinion, but simply from a desire to do something. Bombay is a very good sort of place, with plenty of nice people—aud hospitably disposed ones too—in it. However, nothing very remarkable occurred in India, und after five days' 6tay at Bombay we proceeded on oar way to Colombo, where wo enjoyed some stunning drives, and should have had a really good time of it but for the heat. I lost L 35 one day to a fat old jeweller, at pyramids, and came to the conclusion that soma of the fellows out here know a bit.
We left Colombo after a stay of four days, 'the Rosetta, much to oi>.r disgust, having 118 passengers on board. With so many strangers around one all idea of personal comfort has to bo abandoned, and there ia simply nothing to do but to resign oncatlf to the inevitable, and pine for the We3t End. A few days after leaving Colombo I •experienced my nineteenth birthday on board. We had a concert in honor of the event, I perpetrated a comic song upon the occasion of thi3 function, which my audience were good enough to applaud heartily, proof positivo of their extreme forbearance. A day or two afterwards there was an athletic meeting on board. Like an as 3 I entered for the obstacle race, and got stuck ; n the water jump for my pains. We got into St. George Sound about four or five days afterwards, and went ashore for a stretch, but sailed again almost at once. Two days afterwards there was an amateur chriaty minstrel show given on board by some of the passengers, in which Morton took a big part, emd thirty-six hours afterwards we anchored ia Glenelg—tremendous cheering as we left the ship, but whether it was because they were glad to get rid of us, or that they were Borry to lose us, history does not record, and I cannot undertake to say ; all I know is that we missed the train to Adelaide, and drove the seven miles. We were invited to the Polo Club dinner to be held that night, and in the afternoon I drove Morton and some of the fellows out to Crafer's Hotel, ten miles off. After dinner we had a box at the theatre, and enjoyed ourselves vastly. A very nice set of men live about here. The next few days were spent in driving all over the neighborhood in tandems and coaches, I doing the charioteering, and enjoying the hospitality of the inhabitants, which was heartily and evidently sincerely offered. Our next start was for Winninie, for which place v/e left at 4 a.m.—a ghastly hour. We had to travel inside the coach, our companions being two noisome Afghans, about whom the only redeeming feature was their curious pipes, which they declined to sell us. The following day was our first experience of bush life —we went out shooting. I bagged a wallaby, and very nearly shot Morton as well. We also had some good fun whilst here—kangaroo and parrot shooting ; and one of tho fellows called Stirling and I had a halfmile flat race, in which I came off second best. Then back to Adelaido; but there was no room in the Royal Hotel (Richardson's) at Teroine, whero we broke the journey, so I had to sleep with the manager. Then on to Adelaide, whero we slept tho next night, and then back to Glenelg, where we embarked on the P. and 0. s.s. Clyde, en route. for Melbourne. Two days after we reached there all right, and put up at Scott's Hotel. As far as monetary matters are concerned I have very little reason to like the Australian turf any better than the English, for 1 have lost plenty of money on both. I lost Ll5O at pyramids besides to a Bharp I discovered played ten times as well as I could, and I was fool enough to think I could play much better than him. I bought a hunter called Polestar, which commenced by bolting with me as I was riding him in an exercise gallop early one morning. All those little expenses necessitated an advance, and so I got a monkey from a local usurer, Moss, to whom I gave a bill for L7oo—not a bad deal under the circumstances—and the coin was useful for a bit. I entered my brute of a horse for a Hunter's Flat Race at Flemington on the Queen's Birthday, and rode him myself, thereby ensuring an excellent view of the race, for we came in last but on->; "he worst of the business being that I had a lot of money on. I will try to give English racing men a thorouchly fair account of what may be seen at a Melbourne meeting. We will assume that we are in the Queen City of the Southern Hemisphere on Melbourne Cup day. We stay at our hotel. There is no need to get up ei'.rly; there is no need to go racing down to tho euirse at, perhaps, ten o'clock in the morning. Wc make an appointment, probably the night before, with our friends, and we meet as arranged. Having met we quietly wend our way down to Spencer street Railway Station, and for each adult we pay the sum of 13s 6d, which not only payß our first-class return fare to Flemington racecourse, but also gives each the privilege of entering the grand Etand, Baddling paddock, aud of using the lawn, whioh is most tastefully laid out wijih flower beds and handsome fountains. We take our places in the first-class railway carriages, and we find that the railway authorities will not allow one individual over and above the authorised number of
passengers to enter the apartment in which we are seated. English railway managers please note! Wo travel down to Flemington in perfect comfort ; no noise, no bad language, no objectionable fellow-travellers, but we pursue our trip iu the greatest possible comfort. When the train pulls up, we find to our amazement that it has stopped alongside a handsome marble platform, situated at the back of thb grand stand. Having alighted, we are provided by attendants (in the uniform of the Victorian Racing Club) with race-cards and pencils; and then we escort the ladies of our party to a point of vantage in the grand stand, from which they can best view the racing. As the male members of the party have not come altogether for pleasure, but to do a little business as well, we make our way to the saddling paddock, which is within a hundred yards of the grand stand. After we leave the grand stand on our way to the saddling paddock we find that we have to pass through a row of posts, placed right across the end of the grand stand line, and between that and the saddling paddock. Being strangers, we naturally ask " Why are these placed here ?" The answer given by the very civil attendant of the Victorian Racing Club is: "No bookmaker, sir, is allowed to pursuo his calling on the grand stand side of these posts." Having then thanked him, we go along a little further, and we come across a small building, constructed somewhat in the style of a Chinese pagoda, on all four sides of which we notice large numbers, six or seven inches long. We also ask the meaning of thcßo, having noticed a man in the office underneath taking instructions from various individuals, and from time to time we notice that one of the aforementioned numbers falls out. We are informed that this is an electric automatic scratching board. It' an owner, almost at the last moment, wishes to scratch his horse, ho goes to the clerk in charge of the office underneath those numbers, and he gives his instruction?. The man in charge immediately presses his finger on an electric button, and the same number on all sides of the Chinese pagoda, and which corresponds with the number of the horse on the race card, immediately drops out. Thus the racing public know at once when a horse is scratched.
There are also at various parts of the racecourse large printed lists of the numbers corresponding to the race cards printed, and those arc posted on) large boards. There is a man in charge of each of these boards, and by the aid of a glass he is continually watching the numbers on the main scratching board in the saddling paddock—to wit, the Chinese pagoda and as soon as ever he sees that any particular horae is scratched, ho also scratches it on the board. Thus, not only what we term the better class of racing men knows what is scratched, but the convenience of the humbler classes is also consulted. When the race is over, the clerk of the course immediately gallops out and takes charge of the field, riding back to the judge's box, in company with the winner. The space between the winning box and the weighing room the horses have to traverse by means of a narrow passage, which opens out into a large space in front of the weighing room. As soon as the race is over, the first three occupants of this open space are represented by the first, second, and third in the race that has just been run. The rest of the field arc not allowed to enter and unsaddle until those three are out of the way. Thii3, ever} body in the saddle paddock and grand stand enclosure is enabled to have a first-rate look at the winner of the particular race decided.
There is also in connection with Australian racing a time-keeper, who plays no inconsiderable part in the proceedings. A large chronograph is lixerl at the back of the judge's box, and the individual who performs the duties of timekeeper starts the chronograph as soon as the starter has dropped his flag. Immediately the homes have passed the winning post he stops it. Thus every racing maa on the course is enabled to sec what time has been occupied in running the race. There are many other little things that I noticed in connection with Antipodean racing that tend to make the life of the Australian raciug man one of peculiar happiness, and I feel just a little bit sorry that I am prevented from expatiating on these points in the way that I would like. I must, however, draw attention to the admirable manner in which the. Racing Club manage their dealings with the King. At the present moment the practice of welshing in Victoria is entirely unknown. And why? may my reader ask. Simply because once a year the committee of the Victorian RaciDg Club call the leading members of the Victorian Ring together and satisfy themselves by inspection of bank books and other evidences that the financial position of the particular bookmaker they are questioning is beyond reproach. Having satisfied themselves that acertaiu number of the leading bookmakers are financially sound, they issue a license to each of them for the racing year, for which the bookmaker has to pay LSO. During the continuance of said licenso the bookmaker has to show that he is duly authorised by the Victorian Racing Club to bet by showing a little medal, which is to be hung on a prominent part of his clothing. Then what they term the second-class members of the Ring have to go through exactly the same ordeal, and, on being duly accredited by the Committee, they have to pay a license fee for the year of L 25; but whenever they are betting they have to show that they possess a license by wearing a largo label on their elbow. Again, the third-class members of the Ring go through a similar ordeal, and for their license they have to pay LlO. These LlO gentlemen pursue ther avocation on what is termed the " Hill," tin exceedingly high piece of ground situated immediately at the back of the grand stand, and from which yon can obtain even a better view of the racing than from the grand stand itself, Thus it will be seen that the executive of the Victorian Racing Club do their very best to study the convenience and financial position of the colonial racing man. During the progress of racing uniformed servants of the Victorian Racing Club are constantly moving about amongst the masses of people who are perhaps not only viewing tho racing but endeavoring to make a little money. If these officials see any man who is not showing tho license according to hia class he immediately turns him off the course. Thus the stranger who may be betting for the first time has only to blame himself if on winning a wager he eventually loses his money, aB nobody visiting an Australian racecourse should bet with a man who doesn't openly wear the certificate granted him by the racing executive. All this time I am saying nothing about my experiences ; but the foregoing so fascinated me that I was compelled to say something about it. I need hardly say, perhaps, I lost a lot of money; I did not know anything about the horses, and when the general public made a favorite I backed it. The details of my losses would only prove wearisome. It will suffice to say that the four days' racing cost me about L 4.000 which Morton knew nothing about. Indeed, to do him justice, he tried his hardest to persuade me not to go racing; but, somehow or the other, I managed it. Of course, I had to raise money to pay my racing losses, and to effect this many and often were the visits I paid to an accommodating money-lender in Little Collins street. In addition to my racing losses, I did a little card playing ; and must here remark there were a few men, not wholly unconnected with Melbourna clubs, who were capital poker players. When we were playing—which was sometimes for_ large amounts—so sure as I had four of a kind, so did they, only one better than mine; and as an illustration of how this sort of thing was carried on I must here refer to a cutting from one of the daily papers in which I was an interested party, and which was printed under the heading "Gossip":— "There is a highly interesting bit of gossip now going the sporting rounds, the dramulk persona; to the narrative being a trio of wellrecognised figures on the turf. One, a wellknown medico who owns horses and sometimes bets heavily; the second may bo termed a turf habiluti, who apparently exists by the exercise of his knowledge in connection with the turf. Ho bears the reputation of beiDg an uncommonly good 100 player, has occasionally been known to throw a main, is never averse to taking a hand at Nap, and, in fact, can fairly hold his own at any round game he ia ever asked to partici-
pate in for the accommodation of his friends. The third and last party to the sequel is a ward in Chancery in quest of 'colonial experience,' a decided masher, with apparently unlimited capital when he comes of age, but not similarly blest with brain power. This embryo commoner's eccentricities are said to have already cost him LIOO.OOO during the twelve months' sojourn in Her Majesty's dominions. Now for the latest incidents in his interesting career. Scene 1: A banquet room in a delightful suburban villa. Enter the sporting medico, his friend the habitud, and the ward in chancery, who is the guest of the evening. The trio do justice to a recherche dinner. I 'Let us to billiards,' says the immortal bard. No such inclination prompted this j small party of three. Their tastes were j otherwise. Scene 2 : Another room in the delightful suburban villa. Enter the sport- j ing medico, his friend the habitia', and j their youthful guest. While the fragrant ■ weed is being indulged in, one of the com- i pany proposes a quiet game of 100, a suggestion which meets with unanimous approval. Enter Jeames with cards and immediately withdraws. ' Unlimited, I presume,' remarked the ward, and the three proceeded to take their places at the table. 'Anything you like, I am not particular,' responded the habiluc, whose confiding and agreeable manner is such as always places ] his associates at ease. To make a long game short, the doctor's luck was exceptionally good from the start; albeit he is said to have played a cautious game, never overtaxing the strength of his hands. The habitues luck was even greater, and as he ' played up' the game like a nobleman he I won largely. The doctor was content to knock off playing when his winnings amounted to something like L 1.200, by no means a large sum, considering the amount of stakes occasionally in the pool. The ward's losings made him desperate, <ind when the man of medicine retired from the game the ward persisted in continuing operations with the habiluc, who happened to bo in one of his accommodating humors, and the pair played single-handed 100 with the grace and for stakes worthy of the Marquis of Hastings's period. That deadly ingredient commonly called ' bad luck' adhered to the ward with cruel obstinacy, and when he finally relinquished the cards his losings to the habitue" represented on paper no less a sum than L 25,000. This will at once convey an impression of the princely manner in which the two gamblers contested with the good-edged squeezers. Even wards in Chancery who succeed to immense fortunes on attaining their majority do not carry L 20.000 or L 30.000 on being invited out to a quiet dinner." Two days after this interesting episode we sailed for New Zealand (Morton would insist upon going, though I was quite contented where I was) in the Waihora, and arrived all Rsfe and sound at HobartTown ; then on to Bluff, where we landed, and thence by train to Invercargill and Dunedin. There we had some riding about, and pigeonshooting and sport gr-nerally up-country, but nothing very startling occurred ; and I was glad to get back to Dunedin, where I wcntTto the Forbury and saw a little racing, which turned out rather disastrously, and necessitated a visit to a local money lender. This resulted in getting hold of L 2.000. Then we got on to Timaru, where there was some decent hunting to be got; but as I was unused to jumping their beastly wire fences, I had some awful falls. Morton had a row with a fellow who was playing cards with me, and on the next (lay we wont to Pareora, where wc slept in a hut on sacks stuffed with straw. Afterwards v/e met some exceedingly nice people, and I had a match over hurdles with the master of the hounds, a real good sportsman (Mr Armytage), who just did mo by half a length. Thence wc drove over to a place called Geraldine for a hunt, and had a -attling good run, about thirty minutes. A few days afterwards we wont to Ashburton, and then on to Christchnrch races, and I bought a horse, Doveridgc, to run in the Hunt Cup Steeplechase. Of course, Morton and I had a difference of opinion over the matter ; he wanted me to go back 4o Timaru. but I preferred to stay where I was, for I was enjoying myself. He left without nic, as 1 positively refused to get up at 7 a.m. However, v/e met a few days afterwards at Waimate races, a very primitive but most enjoyable meeting. Here my illustrious steed Robin Hood came in fhst, thanks to the joekeyship of Mr Alex. Boyle (brother to Captain Jim), and I presented the bracelet he" won to a lady. After this, Morton wanted to go on at once to Fiji, of all places in the world, and I began to wonder where they would wish to cart me off to next. However, we quickly got over our little difference of opinion, and soon after the gallant Robin Hood won a match against Mile's Uncle Harry. I rode my horse this time, and got him home by a neck : but a few days later on Uncle Harry beat my Edelweiss. Altogether, I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Christchurch. It was expensive ; but this I was getting used to, lor, what with backing my own horses and losing mouoy at cards, I had to raise a great deal on my paper. Still, the folks were so good, so thoroughly English and hospitable, that I left that regular English city with more regret than I had on leaving any other New Zealand town. At last we left, and went in the Rotorua for Wellington. There was a fearful crush on board, and I had to "square" the chief steward to give me up his cabin. Whilst on ths sea there was a total eclipse of the sun, and though there was a half gale blowing we all went up on deck to see it. Wellington is not a great place, and had it not been for a friendly jeweller we should have found it very dull at first. The show at the theatre was awfully weak. The weather, too, was very bad; but we had some driving and riding, and there was an exhibition and a cricket match or two to go acd look at. Still, I was glad to get out of the place and to arrive at Napier, which, however, we were equally thankful to leave, which we did in a few days, en route for Auckland. This city is not half a bad place. The people did not seem quite so hospitable and warm-hearted as those in Christchurch, but still we had a good time. Unfortunately, there was no racing going on, but I had the good fortune to meet Major Walmsley, who gave me a most cordial invitation to go out to the Auckland Stud Company's farm and see the blood stock. We drove out the following morning, and were met by our genial host, who gave me a brief account of the objects for which the Stud Company was established, and an idea of the price that had been realised for their yearlings so far. We then walked down to the stallions' quarters, where, first of all, Major Walmsley introduced me to old Musket. On looking this grand old horse over, I wondered why English breeders ever allowed such a magnificent specimen of English racehorse to leave their shores. In addition to seeing Musket, there were paraded for our inspection two or three others, whose names I forget, and also some magnificent specimens of Clydesdale stallions. After inspecting these we went out to the paddock, where, knee deep in English grass, we saw a whole troop of brood mares, with foals running at foot. How Walmsley could pick one from the other I know not, but it will suffice here to say that at a glance he could select all the colts from the fillies, and tell me who they were and who they were from. In connection with my visit to the stud farm, I can only say it was one of the most pleasant visits that I paid whilst in New Zealand.
The bone and substance of the New Zealand racehorses are no doubt owing to the ktroduction in earlier days of the old Fishermen, Whalebone, and Sir Hercules blood. In later days the New Zealanders were fortunate enough to secure a stallion, whose absence English breeders must deplore—l mean the late Lord Glasgow's Musket. Throughout the length and breadth of the Australasian colonies, Musket, when mated with well-bred colonial mares, seems to have got stock that not only can gallop, but also stay to an extent that, as far aB I can see, is unheard of in England. Sona of Musket, say for instance Martini-Henry, have shown their capabilities not only by winning the Victorian Derby (one mile and a-half) in the fastest time on record, two days later, in tho biggest Victorian handicap of the year—namely, the Melbourne Cup, Martini-Henry comes out and wins that also. While alive, this horse was certainly the Hermit of th« Australian turf, and to this day his stock command enormous prices. In maDy other cases too numerous to mention here Australian horses' progeny—not only firstrate English, but also colonial stallions—-
have shown their abilities to gallop and stay, iu the words of the old saying, " as long as a woman in a bonnet shop." The other point to which I referred was the action of the "totalisator." This machine has had the effect of entirely ousting the ring from their position in the New Zealand racing world, owing to its introduction by the various principal jockey clubs of the country. From time to time all the leading members of the New Zealand Ring have found it to their interest to leave New Zealand and settle in Victoria, where, strangely enough, the bookmakers command sufficient influence to prevent the Victorian Racing Club from using the instrument at Flemington. The advantages of using the "totalisator" are that you get an absolutely fair market rate of odds. The machine is worked by its proprietor under a license given to him by the jockey club which is or may be superintending the meeting, and as a sort of quid pro quo for the direct advantages that accrue to the speculator or backer the proprietor of the machine is charged a commission on the amount of money that goes through it in the course of the day's racing. Ten per cent, is deducted on all the money that goes through the I machine, which, of course, under the aforementioned arrangement with the jockey club, is shared between them and the pro- ' prietor. Instead of hoarding the proceeds I so obtained, the jockey club use it in the I direction of increasing the stakes run for at their various meetings. Many of the New Zealand bookmakers have tried to circumvent the authorities by laying totalisator prices, but the result has not been encouraging, the jockey cluDs, who were deriving a revenue from the use of the machine, prosecuting them for betting on private property, and gaining in almost every case conviction. Thus, as I before said, most of the Ring found their way over to Victoria. VVe now made up our minds to return to Australia via Sydney, and had a vile passage, but of course got there all right, and found the weather and climate lovely. We drove over two days afterwards to the Canterbury race meeting, where I won about L 250, and then agreed to go over to Melbourne for the Cup. When I got to Melbourne I met , who paid L7OO into my account at a bank. Morton got to know this, and wanted me to come away, but I flatly refused to do so before the Cup. We drove over to Moonee Valley races, and also later on to Flemington, where the weather was diabolical. I enjoyed myself vastly, but the Fates were not propitious, either from a weather or a racing point of view ; and of course I lost and lost, which necessitated urgent and frequent visits to the Hebrews. Ido not think it necessary to detail all my losses on this occasion, but I must have lost about L 15,000 in all, and, of course, the paper iu exchange for this represented a much larger sum. All this time Morton was bothering me to come away, and at last went off by himself to Launceston. However, I eventually joined him there. My Tasmanian experiences do not count for much. There was no racing, no gambling —at least, but very little; and in all this I may say was the cheapest portion of my Australasian trip. We did not stay very long here ; and, although at this time I was not quite of age, still I made up my mind to return to England, where, also, a rude shock awaited mo. From firßt to last my Australasiun trip cost me about L 65.000.
MR BENZON'S AUSTRALASIAN EXPERIENCES., Issue 8042, 19 October 1889, Supplement
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