The Not So Secret World Of Bookies.

My grandmother who lived next door to us in “Randley” Raglan Road, an unmade footpath through hawthorn and scrub off of Berry Lane, was an avid follower of the horses. She was invariably one of the coachload of punters who left from the Laindon Hotel for a day’s outing at Epsom or other nearby courses. Memory says that betting on almost any sporting event was very popular. Top of the popularity poll, however, were the nags. Not simply the Derby, the Grand National, the 1000 Guineas, the 2000 Guineas, but every race meet. A race meet, be it Epsom, Sandown, Redcar, Cheltenham or wherever might last for a week with half a dozen races a day. It seemed that everyone had a bet once in a while at least….and some had several bets each day.  How did this happen since off track betting was illegal until 1961?

It seems that a vast underground conspiracy existed whereby a network of local and illegal bookies took bets and funneled them back to their principals. Who these principals were is anyone’s guess. Perhaps they varied. Crime syndicates? Legal bookies at the track who took the bets under the counter? Who knows? It seems that, while off track betting was illegal, it was widely practiced and the authorities turned a blind eye.

My grandmother would routinely give my mother an envelope containing money and the details of the horses she had selected. When my mother made her almost daily trip along the High Road for shopping her instructions were clear. Hand the envelope quietly to Eric Cole the greengrocer — no one in the store but him. (This is the same Eric Cole that I watched on Saturday’s who played right half for the Laindon football team on the hotel ground.) Eric Cole would disappear into the back of the shop and then reappear with a second envelope which he would quietly hand to my mother. This contained the results of my grandmother’s previous bets with her winnings — if any.

Mr Clegg (I never knew his first name) was another illegal bookie. Or allegedly so. The Clegg family lived next to Dr Choudhary, opposite the Radion cinema. One of his daughters, Kathleen Clegg, was in my class at Langdon Hills School. I think I am correct in saying that she left for Australia and took up horse rearing. Mr Clegg was a postman. Clearly his delivery route fitted in very nicely with picking up new bets and dropping off any winnings due. Quite what the GPO would have thought of these sideline activities is unknown — but presumably they would have taken a dim view.

Clearly these gentlemen did not advertise and their activities were kept fairly close. Nevertheless, there must have been others in the village or surrounding areas. While technically illegal, the police never seemed to target these illegal bookies. The bookies, for their part, were expected to keep a low profile and not to flaunt their activities.

I can only mention Eric Cole and Mr Clegg. Nina mentions a Charlie Wignall but it is a little unclear to me if he was an illegal bookie from 1945 when he married or if he only ran a betting shop from 1961 onward when OTB became legal. Or both.

There must have been more illegal bookies in the area and perhaps other contributors to these archives can add other names and stories. There must be quite an untold story of illegal betting in the old village of Laindon if only it were possible to ferret out the story.

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  • Charlie Wignall is my grandfather’s brother. How interesting to read!

    By Ms Wignall (30/07/2018)
  • Referring to Irene Wignall, older daughter of Charley Wignall the bookmaker.  In the late sixties I worked for a couple of years in Billericay in the same office as her younger sister Rose.   Rose had two daughters, Elaine and Jennifer.  Jennifer came to this year’s Annual Display at the Manor Mission.  We had a chat and she told me that her mother had passed away a few years ago, but she herself still lives in Cromer Avenue.  She is on the far right of the first photo on the article ‘Report and Photos of the Annual Display at the Manor Mission 29.04.17’.

    By Nina Humphrey(née Burton) (25/07/2017)
  • As a further thought.  I have remembered that GW Jeakins also had a fleet of removal vans, rivalling those of DC Jeakins. These were based at the Arterial Road, close to where I worked at Hatters Garage in 1962/63. GW Jeakins removal vans were painted chocolate brown with gold lettering. They were a fabulous contrast to the dark blue vans with red wheels of DC Jeakins and the mid blue lorries of Francis and Jagger. I note that GW Jeakins had another base in London E8 which must have made them a very versatile company indeed.

    By Richard Haines (24/07/2017)
  • Jeakins still operate as a removals company but now, although their vehicles are still in the same livery, they are just Jeakins Removals. No longer trading as D.C. Jeakins and Co. Ltd as D.C. (Derek) passed on a number of years ago, so I assume the present company is operated by one or more of his offspring. I liked Derek as a person but not as a boss as he was a nightmare to work for, but socially you couldn’t fault him. But what a business head that man had! 

    Editor:  The business is now operated by Derek Jeakin’s son and daughter, Derek and Michelle.

    By Donald Joy (24/07/2017)
  • On the subject of Francis and Jagger, I clearly remember their mid- blue removal lorries trundling up and down the High Road on their way to various destinations. Alan Jagger was in my class at LHR all the way from the second year till the end of the fifth year in 1963. Alan was brilliant at maths and I was always astounded at how he could consistently get such good marks. I also recall his brother Bill Jagger who looked just like him but was a year older. Actually I always thought the removal firm owner was Francis Jagger and that he was their father! I know that at one time their business office was in Billericay next to a shop called Kitts down near the station. I’m sure the lorries used to park behind those premises and I can still recall the same mid-blue being on the shop sign over the windows.

    Turning now to DC Jeakins, I still see their lorries around, they must have made a fortune. When we moved to Tiptree in 1963 it was a dark blue DC Jeakins lorry which took all our belongings to our brand new detached bungalow, a really exciting time for myself and my three little brothers. When I worked at Hatters Garage on the A127 I served petrol to two Jeakins firms. Firstly the lorries of DC Jeakins on occasions and then the black taxi cabs of GW Jeakins, the drivers from both companies always being reliable for a chat and sometimes a tip if we were lucky. Happy memories and brilliant times.

    By Richard Haines (23/07/2017)
  • I was working for D.C.Jeakins & Co. Ltd when Francis House, Wrexham Road was built for Jeakins new yard and offices. It puzzled me at that time why it would have been called Francis House, maybe after a relative?

    By Donald Joy (22/07/2017)
  • I remember that a pal of mine Ray Farmer, son of Sid Farmer who seemed to have a lock on Laindon’s taxi business, had a bet on the 1949 Grand National. How and with whom he placed this illegal bet I have no idea. I imagine the bet was a shilling each way which was all we young chaps could afford. Suffice to say that his horse, Russian Hero, came in first at 66 to 1. That certainly paid for a couple of weeks at the Archer Hall dances plus beer and Players at the Rising Sun during intermission.

    By Alan Davies (21/07/2017)
  • Unable to enlarge on the main topic re illegal betting but found a couple of interesting side topics to comment on. Stephen Clegg I remember well from school, affectionately known as Cleggy, a tall sturdily built lad which would serve him well in his post school years. Unlike Richard, I do recall Stephen working in the Co-op in Basildon. He worked in the stock room and the loading bay where his size and strength made him an asset to the store. I also remember Carol Hudson working in the footwear department, but then Carol was not one that could be easily forgotten!

    Paul Gibson’s comment that mentioned “Raggy” brought back memories of this intriguing character who I have spoken of in a previous article. What did puzzle me was him calling Jeakins yard Francis yard. This is the yard I worked in and also the yard where I learned to drive, round and round in an Austin FX3 taxi. But I have never heard it referred to as Francis yard. Come on Paul there must be more you can tell us (me). 

    By Donald Joy (21/07/2017)
  • I remember a removal company called Francis & Jagger.  Their business yard and vehicle storage was at one time over the railway bridge in Florence Road, but was relocated to Francis House, Wrexham Road, Laindon. Today there is an office block in Wrexham Road called Francis House.

    Bill Jagger, who I believe was one of the sons, was in my class at school.  He and his younger brother Alan are on the 1958 long school photo.

    I would be interested if anyone else remembers Francis & Jagger or indeed has a photograph of one of their lorries.

    By Nina Humphrey(née Burton) (21/07/2017)
  • Following on from Alan Davies’ recollection of the illegal off course betting which was alive and well in Laindon in those pre licenced turf accountant days.

    I remember walking from Berry Lane along Ferndale Ave across the field over the first railway bridge into the unmade Durham Road and at its junction with Norfolk Road and Durham Road, there would be standing a fellow normally adorned in a threequarter length coat and a trilby type hat.  My father would walk up to this gentleman, look to see they were not being watched and hand him an envelope and if his luck was in, my father would receive one in return. As a young lad I was not aware of what was taking place as my father kept his business close to his chest.  I was to find out later that the gentleman that my father met on these occasions was Harry Brummel, then known as the bookies’ runner.

    Many years later I became firm friends with one of Harry’s sons Ray.  Ray’s brother Roy told me a story a couple of years ago that whilst he was at play as a schoolboy at Laindon High Road School in the late 50s he saw his father in the back of a Police car being escorted to the local nick for illegal betting, a small fine was paid and he was back in business the next day.

    When betting became legal in 1961 C.E Wignalls betting shop opened in Laindon High Road the new manager was of course Harry Brummel.  By now my old dad rarely ventured over the village so I was tasked into taking the envelope to Wignalls. Problem was I was not old enough to go into a bookmakers so I would wait outside until the local tramp, a man nicknamed Raggy, came out hand him the envelope and he would put the bet on for my father. Raggy was a well known character in those days.  He slept in the back of a old van almost next to Wignalls in Francis Yard which by now was run by Derek Jeakins what heady days they were.

    By Paul Gibson (20/07/2017)
  • My standout memory of Kathleen Clegg dates to the time we were together in Mr Taylor’s class in the last year at Langdon Hills School. Mr Taylor was a first class teacher and taught us a great deal.

    There was this one particular occasion when I must have committed some particularly grievous crime, although for the life of me, I cannot remember what it might have been. Mr Taylor decreed that I deserved three lashes with the cane on the back of bare legs. Short trousers being the dress code of the day. The sentence was to be carried out in front of the entire class no less. After the first two lashes I made the mistake of anticipating the third lash and bent my knees to lessen the pain. Mr Taylor was not amused! He deemed that to be unsporting and decreed a fourth lash.

    Sentence having been carried out I began to walk back to my seat which was immediately behind Kathleen Clegg. Whether it was the pain or the humiliation in front of the entire class, probably both, my eyes began to fill up. As I walked by Kathleen Clegg she whispered “boys don’t cry”. To this day I do not know whether her whisper was meant as encouragement and sympathy or whether it was disdain.

    By Alan Davies (20/07/2017)
  • Nina, do you remember Stephen Clegg, I seem to recall he was at the LHR school in my first year but that he was several years above me. I’m sure his name was on the sports day reports and I think he was one of the field event specialists, maybe a different Clegg family from the one mentioned here.

    By Richard Haines (18/07/2017)
  • Richard.  Yes I remember Stephen Clegg very well. He went to Markham’s Chase School.  Stephen was the youngest of his family and unfortunately had slight learning difficulties due to a problem at the time of his birth in 1944.  I knew his parents, Harold and Betsy Clegg – they were friends of my Grandparents.  Harold had been a Laindon postman at one time, the same as my Grandad. 

    Stephen had older brothers Ernest (born 1934) and Geoffrey (born 1936).  Also older twin sisters, Janeen and Jennifer (born 1940) who passed their 11 plus and went to Grammar School.  Stephen worked for the Co-op Stores in Basildon Town Centre for many years.  He travelled there and back on a bicycle that I always thought looked a little too small for him. Sadly Stephen passed away in 1996.

    Harold and Betsy lived in Tavistock Road in the fifties, Kathleen Ferrier Crescent in the sixties and then moved to Devonshire Close.  When my Nan lived in Cromer Avenue sheltered accommodation flats in the sixties and seventies, Harold and Betsy often called in to see her while I was there.  They were a lovely couple.   I think the Clegg families that have been mentioned are related.  

    By Nina Humphrey(née Burton) (18/07/2017)
  • Nina, thanks for that information about Stephen, your memory is brilliant and you are a true Laindoner. I don’t recall Stephen working in the Co-op even though I was always in there buying records back in the day. I do recall Carol Hudson working in the ladies shoe department in the Co-op and also Josie Beasley working in Littlewoods, this must have been around Summer 1962 when most of my year left LHR. Of course I had to soldier on in 5X with some of the remainder of our class. I found a 1963 colour photo, not brilliant quality of 5X and 5X2 which I keep meaning to send to you. Some real superstars on the photo including Mr Rees and the newly appointed Mr Day, the headmaster of that year. Oh and myself of course.

    By Richard Haines (18/07/2017)
  • Alan.  I have checked the records and found that your classmate, Kathleen Clegg was the youngest child of William H Clegg and Florence E Clegg (née Parkins).  They appear to have moved from London to Laindon in the early twenties.

    By Nina Humphrey(née Burton) (17/07/2017)

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