Monday, 12 September 2011
This man was a colourful character who was a regular visitor to Listowel Races.
Ras Prince Monolulu (1881 St Croix, Danish West Indies - 14 February 1965 Middlesex HospitalLondon), whose real name was Peter Carl Mackay (or McKay), was something of an institution on the British horse racing scene from the 1920s until the time of his death. He was particularly noticeable for his brightly coloured clothing; as a tipster, one of his best known phrases was the cry "I gotta horse!", which was subsequently the title of his memoirs. He frequently featured in newsreel broadcasts, and as a consequence was probably the most well-known black man in Britain of the time.
Although claiming to be a chief of the Falasha tribe of Abyssinia, the reality is that he came from the Caribbean island of St Croix (now part of the United States Virgin Islands). He styled himself as a Prince after being press-ganged on one occasion, assuming that a prince would be far less likely to be shanghaied.
During World War I he was interned in Germany at the Ruhleben Prisoner of War Camp.
He rose to prominence after picking out the horse Spion Kop (cf. Battle of Spion Kop) in the 1920 Derby, which came in at the long odds of 100-6, and from which he personally made some £8,000, a vast amount of money at the time.
The biography of Jeffrey Bernard by Graham Lord describes Prince Monolulu's death in some detail. It describes how Bernard at the time was working as a horse racing journalist and visited Monolulu in the Middlesex Hospital to interview him. Bernard had brought with him a box of 'Black Magic' chocolates and offered Monolulu a 'strawberry cream'. Monolulu subsequently choked to death on it and Bernard bade him farewell.
The baptism of Monolulu (as Peter Carl McKay, on 26 October 1881) has been traced in the records of the English Episcopal Church of the Danish West Indies. His father, whose name is not shown in the register, was William Henry McKay and his mother was Catherine Heyliger.
His family (father and brothers) were horse breeders, raisers and racers on St Croix though they were more conventional. There was a case in the 1920s where their knowledge of superior horses was used against a gambler who perpetrated the murder of a child to make a horse win through black magic.
He appears briefly in the 1952 film Derby Day which is set around the Epsom Derby.
I have lifted all of this information from Wikipaedia but I know that lots of older Listowel people remember him. Anyone like to share a memory with us?
P.S. I know that some people are encountering trouble with posting comments. If you send any stories to me at firstname.lastname@example.org I'll give you the credit when I post them. Meanwhile there are a few interesting comments on the first page of this blog.