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Article: Did you see Lester Piggott and Blue Nile?

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    Did you see Lester Piggott and Blue Nile?

    11 Comments by Paul Johnson Published on 3rd January 2021 01:10 PM
    Hi All,
    This is a story that pays homage to possibly the best Captain I sailed with, as I worked in the galley one could say that a Captain had little consequence to my life aboard; as opposed to the deck department for instance. But a Captain's demeanor and attitude permeated throughout the ship; a good Captain tended to have a happy ship; such a Captain was J.S. Laidlaw.

    For those of you who have read my article 'Ringbolting' will have already 'met' him, for those who have not allow me to update you. The story was that as a cadet, at sea, he got very drunk, and was so ill that the ship had to make an unscheduled stop in a port to seek medical attention; the story continues that from that day he never touched another drop of alcohol. Therefore, as a baker, I could not 'infuse' anything with alcohol that was destined for his plate; this included Christmas cake and puddings. I had to make special ones for him, happy to do so, but anathema to me.

    Another trait of his was that he was a rock dodger, two examples of this spring to mind; we were passing Tahiti and there were a number of small sailing craft a little offshore of Pape'ete, imagine their surprise when we steamed BETWEEN them and the shore! The second example was in the Med, I was in the Baker's shop, one moment the sun was streaming through the porthole, the next it had gone. The reason was that the Captain was hugging the coastline of a bay! What the Chief Engineer and Company thought of the fuel expenditure is unknown.

    Another passion for J.S. Laidlaw was gambling, specifically horses; when we had a race night on number 4 hatch, with horses and jockeys made from wood by the Chippy, the Captain set the odds. Such was his enthusiasm that whatever port we were in he would provide a list of horse race meetings for that week, those in upper case denoted the meeting was in the port we were at, These notices, along with any others, were always physically signed, no signature stamp for him! Such was his 'tunnel vision', I shall provide a further couple of examples.

    Whilst in Wellington we became friendly with a number of wharfies,( dockers to non Kiwi types), many of them from Scotland. It was arranged that we would go to a horse race meeting in Hastings, staying over the night. We went up by coach so as we could take as much beer as possible, we duly set off. Now, if I was to say that we all had a great time, enjoyed the meeting, getting friendly with the females, (one who had a plaster cast on her leg; but that's another story), and stayed in a lovely hotel, it may come across as boring, if true. However, there was an incident that caused the intervention of Captain Laidlaw.

    There we were speeding towards Hastings, when someone suggested stopping for food, we decided to go to a takeaway, what sort of takeaway it was I have little recollection, drink had been taken. On the counter of the takeaway was a small brass bell, one you picked up and rang for attention. As we left to continue our journey it was obvious the bell had been snaffled, the culprit was a young Scottish wharfie. Our journey was enlivened by the ringing of this bell, then we heard a police siren, we were all cheering it on, until, of course, it pulled us over, they had come for the bell!
    Now, I have done many good things in my life, and many many many stupid things; this was one of the latter. I told him to give it to me, when the police boarded the coach I informed them I had taken it; surprisingly, they just took my details and left, with the bell!

    As mentioned, a good time in Hastings was had by all, at the meeting a horse called 'Blue Nile' was the star of the meet, and interestingly Lester Piggott was also riding on that day. One other thing I remember was of a young Kiwi jockey who as his horse went over the jumps he would let go of the reins with one hand, he looked like the Lone Ranger; we of course fell about laughing. This did not go down too well with the aficionado present. After the meeting we had a great evening at the hotel with plenty of female company.

    After a staid return journey to Wellington I was in my cabin aboard the Hauraki that evening, recuperating, when there was a knock on the door, two of the local Constabulary were there, it was about that bloody bell; '...send not to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee', (Donne, J ). The upshot was that I was arrested, taken ashore to be fingerprinted, and told to present myself in Court the next day.
    The next morning I had to explain to Wally Smith, Chief Cook, that I would be having yet more time off, he was over the moon (sic.), I then had to inform the Chief Steward of the situation. He came to me later saying that the Captain wished to see me, so I duly traipsed up to see him like a recalcitrant schoolboy; his first words to me were, 'Did you see 'Blue Nile' and Lester Piggott'? So I related to him my tale, this took some time as he kept interrupting me, 'was the going good'?, 'What was the course like'?, 'Did you win anything'? etc.. At the end he informed me that he would be accompanying me to court. So there I was, fully booted and spurred in a three piece suit, as was my want, ( I think the Ol' Man appreciated that ).
    When we got to court I was the most formally dressed there, even the judge had shorts and long socks on! I was duly tried and sentenced; my defence that I was in drink and only did it for a laugh cut little ice. The upshot was a $25 fine, I had brought cash with me, but the Captain insisted on accompanying me to the cashiers office. As we entered he jokingly said,' Here's the prisoner', and then promptly paid the fine. What a lovely man.

    The second example concerns Bingo, on the Hauraki I used to run a Bingo night when at sea; it was something to do. Being held in the crew Pig the turnout was usually good. Occasionally any wives on board would attend, but there was always one person who never missed a session, Captain Laidlaw.
    Now, besides these conventional Bingo sessions I would also run progressive Bingo. For those of you unsure of the procedure allow me to explain; on alternating days I would visit the crew Pig or the Officer's bar at lunch time and get the occupants to draw fifteen numbers. These would be posted on a number of notice boards in the order in which they were drawn; from then on normal rules applied, whoever filled up their card first won. I think around thirty plus of the crew participated, including the Captain, so the prize money was reasonable.

    Now, it was the morning of the Old Man's inspection, he was a lovely chap and was not too stringent with his inspection; not that we took advantage! If his progression took followed his usual practice he would present himself at the door of the Baker's shop and greet me with, 'Morning Mr. Baker'. That was followed by a discussion and critique of the puddings and desserts that he had sampled the previous week, and an insight of what I had in store for him this day. He did love a pudding; if I remember correctly my Peach Surprise was much in favour, ( recipes on request ).
    However, this day I received a cursory nod of the head; he then proceeded to do something he had never done before, he INSPECTED the Baker's shop !! To see this revered Master Mariner on his hands and knees trying to find a smidgeon of flour under my bench was baffling; he did! To be told the Prover needed cleaning, ( who ever cleaned a Proving cabinet )?! That my marble slab was messy; I was pinning out pastry!
    I was not the only one shocked, the Chief Cook, Chief Steward and the Chief Officer were all dumbfounded. With another cursory look around my shop he began to leave, stopping at the doorway he turned and said, 'You forgot to give my Tiger my Bingo tickets', he then left.

    Therefore, during the last session of progressive Bingo he had been ticketless! You can imagine the conversation I had with his Tiger I am sure, needless to say such an occurrence never happened again.

    All said and done though he was one of the loveliest of men and a fine Captain, therefore, in the main the Hauraki was a happy ship.

    Cheers, Paul.

    P.S. I promised this article some weeks ago but I have been having trouble with my eyes, developing cataracts, and as I read a lot I have been restricting myself to the amount of time in front of a screen. I shall now lay down in a darkened room with BBC radio 4 on; some say I should do that more often Ha Ha.

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: Did you see Lester Piggott and Blue Nile?

    Great story, keep them coming, kt
    R689823

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    Default Re: Did you see Lester Piggott and Blue Nile?

    Hi Keith,
    Thanks for that, I shall leave it a little while and then I have a story set in Montreal.
    Cheers, Paul.

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    Default Re: Did you see Lester Piggott and Blue Nile?

    Very interesting.

    Regards,

    Keith.
    "Our veterans did not forget about us .... Let's not forget about them." From Michael Levesque

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    Default Re: Did you see Lester Piggott and Blue Nile?

    Lester Piggott, Was a great jockey i think he still holds the record of riding 7 Derby winners around Epsom. He also had a great sense of humour i remember him riding a horse for a relatively unknown trainer the horse was very short odds favorite to win the race at a little track called Cartmel, At the time horse racing was only available on channel 4 in the uk. The horse trailed in last of six runners if piggott couldn't win the race he would drop his hands and basically stop pushing a no hoper, The T.V. Camera went into the paddock to chat with piggott what went wrong Lester !!!!!!!!!!! With that the trainer appeared Piggott you will never ride a horse around this track for me again !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Piggott looked at the trainer and said to the camera man do you mind telling him that i wont be riding any horse around this track again i wont be coming back here again with a wry smile on his face.
    {terry scouse}

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    Default Re: Did you see Lester Piggott and Blue Nile?

    Great Jockey, had a speech impediment brought about by some deafness.
    Road some great winners in his time including the triple crown on two occasions.
    Sadly got done for tax evasion and dissapeared into the ether.
    Happy daze John in Oz.

    Life is too short to blend in.

    John Strange R737787
    World Traveller

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    Default Re: Did you see Lester Piggott and Blue Nile?

    Hi Ted,
    Heard a story of the great man in Paris, before the Arc de Triomphe, he was with a journalist at dinner, he had a poached chicken breast and half a glass of white wine. He always suffered with his weight, but that was true dedication!
    Cheers, Paul.

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    Default Re: Did you see Lester Piggott and Blue Nile?

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Johnson View Post
    Hi Ted,
    Heard a story of the great man in Paris, before the Arc de Triomphe, he was with a journalist at dinner, he had a poached chicken breast and half a glass of white wine. He always suffered with his weight, but that was true dedication!
    Cheers, Paul.
    Agree Paul, The guy would live of a cigar a day if he could get away with it, A lot of punters and i used to like a little punt myself would call him all the names under the sun, Basically the guy was a winner if he couldn't win a small race he was never interested in 2nd or 3rd but a stronger jockey in the saddle you wouldn't come across, I used to go to Chester and Haydock races regular with the lads i played darts with in our local and you could see the difference for your self if he could win a race he would there was no one like him. Regards Paul Terry.
    {terry scouse}

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    Default Re: Did you see Lester Piggott and Blue Nile?

    RLT
    Re#5
    Carmel race track only had one or two meetings a year and I grew up not too far away from Cartmel which is these days a very popular tourist village.
    Going back to horse racing, I knew a trainer from around the Blackpool area who pulled off the biggest betting scam of the late 60's when he put his horse in a race there that he had previously only put into races where it had little or no chance of winning, so when he entered it at Cartmel
    races it had little or no form but he reckoned it would be a winner. The only on track bookies were local small time bookies so he and his gang put smallish bets with the on course bookies on his horse that were not enough to alter the odds significantly with the nationals, who most of the on course bookies were laying those gets off with. His horse romped home winning at long odds and the national bookies, Ladbrokes etc, ended up having to pay out something like 250000 on a horse in a race on a course that they had no interest in.
    Rgds
    J.A.
    Last edited by John Arton; 5th January 2021 at 02:23 PM.

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    Default Re: Did you see Lester Piggott and Blue Nile?

    #9, Nice little tickle there John We have a friend, no names as he is alive and kicking in Europe, that if he wanted to attend the Cheltenam Gold Cup late 1980's early 90's can't be too precise where his horse was racing he would have to pay the Inland Revenue 2m in back taxes. This he did, his horse won and his overall winnings were 8m. Grand time had by all.He also won the World Poker Championships in Las Vegas late 1990's a character indeed, gamblers fascinate and frighten me in equal measure.

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