Paris and the Bookie's Runner

Climbing London Bridge

By Keith Harris

In the early fifties, we lived at the top end of the elm tree lined St. Benets Grove. One end was the Gaumont, the other the allotments. Being the end of the row, we had a high, wooden side gate.

In front of our house was “London Bridge”, so called because when we climbed to the top, you could see as far as France and the Eiffel Tower. (The fact that it was the Crystal Palace tower didn't matter to us, it was all part of the adventure.)

One day during the hot summer of 1954, when sitting in the dust making roads for my Dinky cars, I saw a man holding a small suitcase under his arm, running at full pelt with a policeman far behind at the Gaumont giving chase. Everyone was cheering and as the man, who was almost out of breath, reached our front garden, my mum waved and opened the side gate. He was through it like the wind. Mum closed the gate and locked it. By the time the policeman arrived, the man was over the back fences and gone.

Apart from me, there was no-one else in sight. The policeman paused, smiled and turned round, walking slowly back towards the Gaumont. Two weeks later, I was out front and the same thing happened again. This time, as the man arrived at our house, I jumped up, waved and stood by the gate with my hand out asking for 6d. He fished in his pocket and threw down some pennies and was gone. I closed the gate from inside, stood on a crate and pulled the bolt. I heard the policeman stamp his feet and walk back.

All through that long summer holiday, I “helped” the man four times, earning a total of 2/6d.

He was the “bookie's runner” ………..I was “7 years old”.

Ted Thomson remembers

There was a a bookie's runner by the name of Ted. Gambling wasn't legalised then  - there was no betting shops round The Circle. He would come and get your bets and as long as you give him the bet by ten to two he would then go to the local call box, park his bike outside, and phone through the bets to his bookmaker.  So if anybody had an emergency between ten to two and two o'clock,  they had to go and find another phone box.

This page was added by Keith Harris on 13/10/2010.
Comments about this page

I can remember the bookies runner who stood on the corner of Paisley Road and Waltham Road. My nan and granddad lived at 97 Waltham the corner house and granddad always had a bet. The runner if I remember always wore a good suit but when chased he could leap over fences like a racehorse. Nobody objected it was part of the day. Wish we could go back eh?

By Pat Collings (Holmes)
On 21/10/2010

I can remember the runner in Waltham Road too - my mum used to give me 2 bob wrapped in a note to take to 'the man on the corner ' I used to worry a bit as she always told me not to tell my dad. But sometimes I got some sweets or a new toy out of the blue !

By Chris Cooper
On 08/11/2010

My Dad used to give me a bet wrapped up and the man who took them lived in Bishopsford Rd.I was terrified of him as he had twisted arthritic hands,and I used to give him the bet and run,but one day a kind man in a dark suit opened the door and took me inside with various other people.My one and only brush with the law at 9

By Irene Amos
On 23/11/2010

Hello Ted Thomson, I remember you from the time you worked your stall with Harry Knowles at The Circle. I also remember you from pre-war days when your Mum had a mobile sweet stall. I lived in Glastonbury Rd. just round the corner from you. Happy days

By Peter Leonard
On 13/03/2011

Sorry Ted, I was assuming that you were your Dad. My fault for not spotting your mugshot in the photo gallery. I am new to the site and even though I have not lived there since 1985 I still get a buzz from hearing stories and seeing pictures of the estate. I know there were a few villains bred there, but there were a lot more good ones.

By Peter Leonard
On 15/03/2011

In 1948/49 I was the roundsman for Hemmings the bakers around The Circle area. I often wonder as a 16 year old how I managed to pull that barrow from the depot at Rosehill. I remember the bookie who used to stand at the junction of St.Albans Grove and Shrewsbury Rd. When the police came around he had plenty of scouts(including me) who would warn him. He would stuff all the betting slips into the privet hedge,so that if they did search him he wasn't holding any evidence. When the police had gone he would recover the slips and duck into one of the houses there. He would reappear with a different coat, hat and specs. He wasn't fooling anyone but I bet the police had a good laugh. I know who he was but will not give the name,except to say that he and his family finished up with barrows in Wrythe Lane. His youngest son who was a mate of mine finished up with a shop in the same parade.

By Peter Leonard
On 18/03/2011

I remember one time going to the baker's shop at Rose Hill and getting the real crusty bread and by the time I brought it home I had made quite a hole in the end of it. That was the day that I left my sister Joyce sitting in the pram outside the shop and went home without her. Mum asked where was she and I had to rush back to the shop and get her. She was quite happy sitting there. Marian Hawkins

By Marian Hawkins Nee Harris
On 25/09/2011

I got sent to the bookie at the bottom of Netley Gardens. My Dad wrapped the bet round the money and said just give it to him and disappear. All done on trust, had to be.

By John Holmes
On 07/12/2011

I remember Teds tuck shop,very handy for Welbeck Rd. No8 school. Spent many hours down the air aid shelters listening to Mr.Mathews and Dicky Perton telling their stories.Hard happy happy days.

By Ken Krelle
On 16/12/2011

We lived next door to the Sweenys and the Pat Collins who has also written on here, must be the daughter of Dolly Page? her Grandad was a really good bloke had a Fox Terrier called Spot. 

(Take a look at the page Ted has contributed about the bookie's runner - Ed.)

By Ted Blowers
On 08/07/2012

Ted Burton who had the van was a great guy to know. Us kids used to collect the vouchers that either came through the door or were on the back pages of mags and swap the 2d and 4d off slips for such things as Vim and Persil and give them to Ted in return for sweets. Ken talks about Mr Mathews and Dickie Purton at Welbeck Road School. I was there later than him, infact the year that Mr Mathews the Head, died. Dickie was still there though boring us with Scripture unless we could get him talking about the war.

By Ron Harris
On 16/08/2013

Hi Roy

My brother worked for Ted Burton in 1950-51. Do you know he made his real money from street bookmaking. My brother used to bank the takings and at times deposited as much as £1000 a time in those days. Ted was a lovely man but despite his wealth  bought stolen confectionery and got 18 mths.

When he came out he lost everything his business, bookies. At the time he was living over the shop flats at the Circle. I went to see him on his release mid 1953 and lent him a radio as he did not have even that.. He started again but by this time street vendor had passed . I lost contact and never saw him again.

By Terry Kates
On 03/08/2015

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