018: Ras Prince Monolulu, racing tipster 1881-1965

with Dutch models, London, 14 May 1957
with Dutch models, London, 14 May 1957

From 1920 horse race fans in Britain became used to the black tipster Ras Prince Monolulu. Claiming to be a Jewish Ethiopian prince, but actually born in the Danish West Indies (St Croix) in 1881, he had travelled widely as an actor and entertainer. Now known to be Peter Carl MacKay, he died in England in 1965.

The feathered headress he is wearing in this photograph helped punters spot him in the crowds at racetracks.

The photograph was released to publicise the Dutch Fashion Group collection in Knightsbridge “tomorrow” and names the model whose hand the bogus prince is kissing as Frieda Schijf.

After more than 40 years Britain’s racetracks no longer heard his “I gotta horse” and an era seemed to be over. Monolulu had been known to hundred of thousands.

Pip Granger’s Up West: Voices from the Streets of Post-War London (2009) notes that Soho Square was ‘a playground and a creche for the local children, sometimes under the watchful eye of the flamboyant tipster Prince Monolulu’ and that he was ‘an imposing, but friendly, figure’. ‘He kept a benevolent eye on the local kids for their busy parents’, not charging, and held court from ‘his bench in Soho Square’. There is a good photograph of him in her book and there are others on www.nickelinthemachine.com.

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