South Australian Victor Richardson was a talented all-round sportsman. He excelled at tennis, golf baseball and Australian Rules Football. He captained Australia in cricket and played in the infamous ‘Bodyline’ cricket series alongside Don Bradman. With this in mind, perhaps we can forgive him for a bit of horseplay that once landed him in an Adelaide courtroom.

IN THE BEGINNING

Horse-drawn pie carts had long been a feature of Adelaide. Below is a photo of what is believed to be the earliest, introduced by James Gibbs in the 1880s.

I’m afraid the piemen were easy targets for the larrikin element. In her 1949 article Piemen and Pioneers , the author Ernestine Hill wrote;

In 1934, Charlie Harris at 79 Adelaide’s oldest pieman, remembered the city ‘dimly lit, with pushes of larrikins at every corner.’ Their revelry usually concluded in the small hours with the hitching of the pie-stall to the wheels of a hansom, and a clatter round the block to a crash of crockery and a flood of gravy, with a team of merry-makers in the shafts and another band aboard. ‘They thought it funny in those days,’ said Charlie Harris. ‘They had no picture shows or wireless sets to pass the time away and no pillion seats or cars to take them anywhere, and they congregated at the street corners. The pieman and his horse came in for a good deal of practical joking. Still, they always paid for it well, with real sovereigns, so we didn’t mind.’

Sometimes there were unfortunate, though humorous misunderstandings with the public.

PIE CART PURSUED BY ‘BANDITS’

Two piemen, driving their pie cart home to Thebarton from King William Street early yesterday morning, had a bad scare when two men in a buggy held them up at the corner of West Terrace and Hindley Street. The two in the buggy shouted and gesticulated wildly and the pieman, thinking they were demanding money, whipped up their horse. A wild chase began. It ended at the Squatters’ Arms Hotel on Port Road, where the pursuers gave up the chase. The police were informed and the ‘crime’ was solved. The men in the buggy had only wanted some pies!

THE SQUATTERS’ ARMS

A special offering from the Adelaide pie carts was (as it is to this day) the ‘floater’; a pie swimming in thick pea soup and topped with tomato sauce. I’ll be visiting the city soon, and can’t wait to try one. No horses pulling the carts these days of course.

THE HORSE HAS BOLTED

But let’s get back to Vic Richardson. At about 1.00 am on November 1 1938, he and group of about 20 friends left a party at the A.M.P building in King William Street. They were all in evening dress. Vic and his band of (very) ‘merry’ men were making a terrible racket. The Melbourne Cup was due to be run later that day and when they came across a pie cart the temptation to have some fun was irresistible. They untied the horse and lifted one of their party, radio comedian Whacka Dawe, onto its back. The horse was then led along the street with the men all cheering as if Whacka was riding in the famous ‘race that stops a nation’. Finally, someone put an overcoat over the nag, decorating it as first past the post..

A policeman, Constable Judd, was alerted by all the noise and told the revelers to move on. In response, they took the horse back to its owner, but continued to enjoy themselves. A lot of pies were bought and consumed amid much talking, laughing, singing and reciting of poetry. At this point Constable Judd told them they were behaving in a disorderly manner and should leave. Vic Richardson had not been actually been involved in the prank, but said they were not causing any harm and that he wasn’t going to move. He was then arrested.

When the matter came to court a few days later it was said that the men had jokingly dubbed the cart horse Catalogue, which raced in the Cup. He was an aging gelding, and a rank outsider. Some would say a pieman’s horse could have beaten him.

NO PUNISHMENT OVER PIE CART PRANK

By the way, Victor Richardson escaped without penalty.

CATALOGUE, BUTT OF JOKES

So how did old Catalogue get on? If you would like to watch the race, click on the link;. http://www.races.com.au/melbourne-cup/melbourne-cup-history/past-winners/1931-to-1940-melbourne-cup/

2 Comments
  1. Makes me think of the old nursery rhyme Simple Simon met a pieman… A good story of past times. At least these were only fun doings and not done with meanness. Sounds like the piemen eventually benefited anyway. Thanks for sharing, Pauline.

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