A THOUSAND POUNDS FOR A SHILLING!
In 1920, an art union lottery was established in the Blue Mountain’s town of Katoomba, conceived and administered by Mr Edgar Booth. The object was to raise money for the improvement of the local showground.
First prize was originally a £1,000 Peace Bond, a substantial amount in those days. Tickets were a mere shilling each.
In April the following year the Blue Mountains Echo sent a reporter to visit Mr Booth;
Entering his pretty cottage he was introduced to a scene that reminded him of busy departmental and commercial life in the city. There were papers everywhere, heaps upon heaps of them….The incoming mail had just arrived. It came in a special bag. There were from 600 to 700 letters in it, and they came from seemingly everywhere. The mail bore the postmark of every state in the Commonwealth; New Zealand, South Africa, the British Isles, Malay States, Canada, India, and places more remote. Edgar Booth and his staff should know more about geography by now.
One fact is obvious from the above, The Katoomba Thousand has caught on. There is no chance of its failure. When applications are made for batches of tens, scores and even hundreds of tickets it proves that the applicants have at least faith, perhaps more faith than Katoombans. Projects, like prophets, are, alas, too often without honour in their own country. Everywhere the Katoomba Thousand is booming. It only remains for the Blue Mountains in general and Katoomba in particular, to get right in behind the scheme, and every ticket will be sold. With that happy consummation, the Mountain capital will have a sports and show ground second to no provincial centre.
In 1923, first prize was not a thousand pound Peace Bond, but a beautiful Baby Rolls Royce, valued at £1,850
AND THE WINNER IS……
74 year old retired colliery manager James Fletcher purchased five tickets from Mr Curley, a newsagent in Bondi. After the lottery was drawn on December 6, Curley met Mr Fletcher in the street. He knew the old fellow quite well and was delighted to be able to shake his hand and tell him one of his tickets had won first prize. He gave Fletcher a copy of the daily paper where the winning number had been published.
The press were quick on the scene , publishing ‘feel good’ stories of a black cat crossing Fetcher’s trail in an omen of good fortune, and of how he celebrated his birthday on the day he heard of his win.
At the time, Fletcher was living with his son and daughter-in-law at the Remeura flats, in O’Brian Street, Bondi. He hurried home, but unfortunately was unable to find the tickets, which he remembered putting in a drawer in his room. He asked 24 year old Miss Dorothy Lunt, a house guest and friend of the family, to help him find them. Miss Lunt eventually found four of the five tickets in one of Fletcher’s coat pockets, but alas the winning ticket, No. 112735, had vanished.
The Rolls could not be presented without the ticket, despite the purchaser’s name being written on the stub.
As Mr Fletcher tried to come to terms with his disappointment, the missing ticket was posted to organizers at Katoomba from Brisbane via the Commonwealth Bank. 26 year old Mark Broadribb was claiming the prize. There was a further complication when Mr Fletcher’s daughter-in-law also claimed the prize, stating that James Fletcher had given the ticket to her as a gift, something he denied.
Mark Broadribb first said he had bought the ticket in Sydney, and then that he had found it in the sand at Bondi Beach. When interviewed by police he produced a cutting from a newspaper listing the winning number. Talk about luck….a new luxury car for nix! He insisted it was a Brisbane paper, but shipping news on the reverse showed it be a Sydney publication. The suspicion was that the ticket and/or the newspaper cutting had been sent to him.
An unsigned letter was impounded at the G.P.O. in Brisbane, addressed to Broadribb, and clearly written by someone who knew the ticket was stolen. It was suspected that Dorothy Lunt had written it, but handwriting experts were unable to prove this beyond doubt.
Nevertheless, it was discovered that Broadribb and Miss Lunt, had known each other in Sydney, and both were charged with theft.
The Truth newspaper’s description of those involved seemed to infer that the young couple were more
appropriate Rolls Royce owners than poor Mr Fletcher;
Broadribb is tall, dark hair, active build, and wears pince-nez and tan boots. Miss Lunt is a slender brunette of delicate mould, and looks younger than her stated age. On the other hand, Fletcher is an elderly widower, very bald and red -faced.
Dorothy Lunt was from a wealthy, very respectable family in country Mudgee. Her father owned a cordial factory. She spent a lot of time in Sydney, often staying at the Arcadia Hotel. She had met Fletcher’s daughter-in-law at the hotel in 1922 and the young women became close friends. Mrs Fletcher owned a dress making business in the Strand Arcade.
The case went to trial in June 1924, at Sydney’s Darlinghurst Courthouse. Mark Broadribb was found guilty, but only on a lesser charge of ‘receiving’. Surprisingly, Dorothy Lunt was cleared of any involvement.
His Honor said he was satisfied that Broadribb was not the prime mover in the matter. ‘It is not for me to express an opinion as to who this was’, added his Honor. ‘You could not have concocted the scheme yourself, because you could have had no knowledge of the thing stolen’. Broadribb was described as being of weak character, and easily influenced by others. His Honor made an order that the ticket should be returned to the rightful owner, James Fletcher.
Mr Fletcher said he was quite happy with the car he already had and would probably sell the Baby Rolls.
If Dorothy Lunt was innocent, was the inference that Fletcher’s daughter-in-law was involved? She too was acquainted with Broadribb. It was a complete mystery that was never solved.
In July, Miss Lunt sued James Fetcher for £2,000; damages for malicious prosecution. Whether she was successful or not I have been unable to determine. Mr Fletcher fell out with his daughter-in-law over whether or not he had given her the winning ticket. He left the Bondi flat, and went to live with his daughter at Manly. All things considered the Baby Rolls Royce cost him a lot more than a shilling.
In 1925 Mr Booth died. It was the beginning of the end for the fund-raising lottery. However, the Katoomba Show Society had benefitted by over £20,000 pounds and successfully managed to develop the new show and recreation ground.
Mayor McBride opened the venue for football in June that year;
In declaring the pretty area officially open for football, the Mayor expressed his regret at the absence of Mr Edgar Booth, whose work in the past few years in conducting the Show Art-union had provided the money that had brought the ground to its present state of efficiency.