All bets should be off as gambling menace grows

Country Living with Francis Farragher

I’ve never quite mastered the art of ‘minding money’ and after spending the best part of four decades on the PAYE payroll, the likelihood of me picking that skill is probably pretty remote.  Even as a child when favourite aunts or uncles would always leave me with a two-shilling piece or a half-crown, my mother would ‘mind it’ for me, supposedly for a rainy day, but somehow or another the lucre never seemed to return to my grasp.

There are though two ways that I detest getting rid of money: one is in losing it and the second one is putting it on a horse or team that doesn’t win. There’s some sort of value in going out for a nice meal, a few pints, buying a few bits of clothes here and there, or in looking forward to changing the car in a few years’ time.

I’m not averse to the odd punt here and there and occasionally have hit the jackpot with a 33/1 or even a 50/1 shot but a number of years back when a horse that had been ‘geared’ for a particular race ‘did the dirt’ on me, a tenner tends to be the limit of the gamble.

That particular nag was such a certainty that I exceeded all previous betting limits and a happy punter I was with 25/1 written on my betting slip as he was backed into 5/2 shortly before the off. There were eight runners in that particular race, but seven of them beat this hottest of tips, and afterwards the news broke that the horse had burst a blood vessel just as he left the stalls.

Many moons ago, when as saying goes ‘a pound was a pound’ – probably back in the early 1970s – I was also taught a very severe lesson in the old gambling business, even if there was a little ‘con’ involved.

By fair or foul means, as a bit of a ‘know-all sixth classer, I had a crisp pound note going into the Tuam Races – always held on the Friday of Galway Race Week at the Parkmore track – to speculate, spend or accumulate as I desired myself.

A famous Tuam family known for their somewhat dodgy entrepreneurial skills had a most impressive collection of prizes in a draw for straws at a shilling a go – and with 20 of those shillings in my possession, my chances seemed pretty good.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.