Memories Of A 1950s Lingfield Childhood
Some memories can last a lifetime, and one former resident of Lingfield was so struck by one of his childhood memories more than 60 years ago that he decided to put pen-to-paper. Sharing one of his most cherished memories from a Lingfield childhood, Jeff Herbert has written a letter to America, and the director of the Office of Insular Affairs based in Washington DC.
Jeff Herbert, 73, has written to the director of the Office of Insular Affairs, to share his memories of a man who Jeff describes as ‘bringing sunshine’, and someone who he still looks back on and ‘smiles’. The man who Jeff affords such accolades left his mark on Jeff and his family in Lingfield, however, the man was not originally from the Surrey village, in fact had far more exotic roots in the Caribbean.
Jeff grew up in Lingfield in the 1950s, living with his parents and his brother in the home of his great-grandmother Emily-Sarah Charman, Rose Cottage on Station Road in the village. Jeff remembers his childhood fondly and remarks how the charming traditional English county home had changed little over the years, as it still featured Victorian-style gas lights as well as having electricity ones installed.
One day more than any other from Jeff’s childhood stands out, he explains: “One day my mother and father decided that with me it would be a good idea to see the horses (at Lingfield Racecourse). Off we went from Rose Cottage with me in the pushchair we went past the railway station and some large horses, passed rolling open fields and through some open old gates, not far from the river.’
“As we walked through the open gates we could see a tall man with a plumed headdress, he came to walk close to us, he bent over and asked me to ‘open my hands and close my eyes’, then, he said ‘you can now open your eyes’, and as I did, to my huge surprise, I could see a penny in each of my hands, ‘thank you’ I said, he smiled back at me, and he then proceeded to walk away from us.”
The man who Jeff came across on that country walk was a popular personality of the early part of the last century known as Prince Monolulu and famed for his distinctive plumed headdress. Although known as Prince Monolulu, he was born less regally, Peter Carl Mackay in St Croix in the Caribbean in what was known as the Danish West Indies, now part of the US Virgin Islands. Due to St Croix’s US links, Jeff wrote to the Office of Insular Affairs which assists the governance of Guam, American Samoa, US Virgin Islands, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Born in St Croix, Prince Monolulu went to the Derby in 1903 establishing himself as a race tipster, he adopted characteristic colourful robes, a plumed headdress and the catchphrase “I’ve gotta’ horse.”
Prince Monolulu became quite a sensation, he starred in films including Derby Day in 1952, and in 1957, he appeared on You Bet Your Life, a US TV quiz of the era hosted by Groucho Marx. The much-loved character died aged 83, according to the biography of horse racing journalist Jeffrey Bernard by Graham Lord, Prince Monolulu choked to death on a strawberry cream at Middlesex Hospital.