"I gotta horse" was the familiar cry of Ras Prince Monolulu — one of the great eccentrics to pound London's streets.
Though the flamboyant horse tipster — instantly recognisable from his robes embroidered with flags and logos, ostrich feather headdress and Royal Stuart tartan umbrella — was often to be found at the country's racecourses, London was his home for decades. Monolulu was a regular at Speakers' Corner, and a regular pitch at Petticoat Lane where he'd sell his tips in envelopes, with patter like, "Birds will sing, bells they will ring, bees will they make honey. Punters always study form, the bookie takes the money."
Like any tipster, Monolulu's advice was to be taken with a pinch of salt (after all, he claimed he was chief of the Falasha tribe of Abyssinia, when really he was born Peter McKay, in the Virgin Islands). He did sometimes take his own advice though, scoring a small fortune on the 1920 Epsom Derby with 100-6 outsider Spion Kop.
Monolulu's mouth often lost him money too. The Islington Gazette reckoned he'd 'averaged around £60 a year in fines, mostly for making use of "insinuation, gestures and suggestion" to describe Hitler and Mussolini.' In 1939, Monolulu was fined £2 at Marlborough Street Courthouse, for using 'indecent expressions' in one of his speeches at Hyde Park. Even while being arrested, he used the incident to raise his profile in jocular manner. Says a newspaper report from the time:
[Monolulu] handed a Union Jack to the policeman who arrested him and... asked the constable to wave it on his way to the police station. Police-constable Pitt agreed with the "Prince" that the majority of the crowd were enjoying his speech."
Such a personality could not be confined to British shores. In the States, Monolulu made his mark on the Groucho Marx show You Bet Your Life.
Said Monolulu of a radio interview he did across the pond, "They didn't know that I have to 'strangle' sixpences out of working men for a living."
For a life as vivid as his, you'd expect Monolulu's death to be out of the ordinary, and indeed it was. While ill in Middlesex Hospital on Valentine's Day 1965, Monolulu was given a box of chocolates from a racing journalist. Monolulu popped a strawberry cream in his mouth and proceeded to choke to death. A nurse was called, a curtain was pulled around the bed, but it was too late. Who was the bringer of the fatal chocolate? None other than Jeffrey Bernard.