When Colin went to University


I can’t remember how it happened but John Icke, an operator friend of mine, somehow persuaded Ruffler & walker to lend him some machines for a festival at Reading University and I volunteered to take them in my van.

There were six machines; a mixture of Jennings Governors and Mills High Tops which did not need power, (you can tell this was a long time ago) as we were to pitch up in a field.

We arrived early in the morning, set up the machines and waited for the punters to arrive and boy did they arrive in their thousands , our float had soon run out and we had to continually empty the cash boxes for change.

The bands had started playing and the beer tent was in full flow – so much so the queue for drinks was miles long. They had not expected this many people and there was chaos.

It was a nice summer day and by now we needed a drink but there was no chance as the place would have closed by the time we got to the front of the queue.

John had a bright idea, “We’re staff,”  he said, “lets go round the back and see the manager.”  John had always been good at spinning a tale and with my help we convinced him that we were representing all the staff at the festival who were all complaining they couldn’t get a drink. In the end, we walked away with 10 crates of lager and 3 bottles of spirit at staff prices, plus all the glasses we needed.

Now we got all this booze we needed somewhere to sell it, so I pulled my van next to our pitch, borrowed some nice velvet curtains from the ladies toilet, some candles from the principal’s dining room and opened for business. We were a bit dearer than the official beer tent but at least you could get a drink at our place.

We had virtually sold out when a uniformed police offer arrived and asked, “Can I see your liquor license please?” With some difficulty, we tried to explain tha we were only helping out as the beer tent was so busy. “I think you better pack up a bit quick,” he said “Before I nick you for having no licence.”

We hastily put the van back in the car park and started to count our takings. We’d had a very good day and we hadn’t started on the fruit machines yet.

Returning to festival, we were asked to go to the Chancellor’s private bar. Fearing the worst we headed to the bar; both of us trying to think of a story to save John losing the sited machines in the students bars.

“We ought to take a bottle with us,” John said, “But as I’ve just sold the last bottle think of something else.”

It was too late – we were there. As we entered the bar, I noticed a shelf with a few bottles of spirit on it. Reaching up, I removed a large bottle of vodka and presented it to the top table. They thanked us for bringing the machines and John handed over 50% of the machine takings.

What a job we had loading the machines back on the van! They were extremely heavy and it was now about 6am before we were on our way. I decided to stop in a lay-by and have a sleep for a couple of hours, after which we thought we would have a look in the machines for any leftovers. Opening the back doors we proceeded to empty the machines by tipping them up and shaking them.

Sixpences were going everywhere which was OK until one machine, which was really full up. Sixpences poured out the back all over the road! There was John and me dashing in and out of the traffic picking up coins just as a police car happened to pass by.

It stopped and out got the traffic cop. “Oh no!” he said, “not you two again. I suppose you’ll tell me you’re helping someone out.”

I tried to speak.

“Don’t say a word,” he said. “Pick up your coins and go. If I see you again, I will arrest you on sight.”

Even he couldn’t keep a straight face as he got back in his car.

It was a day we will never forget.



Comments (3)

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the serious side to Colin’s amusing anecdote with John Icke revolves round the fact that as Colin says, odd sixpenny pieces used to fall by themselves inside the mechanism of the slot machines, often finding their way under the exterior castings of the machines, and lodging between the castings and the wooden case. It was this fact – nothing to do with Colin Mallery or John Icke -that led in1964 to the alteration in the 1960 Gaming Act, as the authorities thought these surplus coins were put there deliberately to cheat the site owner, and circumvent the Act which prohibited individuals from profiting from the machine takings in this manner.
You have already published a piece from Freddy Bailey about Michael Luvaglio & Angus Sibbald and the trouble which ensued over slot machines in the north west. and the murder which led to their incarceration at the time .
Justthought you might like to know.

Derek Horwood
22/02/2012, 14:38

Dear Derek – thanks for that information – I must say I was a bit confused as to why Colin and John were shaking out the machines! I can imagine that this could be misconstrued by the authorities.
I do remember the piece about Michael Luvaglio very well. Do you know if he is still around? I know the poor man was very ill and yet still fighting his conviction.

22/02/2012, 20:49

Wonderful story, Johnny Icke charisma as usual!

SW1 London
22/02/2012, 16:46

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