The racecourse whisky scandal


A little too much racecourse whiskey perhaps?

Apparently today is something called the Melbourne Cup. Unlike those lazy Victorians, we in the Dodgy Perth office are expected to work all day. Anyway, because we will be sneaking off to the Civic Hotel for a lunchtime flutter and drink, we present the local scandal of ‘racecourse whisky’.

Racecourse Whisky was not a nobbled horse. Nor even a nickname for the lovely lady pictured above. Instead, it was low-grade, adulterated liquor sold to the general admission patrons at Ascot.

Half a public health concern, it was also half a joke. People charged with being drunk and disorderly would sometimes claim, “It wasn’t me, your Honour, it was the racecourse whisky.”

There were regular debates about who should run Ascot’s bars, professional publicans or the Western Australian Turf Club. But very little was done to improve the standards of the alcohol served at the course.

For all those who overindulge today, listen to plea from a Belmont racegoer a century ago:

To the Editor

Sir, May I ask a little space in your paper to protest against the class of liquor dispensed to patrons on our leading course at Ascot?

It is scandalous the class of drink served out to customers there. I think the caterer must make it his business to secure all the oldest and unsaleable stock he can manage to get hold of.

Where are the inspectors? I remember once seeing an inspector make the caterer remove a dozen or more bottles from the shelves as unfit to be sold to the public. Still even then I do not think there was a prosecution.

I think it only a fair thing to patrons of the leger that they be protected by the clubs which they patronise. Clubs should see that only the best liquors are on sale and do away with what is now termed ‘racecourse whisky.’

Yours, etc.,
C. D. Lester, 861 Murray Street, Perth, Nov. 16