Sunday, April 25, 2010

A backwards wager through the Eastern Suburbs

This is from the NZ Herald, 17 October 1928.





An unusual wager was the explanation of a curious spectacle witnessed on the St Heliers Bay Road in the early hours of Sunday morning. A bet had been made that one of a party could not walk backwards from the Remuera train terminus to the St Heliers post office, and the hours after midnight were chosen for the test, when the road would be fairly free of traffic.

Carrying lanterns and electric torches to guide the feet of the man walking backwards, half a dozen persons set off from Remuera about midnight on their strange and slow pilgrimage. The man who took up the wager was clad in golf stockings and riding breeches for the occasion, and was addressed as William Henry, or, more often, as just Henry. He had apparently appointed an official navigator, who advised him as to his direction. The navigator would from time to time order Henry to keep more to the right or to the left, as the case demanded.

Fair progress was made and the Public Works camp at Purewa was reached at 2 a.m. But here a hitch arose as to whether the route required by the wager led through Kohimarama or direct to St Heliers. The procession came to a halt opposite the ruins of the old St Thomas' Church, and an impromptu debate sprang up. William Henry took advantage of the interval to refresh himself from a packet of sandwiches, although he complained bitterly that the ham was too salty and the eggs were over-peppery.

The route was finally settled and the procession with its fitful lights moved off into the drizzling rain. No doubt Henry reached his goal, because for a long time the voice of his navigator could be heard, " the right, Henry," or "...steady on, chum," or, "...bear a wee bit to the left."

The curiosity of casual spectators was naturally aroused by the procession, but those concerned would not reveal the amount or conditions of the wager. The speech of more than one, however, proclaimed them as cockneys.

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