Mike col­man

The Courier-Mail - QWeekend - - UPFRONT -

It’s amaz­ing what you can stum­ble on to over here. A few weeks back, my wife wan­dered into a lit­tle shop down the road from our house to buy some­thing for the kitchen. On the wall was a photo of Chris­tian, the lion cub fa­mously raised in a flat above a shop by a cou­ple of young Aus­tralian trav­ellers be­fore be­ing re­turned to the wild. Turned out this was the shop.

Then last week, we spot­ted a sign in our neigh­bour­hood say­ing “John Bly An­tiques”. Recog­nis­ing John as the nice man on TV’s An­tiques Road­show who val­ues priceless chairs and side­boards that some lucky bus driver from Toot­ing has in­her­ited from a great aunt, we went in. John wasn’t there, but his son James was, and when he saw me look­ing at an ex­quis­ite ma­hogany ta­ble with a roulette wheel in it, he told me its story. Back in 1907, avid gam­bler Lord Ross­lyn told his friend, King Ed­ward VII, that he’d worked out a sys­tem to break the bank at roulette. Un­for­tu­nately, he said, roulette wheels were al­ways rigged to aid the house so the sys­tem could not be proved. Not so, said the king, who com­mis­sioned Sir Hi­ram Maxim, en­gi­neer and in­ven­tor of the por­ta­ble au­to­matic ma­chine gun, to de­sign and build the per­fect roulette ta­ble. It was set up in an apart­ment in Pic­cadilly in Septem­ber 1908 and for ten days and nights, start­ing with a then-sub­stan­tial bank of £10,000, Lord Ross­lyn man­aged to lose the lot.

The ta­ble, which folds into a card ta­ble on which the king liked to play, has been passed down through gen­er­a­tions of the Maxim fam­ily and is now be­ing sold on the owner’s be­half by James. It in­cludes the orig­i­nal ball, croupier’s rake and the play­ing chips used by Lord Ross­lyn to dis­prove his the­ory. I can per­son­ally vouch that the wheel still spins beau­ti­fully.

It’s been val­ued by Sotheby’s at about £100,000 ( $A184,000 ), which is an­other good thing about the shops around here – it doesn’t cost any­thing to look.

ard postc from

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