Hugh Rowan – The Final Gamble

Good Morning!

Welcome to a new post here at zoelouisesmithx.com. Today’s post is another piece in my Horse Racing History series. I feel like this may be a shorter one again, but I find these stories so interesting so I have to share!


Hugh Rowan was an Australian born massive gambler in the 1930’s and 1940’s who would bet up to £100,000 very single day, regardless if he won or lost. Norman Pegg, a racing journalist at the time described him as ‘an eccentric who lived by his wits’ as well as suggesting that he ‘must have made lots out of confidence tricks on rich and gullible people’.

Hugh Rowan was a strange character who would pay his West End hotel bill two years ahead and was such a believer in absolute cleanliness that he would have three baths a day, as well as washing himself another four or five times. He often annoyed hotel staff by throwing any soiled clothing like socks and shirts out of his room and into the corridor. He packed his belongings in a clean white pillowcase because he said dirt could not collect in the corners.

Hugh Rowan had no knowledge of racing form, in fact, in his own words he ‘did not know how to read form’. Those who knew him said he rarely watched racing at all, even when he had £50,000 on a horse.

In 1947, things went from bad to worse for Hugh Rowan. The Royal Ascot meeting left him in over £90,000 worth of debt. Within a few days he had settled £60,000 of the debt with various bookmakers, however he had no way of raising the additional £30,000+ so he opted for drastic action instead.

A few years earlier, something similar had happened, where he lost a large amount of money and this resulted in him threatening suicide. He disappeared from the betting and racing scene for a while, with many believing he had in fact, killed himself. However, he burst back on to the scene, as if he had never left and nothing was ever spoke of this incident or what had happened or where he had disappeared to.

This time, he retired to his hotel room where he decided to end it all. Racing journalist Norman Pegg writing ‘he was around 80 years of age, his powers had declined and his money and credit were gone. He sent a note to a friend saying he was going to commit suicide’. Hugh Rowan also spoke to a porter and told him he would be called in five minutes time and to bring something with him to untie knots.

Hugh Rowan’s hotel room door was forced open and he was discovered dead. However, not due to suicide, there was a rope nearby, but not touching him. A later post-mortem examination showed that he had in fact died of heart failure, probably due to the stress of the situation he had landed himself in.


A short one and a little bit of a darker one today, but when I read it, I wanted to share it. The lesson to learn here is that you should never gamble beyond your means. If you are to gamble then keep it sensible and make sure you know when to stop. As cliché as it sounds ‘when the fun stops, stop’. Do not allow money and gambling to push you as far as it did Hugh Rowen.

Thank you for reading and I will see you all on Wednesday evening (07/04/2021) for a brand new post!

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