Bill Waterhouse: big bookmaker, certainly controversial

And big rams they were: including Felipe Ysmael, the “Filipino Fireball”, Frank Duval, the “Hong Kong Tiger”, Eddie “The Fireman” Birchley, Perce Galea, Kerry Packer and Peter Huxley, found guilty of fraudulently manipulating $5.2 million from the Rural Bank from which $1.8 million was never accounted for.


Most figured it was his action with Huxley that triggered the Australian Jockey Club to refuse his licence from 1971-73.

“I didn’t get my holiday over Huxley but it was really over Melbourne (and Felipe Ysmael),” he claimed in Australian Penthouse in 1984, related in David Hickie’s Gentlemen Of The Australian Turf.

However it was more a compulsory count than a knock-out. Waterhouse knew Huxley as Peter Hunter and, according to the bookmaker, he ended up owing him $700,000.

Huxley, though, was just another chapter of jousts with authorities and rams of which Ysmael was a trophy.

“He was betting in $100,000s minimum and he had $1 million bet on a horse with me. He made us all very greedy and they shaved my balls. I stole Ysmael from Melbourne bookmakers and got him one out. Ysmael was the daddy of them all. I am no Simon Pure but it was a bum rap.”

Bill Waterhouse at Rosehill in September 2009. He retired as a bookmaker the following year.Credit:Janie Barrett

Waterhouse was also disqualified for having prior knowledge of the Fine Cotton ring-in about which he strenuously denied.

Furthermore he was mentioned in relation to the Big Philou sensation prior to the 1969 Melbourne Cup. “The AJC and the powers at that stage were convinced I was involved with the Big Philou nobbling,” he stressed to Penthouse in dialogue more colourful than his memoirs What Are The Odds.

“But I didn’t even work on the f—ing race. No way I doped that horse.”

‘A ticklish situation’

Normally his demeanour was more in line with his pursuits as a barrister and consul-general for the Kingdom Of Tonga. Also he carried our flag, fielding at Royal Ascot and other British majors 1967-68 using an Aussie betting board which had an edge on the locals chalk on blackboard.

While he ended up shearing most of the flock he couldn’t handle Packer who, he reckoned, owed him over $1 million in SP bets.

“It was a ticklish situation,” Waterhouse disclosed in What Are The Odds. “The bets were unenforceable at law. If the AJC has become aware of how the bets were laid I could have my license cancelled. The tragedy was that not only did the bets not get paid but we also lost Kerry’s business.”

“All Gamblers Die Broke” is a chapter in his book and Birchley, from Southport in Queensland, with a penchant for laying odds on, fulfilled that prophecy. During his punting spree “The Fireman” filled front pages, raging around Sydney betting rings with his shirt stuffed with thousands in cash.

Birchley last made the news cycle in 1980 when caught pinching sausages and other food from a Tweed Heads outlet.

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