Joseph Hobson Jagger

Monte Carlo or bust!

Pen Drawing of a gaming table of the time

Joseph Hobson Jagger, from the village of Shelf, is reputed to be the man referred to in an old music hall song about a man who broke the bank at Monte Carlo.

" As I walked along the Bois Bologne

With an independent air

You can hear the girls declare

He must be a millionaire.

You can hear them sigh and wish to die

You can see them wink the other eye

At the man who broke the bank at Monte Carlo. "

Jagger was born in September 1830 and was employed as an engineer at Bottomley's Mill in Shelf. In the 1870's he went to Monte Carlo and whilst there, watched the roulette wheels in the Casino. Jagger had a theory that the wheels at certain tables had a tendency to favour particular numbers. With the help of a group of spectators, Jagger put his theory to the test.

He placed his first bet on July 7th 1875 and won a considerable amount of money. The Casino officials were suspicious about Jagger's success and security men were told to keep him under observation.

Joseph realised he was being watched and he made sure that he did not always win. On the second night, Joseph won even more, this time from the same wheel. The Casino authorities decided to outsmart Joseph by changing the wheel. Unfortunately for them, Jagger had anticipated this and somehow had secretly marked the winning cylinder.

Eventually, the management realised that the key to Joseph's success was in the cylinder and they replaced it with a new one. However, over an eight day period, Joseph had succeeded in winning two million old francs which was, at that time, worth about £400,000.

On his return to England, Joseph gave up his job at the mill and invested his money in property at Little Horton, Bradford. Joseph died in 1892 aged 61. When he died, he left £200 for the upkeep of his grave. He is buried at Bethel Church, Shelf.

If you are a Calderdale library member, or using a Calderdale library, why not find out about other historical figures, by searching the online Oxford Dictionary of National Biography .

Simply enter a person's name or a place in the search box. (Note that a search for Halifax is best expressed as Halifax, Yorkshire.) If the 'Library Card Login' box appears, simply enter the word calderdale, followed by your library card number.

See also