Timeline 1900 – 2024

Ras Prince Monolulu and Nellie Adkins

Peter Carl MacKay, aka Ras Prince Monolulu, from St Croix in the Virgin Islands, married Nellie Adkin, from Edmonton, London, at St Pancras register office on 21 August 1931. Monolulu was a well known figure on the British horse racing scene in the 1920s and 1930s and his wedding attracted widespread attention, with photographs of the couple exiting the ceremony appearing in the national press.

Peter Carl MacKay [called Ras Prince Monolulu] (1881–1965), a racing tipster, claimed to have been born in Addis Ababa, Abyssinia, to a chieftain of a Jewish tribe (the truth being that he was born on the island of St Croix, then a Danish colony in the Virgin Islands, the son of William Henry McKay, a shipbuilder). Following being shipwrecked on the Portuguese coast, en route to Africa, he made his way to New York and took a variety of jobs ashore, besides making his ‘Abyssinian’ costume of an embroidered silk jacket and baggy pantaloons, in which he was to dress in England. He then worked his passage on the cattle boat Minnetonka to Tilbury in 1902. Moreover, as ‘Prince Monolulu’ (a manufactured title) and in his remarkable attire, he encountered less colour prejudice in London than he might have done. He worked at first with an Irish tipster and then went into business by himself, adding a plumed headdress to his costume.  Monolulu then travelled to St Petersburg with an American negro show, then on to Moscow and Germany. After joining a circus, he travelled to Italy, southern France, Switzerland, and Belgium, before being sent to Ruhleben prison camp on the outbreak of the First World War. He finally made his way back to London via Denmark in 1919. Monolulu could be found at racing courses throughout the country, dressed in an ostentatious ostrich feather head-dress, a multi-coloured cloak and gaiters, a huge scarf around his waist and his huge shooting stick-cum-umbrella, shouting his catchphrase ‘I Gotta Horse, I Gotta Horse!’ In 1920 Monolulu reputedly won £8,000 on the Derby when he put all his money on an outside horse. It was a vast sum of money at the time and aided him in becoming a professional tipster, charging ten shillings for tips on sure bets. His fame led to brief appearances in two films, Derby Day (1952) and Make Mine a Million (1959). It has been claimed that, unless the American actor Paul Robeson was visiting the country, Monolulu was the most famous black man in Britain.

According to his own testimony, Monolulu married six times though only three marriages are documented. His biographer, Anita McConnell, has attempted to document these.  Monolulu claimed his first marriage took place in 1902 in a Moscow Jewish ceremony and this was followed by a marriage to a German girl in a Catholic ceremony. He claimed that he then met another German girl, whom he brought to England and married in 1908 at Lambeth, this wife dying in 1911. A further verifiable marriage occurred in 1922 at St Martin’s register office, London, to Rhoda Mary but was dissolved in April 1929. He next married, at St Pancras register office on 21 August 1931, Nellie Amelia (b. 1908/9) of Edmonton, the daughter of Edward Adkins, a helmet maker. It was this interracial marriage and wedding that attracted much more widespread publicity than the others as Monolulu was now well known and photographs appeared in the national press: the picture shown of the newly married couple is from an original in the National Portrait Gallery. This marriage also broke down and there were further romantic liaisons in the 1950s. Monolulu’s colourful personality brought him many appearances on the radio and TV and, when he arrived in New York in 1951 for the fight between Ray Robinson and Randolph Turpin, the New York Times described him as ‘this 6-ft Ethiopian in his plumes and red jacket adorned with green shamrock, star of David … round his neck a lion’s claw, a real horseshoe, and binoculars’.

Monolulu died in 1965 at the age of 84.