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Joseph Patrick Taylor (1908–1976)

by Malcolm Brown

This article was published:

Joseph Patrick Taylor (1908-1976), casino-operator and gambler, was born on 24 November 1908 in Sydney, son of native-born parents Edmund Barton Taylor, hotel cellarman, and his wife Norah Catherine, née Killalea. As a young man, Joe took up boxing and played Rugby League football; he later managed League teams and boxers, before working as a billposter. On 15 August 1932 at St Pius's Catholic Church, Enmore, he married Edith Anne May Johnson. They had a son before he divorced her on 7 September 1944. At the district registrar's office, Waverley, on 29 September that year he married Elizabeth Watson. By that stage he described himself as a bookmaker and shipwright.

During World War II Taylor became involved with 'Thommo's' two-up school, a series of 'floating' games begun in 1910 by George Joseph Guest, which operated illegally in inner Sydney for decades. In 1949 Taylor reopened Rose's Restaurant, 105 York Street, as the Celebrity Restaurant Club and brought American entertainers to Sydney. His nightclub flourished and in 1954 he opened the Carlisle Club in Kellett Street, Kings Cross, which was similarly successful. He provided illicit casino facilities, mainly for games like baccarat. The clubs were predominantly decorated in red, his favourite colour (he regarded red presents such as ties or socks as lucky). In 1954, when Guest died, Taylor took control of Thommo's.

A 'magnificent, if unflamboyant, gambler at cards, horses or greyhounds', Taylor lived by his belief that 'money is nothing but betting ammunition, and it's not worth having if you can't get the pleasure of giving it to your friends'. He owned racehorses and served on the committee of City Tattersall's Club for more than ten years. In 1962 he had his most famous win when his horse Birthday Card won the Sydney Turf Club's Golden Slipper Stakes. He gave away most of his winnings and lost the rest on another of his horses which ran last in the last race of the day. Bill Waterhouse, the bookmaker, said that Taylor was 'one of the few men in the world who completely doesn't give a damn about money'.

Nicknamed 'The Boss', Taylor was well known to many people, including the radio personality Jack Davey, the State premier (Sir Robert) Askin and the newspaper publisher Ezra Norton. He also associated with major illegal gambling operators, among them Perce Galea, and with more notorious individuals, such as Frederick Charles Anderson and Len McPherson. Police spasmodically raided Thommo's, but many suspected that the raids were staged. In the late 1960s, while Askin was premier and Norman Allan his police commissioner, Sydney's gambling clubs were transformed into fully-fledged casinos.

A widower, Taylor married Patricia Mary Moffit, née Kessey, on 29 September 1971 at the registrar general's office, Sydney. She was a 46-year-old secretary and a divorcee; he gave his occupation as restaurateur. He died of myocardial infarction on 17 August 1976 in Sydney Hospital and was cremated. His wife survived him, as did the son of his first marriage and the two daughters of his second.

Select Bibliography

  • D. Hickie, The Prince and the Premier (Syd, 1985)
  • G. Freeman, George Freeman, an Autobiography (Syd, 1988)
  • Daily Mirror (Sydney), 19, 20 Aug 1976
  • Sun (Sydney), 20 Aug 1976
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 23 Mar 1985.

Citation details

Malcolm Brown, 'Taylor, Joseph Patrick (1908–1976)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 16 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (Melbourne University Press), 2002

View the front pages for Volume 16

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