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Lobby Lud: continued

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Meanwhile, Lobby himself was causing a stir in Southsea, where he found crowds every bit as keen as those in Brighton. His unwilling doubles had been joined by a handful of what we'd now call Lobby wannabes. Our hero spotted the first of these specimens near Southsea's South Parade Pier. “He went out of his way to look as much like me as possible,” Lobby reports. “Cocking his pipe at the correct angle, and exulting in the turmoil he was creating. Another double, complete with mole and ring - the mole on the wrong side - sat on a side seat, with a huge crowd holding an inquest on him, detail by detail.”
Southsea was followed by a two-day stop in Bournemouth, where even a spell of heavy rain failed to dissuade Lobby's pursuers. Writing up his first day in the town, he seemed to feel the hounds were drawing uncomfortably close, and that the next afternoon's scheduled visit to Bobby's Stores would be his undoing. As things turned out, he never got that far.

Lobby's second day in Bournemouth - Monday, August 15 - began with a visit to Boscombe Pier, where the Gazette had promised he would appear between 10:00am and 11:00am. When he reached the pier, he found only one of its entrance turnstiles working, forcing holidaymakers to enter one by one in a slow, manageable queue. Stationed next to the turnstile was George Rowley, a partner in a Tottenham building firm who was holidaying in Bournemouth with his family, challenging every likely candidate as he passed through.

When he reached Boscombe Pier, Lobby found only one of its entrance turnstiles working

“My rendezvous at Boscombe Pier this morning was too, too, precise,” Lobby reported in the next day's paper. “I didn't stand a chance.” He approached the turnstile just before 10:30am, Rowley duly challenged him with the Gazette's precise form of words, Lobby congratulated him on his find, and that was that. “He smiled a bland £150 smile,” Lobby reports. “We linked arms quietly and strolled on to the pier together through the crowd.” Seconds later, two other hopefuls came up and challenged Lobby , who confessed his identity, but told them they were too late. “We left quietly, my captor and I,” he says. “But I have been told since that the news spread with a lightning flash over the pier, through the crowd at the entrance, along the undercliff promenade and into the town itself.” (13)
Rowley gave the paper his own version of the story in that afternoon's interview. “I followed the daily excitements of your tour in the paper, from Yarmouth onward, day by day, and decided to have a good go at you if you came to Bournemouth,” he told Lobby. “When I saw in the paper this morning that you were to be on Boscombe Pier between ten and eleven, I decided at once to challenge every man of near your height who passed through. There was another fellow opposite me doing the same, but he seemed to get a little tired of tackling everyone.
“At ten o'clock, I first made a thorough search of the pier, to make sure no-one of your description was already on it. When you came along, I had already challenged about half a dozen people. I never troubled about the mole or anything of that sort.”
Asked what he planned to do with the £150 - worth over £6,700 today - Rowley said he planned to fit out the new house he had just built for his family. He confirmed also that Lobby's photograph and description in the paper were both perfectly accurate, and called the whole competition “a very fair and sporting thing”. The Gazette cancelled Lobby's planned visit to Weymouth the next day so that he could stay on in Bournemouth for the mayor's presentation of Rowley's cheque, which was carried out with great fanfare on the pier's bandstand. “I am proud that a Bournemouth visitor won the prize after all the others failed,” Mayor Thwaites told the crowd. “I have always said that invigorating air and delightful surroundings produced clarity of vision, which enabled one to be detected at once.” Mr Hardaker, the Gazette's circulation manager, agreed that Bournemouth's air probably had a lot to do with it. (14)
Anxious to keep the pot boiling, the Gazette announced that Lobby would resume his tour with Wednesday's visit to Torquay, resetting the clock to £50 at that point, moving on to Shrewsbury on Thursday, and Blackpool for Friday and Saturday. A special train, christened The Lobby Lud Express, would run from Euston to Blackpool in the early hours of Saturday morning, depositing London visitors in the north-west resort at 6:25 in the morning, ready for a full day's hunt.
The train was packed when it left Euston, with the passengers equipped for every conceivable weather and carrying enough food to sustain them till the return journey at 11:45 that night. “We crammed every seat on the train,” said the Gazette's man on board. “Hundreds of us, full of vim and resolve.”
Many passengers had dressed up as Lobby Lud for the journey. “I might be mistaken for him, see?” one lookalike explained. “That'll give me a good laugh to begin with, and put the other chap off, knock one competitor out. Then old Lobby'll tumble across me and be so surprised at meeting himself that he'll give himself away!” (15)
Even this optimist could not have guessed that Lobby would have the nerve to meet the hunters' train as it arrived at Blackpool station. This, as Chinn later explained, had been Hardaker's idea. “I pointed out to him the risk that could be, but he was quite prepared for it to happen,” Chinn said. “So this train was due in, and there I met it. On the side of the engine was a big, bold sign 'The Lobby Lud Express'. And actually, as the people got out of that train, they could have challenged me straight away. But I suppose it never occurred to them.”

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