My Life with The

WHITBREAD SHIRES

by John Sparks

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  YOU BET

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In 1987 Whitbread was approached by LWT to see if they would supply a lorry dray for a new game show that they were going to put on, the game show had already been shown in Germany and a German brewery had done it with a lorry but not successfully. Whitbread said that they would do it, but would they like a pair of their shire horses and dray instead of a lorry. The TV Company said yes and John Lawless the stable manager was asked to put a team of men and horses together.

Ray Charlesworth the deputy manager was put in charge of the men who were to jack the dray up and lower it onto four pint upturned glasses .The men were John Cook, Bill Sheen, John Sparks and Ray from the stable and Lenny Guy, who serviced the company cars in the garage opposite the stable in Garrett Street, was to clean the wheels with emery cloth and wipe the floor where the glasses were to be put under the wheels, so when the dray was lowered they would be free from dirt and grit that would penetrate the glasses and break them.

John Lawless would drive the dray with the help of Steve Tubbs and Kevin Robertson and the horses would be Pikeman and Musketeer.

The show was to be recorded in December, so for the month before we went over to the wheelwrights shop opposite the stable where we had the Mary Ann dray (which Whitbread had purchased from the Mary Ann Brewery, Jersey in the twenties). The dray with the barrels on weighed over two ton, we had four lorry bottle jacks which would each lift two ton, and a small pipe about eight inches long was put into each jack for handles to pump them up.

WE were told that we would have three and half minutes to lift the dray and lower it on to the glasses and the glasses not break, we practiced three or four times each week, we got the dray up but each time we lowered the dray on to the glasses they would stay for about ten seconds then one would break and the dray would crash to the ground, the week before we were due to go to the studio we were managing to get it to stay on the glasses for twenty seconds.

We went to Shepperton studios on the Tuesday and had a practice but the glasses kept breaking when we run our fingers round the top of the glasses there was a small pimple on the edge which when the dray was lowered the weight and pressure cracked the glass and the dray again crashed to the ground. Someone asked if they had a bar at the studio, they did so we went up and went through dozens of glasses running our fingers round the rims until we found four glasses that were smooth and with no pimples on the edge. On the Wednesday the show was to be recorded, we made our entrance with Pike and Musketeer pulling the dray with John Lawless driving. We all walked into the studio. The horses were taken off by John Lawless, Steve Tubbs and Kevin Robertson. Ray talked to Bruce Forsyth to explain what we were attempting to do and John Cook, Bill Sheen, John Sparks and Len Guy got the dray ready with the jacks in position.

Once Bruce Forsyth had finished talking to Ray we were ready, the audience were asked to bet whether we would do it 60% said we would do it with 40% saying no. On the panel were Anneka Rice, Linford Christie and Windsor Davis who were also asked if we would succeed. Linford Christie said yes, Anneka Rice and Windsor Davis said no.

Bruce Forsyth got us started with the clock ticking away; we each jacked our corner of the dray up enough so that Lenny could clean the floor and the wheels of the dray. After he had placed the glasses under the wheels, Ray said to us are you ready to lower, we each lowered the dray so the wheels touched the glasses, when we all said we had touched with our glass, he then said undo the jack so the glasses would take the weight, the glasses creaked and we pulled the jacks away, it had taken us just 2 min 45 seconds out of the three and half minutes we were allowed. To our surprise it stayed there and we won the trophy

 The team that won the You Bet Trophy
  Ray Charleswoth, Kevin Robertson, Len Guy, John Sparks, Bill Sheen, John Lawless , John Cook and Steve Tubbs