Next week I shall attend the best supported Cumberland and Westmorland wrestling competition of the whole of 2017. One hundred and seventy wrestlers, young and mature, male and female will compete in a myriad of categories. Sadly, or perhaps wonderfully, this event will take place hundreds of miles south of Shap Summit, for I shall be in Quimper, Brittany, for the Breton Backhold Championship, or as they call it “L’Internationaux de Back-hold”.
I once drove all the way in my car to take Russell Housby to compete in the event and we struggled through Breton snowdrifts to get there. This year should be much more convivial and less exhausting, for I shall be hitching a lift with the luxury coach from Rothbury. Thirty-nine people will be on board: twenty-five competitors; of which eighteen are from the Rothbury Club, two from Carlisle and two from Waberthwaite.
They will all attend a training session on the evening of Friday 3rd March in Quimper, and then compete in the big Sports Hall there the next day. In addition, fourteen supporters will be there, too.
Such an outing does wonders for the team spirit of our wrestling, bringing youngsters together in a way that was un-thought of in my youth. It also adds an extra interest and aim for our wrestlers, and widens their horizons.
The other great benefit is the sporting and social contact with the Bretons which is great for its own sake but also adds an extra dimension to our wrestling calendar at the end of August. In 1985 four Breton wrestlers competed here at Dalston Show and Desoglin. Guy Jaouen, the instigator and inspiration for the international competition, felled the mighty Mike Hayton in the final of the Novices. The Breton visitors continued in a haphazard way every year after that, and then Christian Salaun, with his three gifted sons, began a regular and more organised sally each year, sometimes with two mini-bus loads of wrestlers to boost entries at the busiest time of our season.
For many years they camped at my farm for the duration, which was grand when the sun shone, but two soaking wet years, gave them and us pause for thought; Josie Brown, Darren Whitfield and Robin Murray organised roofs over their heads in the following years and that continues to this day. What built up over the years was a mutual benefit society which enhanced the wrestling skills and experience of the wrestlers, boosted our events, and built up a network of friendship and camaraderie.
Thank you, Christian... à bientôt... I’ll see you next week.