A sad loss to wrestling; Bob Clark, its greatest supporter, dies

THE greatest wrestling supporter of all has died.

Bob Clark of Grayrigg was a promising wrestler until the age of twenty when he had a serious accident which damaged his arm and ended his wrestling career. For the remaining seventy-two years of his life he has been a ceaseless advocate for wrestling. At first he and his wife Dorothy "used to go of to the wrestling, and take father". Inevitably they were roped in to help organise events, until Cumberland and Westmorland Wrestling became the focus of their lives. Each year for decades they travelled an average of eight thousand miles to help the sport. They transported wrestlers all round the North of England. Dorothy would run the table with notorious efficiency, while Bob would judge or commentate. After the wrestling was over, their car boot turned into a mobile buffet.

For twenty-five years Bob was President of the Cumberland and Westmorland Wrestling Association. When he stood down in 1999 Jim Bland asked,"How long has it been, Bob?" "Oh, endless," said Bob This ready humour was always to the fore when he had a microphone in his hand and a crowd round a ring. I must have heard his mushroom joke a thousand times, but I still laughed every time. As wrestlers compose themselves between bouts, they often wander about looking at the ground in front of them.

"It's nee good looking for mushrooms theer lad...a's already checked."

One hefty wrestler lay prone after a fall: "My, he's as tall lying down as he is stannin up." The further he was from Grayrigg the stronger his accent seemed to get, but wherever he was he held a crowd in his hand.

His humour was always affectionate, and through all his commentaries shone his love for the sport. I first remember Bob Clark in 1961 when I travelled from Northumberland to compete at his local event, Grayrigg Show. Everything was done to make me feel welcome in a strange country.

My last meeting with Bob was at the Academy Shield competition at Kendal Rugby Club in December when he ignored bad health to be there. Everything Bob did was full of zest and skill: farming, stick-dressing, bowling...but chiefly he will be remembered for a life dedicated to Cumberland and Westmorland Wrestling

Written by © Roger Robson. Photographs by © Roger Robson, Julian Richardson or Linda Scott (May 4th 2011)

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