Spring heralds our wrestling family's return

ITS April, and the Ospreys have returned to Bassenthwaite Lake... and the tourists will also return in their thousands to watch them from Dodd Wood or the Whinlatter Centre, bringing with them the odd million or two of spending money.

In August, Breton wrestlers will migrate to the paddock next to my house and put their tents up, just as they have for the last 20 years... and thousands of visitors to the likes of Grasmere Sports or Keswick Show will applaud them for their skill and the distance travelled.

The region can function perfectly well without Ospreys and Breton wrestlers, but they add different threads to the rich tapestry that is Cumbria. Of course, wrestling tourism is not a one way street and our wrestlers compete on the Highland Games circuit and on the piled sawdust of Breton wrestling rings, as well as in the formal international championships which take place each year. Over the years firm friendships have developed between wrestlers of different countries because of these sporting links. In the post-War era we were all introspective and a trip over the Cumberland/Northumberland Border counted as an exotic adventure to places where they spoke funny. Ted Dunglinson, the great Heavyweight Champion, changed all that, for he was more outward looking, seeking new wrestling challenges away from his home patch. He regularly and secretly competed under the name of McBride in the Highland Games and in 1970 persuaded some Cumbrian wrestlers to compete in the Cornish wrestling at St Austell. In 1985 he was part of the original initiative to establish the International Federation of Celtic Wrestling which has so widened the horizons of our wrestlers.

Since then our lads have followed wrestling to Iceland, Holland, Scotland, Ireland, Brittany, Spain, The Canary Islands, Austria and Sardinia. Trips abroad are fine, but they serve to remind us how precious our own wrestling heritage is. Holiday times can be tricky when you have to veto your wifes plans for a trip to the Costa Lotta because it clashes with the Cumberland Show.

Local fare is on offer tonight at Dallam Football Pavilion when Milnthorpe Academy will host a Finals Night and Open Competitions at 7.30pm. Open competitions include Under 12, 16 and 18 Years and Seniors at 13st and All Weights

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

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