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A hundred years ago Cumberland and Westmorland Wrestling was a corrupt sport, and had been for many years: “barneying” was rife. My Chambers Dictionary defines the barneying as “(colloquial) a rough noisy quarrel; humbug; a prize-fight”, but everyone in Northern England knew that it meant the fixing the outcome of wrestling events before they took place. The mixture of high prize-money, gambling and general poverty of the working classes led to the situation where only a proportion of the bouts were genuine.

In 1906 all that changed when The Association Governing Cumberland and Westmorland Wrestling now the CWWA, was formed. That means, of course, that 2006 is the CWWA centenary year and plans are afoot to celebrate. A few years ago there was a grand gathering of old and contemporary wrestlers at Shap Wells Hotel, organised by John Richardson. One of the biggest points of interest was a display of photographs which brought back memories for so many of those present. After the recent slide show launching the CD archive of photographs of wrestling in 2005, the question arose: why don't we, produce a CD as an archive of the Wrestling Association's hundred years in business?

Already, as I prepared photographic images for an illustrated talk at Tullie House, I had thought that an historical archive on CD would be a good idea. Then I had mainly been thinking of material from the 19th Century, but the conversation at the slide show changed the focus: we should start backside first with Volume Two: the last hundred years.

"... improbably big flat caps and moustaches"

Right beside me is the sort of photograph which would fit into this project. At Skelton Show ex-champion Bob Millican gave me an old photograph to research. It showed a wrestler with a big trophy, a lady with a long skirt and a big hat, seated gentlemen in bowler hats and the crowd behind in improbably big flat caps and moustaches. In neat writing on the reverse it said “Calthwaite Gala”.

The first part was easy, for at Skelton Show there were plenty of champion wrestlers around to identify the trophy as that now on John Harrington's mantelpiece - the Wrestling Association 12st cup. The second stage was to look in my predecessor Bob Horsley's records of the championships which furnished the information that in 1914 J.G Graham of Haltwhistle felled J. Saul of Aspatria in the final of the 10st World Championship at Calthwaite Gala out of an entry of 27 wrestlers.

The magnificent trophy had a chequered career initially. From 1907 to 1911 it was for the 8½st Championship, but in 1912 it was not awarded when Southwaite Flower Show refused it. From 1913 to 1930, with a gap for the Great War, the cup was allocated to the 10st Championship. Even then men must have been gaining size, for in 1931 the trophy was re-allocated to the 12st Championship, and that is how it has remained. Even more detail is available by searching the sports pages of the local papers for summer 1914

Hidden away

How many similar photographs are hidden away in drawers and attics, when they could be part of a history of Cumberland and Westmorland Wrestling? Anyone with such photographs, who would like to help, should contact me (016974 73559). The photographs would simply be scanned into a computer and then returned.

The CD of photographs of the 2005 Cumberland and Westmorland Wrestling season is now available from me price £7.50 + £1 postage - all profits to the Wrestling Association.

Written by © Roger Robson. Photographs by © Roger Robson, Julian Richardson or Linda Scott (December 14th 2005)

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