Requests and comments from around the globe

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Requests and comments from around the globe as Roger gives us a glimpse inside his postbag this week.

Connections: last week I had wrestling enquiries by e-mail from Greystoke and Salt Lake City, a letter from a reader in Cheshire, and two personal glimpses into wrestling's past.

At the end of a talk I gave on the history of wrestling at The Langdale Hotel, John Benson sr., who farmed locally, talked quietly about wrestling bouts he had seen before I was born; how, at local wrestling events, competitors would literally throw their hats into the ring to see who would wrestle whom; how a local man had always been able to fell the great Professor Jack Robinson before the latter went off to teach unarmed combat to the South African police, and how the Langdale Valley was full of wrestlers who learned the skills without leaving the valley, without the help of academies and formal coaching.

Contrast that with an e-mail enquiry from Robert Gallimore, Clan Morrison Society, Salt Lake City, Utah: I am trying to locate video footage of Cumberland/ Westmoreland wrestling. The purpose is to provide some examples to use in some clinics we would like to hold promoting what in the USA is referred to as Highland wrestling. The global village has taken over from grass roots culture.

Even on a more local basis, John Benson's grandson, Graham, who showed up so well in the boys' wrestling last year, now travels regularly to train at Kendal Academy, under the tutelage of Joseph Robson (who, by the by, holds the 14st Championship belt, which was presented by Professor Jack Robinson of Johannesburg in 1951). And by way of this web site came the following enquiry: Is there a local club near Penrith. I live in Greystoke? Good wrestling mats, good coaches and a good car are now the key to wrestling's future.

My talk at the Langdale Hotel threw up another glimpse into the past when a member of the audience asked whether I knew Mervyn Sewell. Mervyn Sewell: who lives two miles from here, wrestling mentor of Tom Harrington, wrote for the papers after the War, organised Carlisle Academy in its post-War hey-day, fellow auditor and Governing Board Member, colleague at Trinity School?Yes, I said, I know Mervyn.

Jack Bromily, from Formby, Lancs, had been a fellow student in Manchester in 1944, and recalled being used as a sort of wrestling punch-ball for training purposes by Mervyn, who would throw him around despite a big weight disadvantage. The system must have worked for Mervyn Sewell was the 9½ st Grasmere Champion in 1946 when the sports resumed after five-year gap for the War.

A reader in Cheshire went even further back. In response to a previous article about collecting archive material on wrestling John Little of Oxton on The Wirral wrote that My grandfather, John Little was a well known champion 11st wrestler in the period 1886-1896. My brothers and I still have his cups and belts including a rather splendid cup presented at Morpeth Olympic Games and some photographs of him in wrestling garb Also enclosed was a contemporary newspaper article giving all the successes in huge detail of Jack Little of the Crown and Anchor Inn, Scotch Street, A Hero of the Past.

Old trophy collections often end up split up and lost, so it was good to hear of a treasured family collection. For my part I was able to refer the enquirer to photographs of his grandfather in Machell's book of Grasmere Sports where J Little stands alongside the likes of George Steadman and Hexham Clark in the traditional group photograph that always concluded the wrestling programme.

Written by © Roger Robson. Photographs by © Roger Robson, Julian Richardson or Linda Scott (February 10th 2011)

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