Once a year..........

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.................I receive a package of newspaper cuttings from Jeremy Godwin of Penrith, a retired archivist, who seems to read every local newspaper in the North of England and some in Scotland. Whenever he sees the word "wrestling" he must reach for the scissors, then label the scrap of paper with origin and date and file away to send to me when enough has accumulated. The resulting random collection gives an interesting sketch of the sport over the region and over the past century.

From the Penrith-based Herald we learn that two farm servants from Shap in 1906 were wrestling when "John Baty hanked John Newton but could not extract himself and broke his leg" A year later Warcop's new C&W Wrestling Club held its first competition.

The 50 years ago column in November tells of a "landlady of Penrith Pubs over a considerable number of years, Mrs Dinah Proud Heath who died age 67. Prior to her marriage she worked at the Two Lions and told of wrestling matches on the green at the back of the inn".

Much more up-to-date is a brief entry from last November under the heading "Wrestling Night" "Members of Skelton YFC enjoyed a brilliant Night of C&W Wrestling at Carlisle".

In the far South of Cumbria the Westmorland Gazette reported the reintroduction of wrestling to the Grasmere Rushbearing last year, and a week later a full page of the Leisure magazine was devoted to a review of the current situation in wrestling.

The nearby Keswick Reminder in August carried a letter asking for information about an old schoolfriend from the forties whose father, William Knowles, was a champion wrestler. In November a Sandwich Design Competition was won by "The Cumberland Wrestler", a powerful combination of Cumberland sausage, wholegrain mustard mayonnaise, tomato, rocket and red onion, which sounds strong enough to fell anyone.

To the east, the Hexham Courant's Bellingham column looks forward to the local show when "There's also a departure in the strange world of C&W Wrestling, where there will be an open class for lady grapplers." Earlier in the year, is a report of Kirkheaton Show with an excellent photograph of Jack Brown of Haydon Bridge felling Callum Bowman of Barrasford. The Courant, which is a sister paper of The Cumberland News, may only report wrestling occasionally, but on its website it carries a full compliment of my wrestling articles.

In the far west the Times and Star twice focuses on Douglas Clark of Maryport , international Rugby League player, Heavyweight wrestling Champion and war hero. The gist of it is that whilst Clark was one of only 17 players inducted into the Sports Hall of Fame in Manchester and was also honoured in the Imperial War Museum, there was no similar local recognition. That is to be corrected when he is included in Famous Folk trail booklet, and his memorabilia displayed in the Maritime Museum. In November that recognition had moved on, for work was starting on a bust which would be ready in the New Year for display in the new Visitor Centre.

Still in the west The Whitehaven News looks a long way back in their 125 Years Ago column with a report on wrestling at Talkin Tarn: "In the 12 stone wrestling, E Bowness of Frizington went down before I Frear of Distington in the second round and Frear and T Kennedy wrestled out the final falls which were very hollow affairs, Kennedy in the simplest style possible getting both falls". A letter asks for information about Thomas Curran of Cleator Moor, "who was apparently a champion Cumberland Wrestler in the late 19th or early 20th century".

Again in the 125 Years Ago column is an interesting piece of Victorian editorial comment "After a period of eclipse due to the exercising of bargaining rather than athletic power, wrestling is coming back to its own again thanks to the establishment of schools throughout the country. Long may this old county sport flourish; it will be an evil day for Cumberland when her young manhood no longer takes an interest in the fair and manly sport which won and held the devotion of their fathers."

And what about The Cumberland News? Its reports of C&W Wrestling are not an occasional matter. Fifty years ago, living in Alnwick, Northumberland, I used to read Clicker's column every week in the Cumberland News for comprehensive coverage of the sport. The situation has not changed

Written by © Roger Robson. Photographs by © Roger Robson, Julian Richardson or Linda Scott (January 19th 2007)

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