Personal Archivist!

( CLICK on thumbnail to see a larger picture - CLICK anywhere EXCEPT on the larger image to return to this page)

Not many people below the rank of baronet have their personal archivist, but I do. Once a year, as Christmas approaches, a large fat envelope, stuffed with newspaper cuttings, drops on my mat. Retired archivist, Jeremy Godwin, who obviously reads all the northern local papers, has assiduously cut out and referenced any mention of wrestling, and passed them on to me.

The Cumberland News wrestling column, for the last sixty years, week by week, has set out to cover Cumberland and Westmorland Wrestling wherever it happens, but for all the other local papers the coverage of wrestling is more parochial, reflecting local events. The Hexham Courant covered the death of Haltwhistle wrestler, Chris Walton, killed by a freight train in February, but also had a story in June when his friends organised a new bench in the town complete with a remembrance plaque. In November the Courant reported his inquest, including the criticisms of the unlit and unmanned crossing where he died.

On a happier note, boy champion, Paul Murray, who often appears in this column, has had special articles in his local Whitehaven News to recognise some of his special achievements such as retaining his Under 15 Years/8st Championship, and a particularly impressive sally into Scotland when he was unbeaten in two competitions.

The Westmorland Gazette has no regular coverage of wrestling, even though it has top class wrestlers and two academies in its patch, but it gives good coverage of the likes of Grasmere Sports, and has a good photograph of Richard Dixon and his newly won 11st Championship trophy at Killington Sports.

Wrestling's importance as part of the local culture over the centuries is reflected in a number of references in the 'Memory Lane' sections. Oldest of all is in the Westmorland Gazette for 1858 with an account of 'Mr Robert Gordon, sire of the noted wrestlers bearing his name, strewed two cart-loads of foot cocks, turned over the hay and put it up into a big-cock, all in one day' at the age of ninety-five.

The Hexham Courant of 125 years ago reported that a large crowd of spectators watched a wrestling tournament promoted by Hugh Tulip of Half Way House, Prudhoe.

The Whitehaven News has snippets from every twenty-five years over the last century. At Sandwith Sports in 1908 'For boys wrestling, Under 15 Years, resident within six miles of the ground, £1 will be given.' There were also prizes for waltzing and the boy running in the neatest costume. 75 years ago Douglas Clark, the famous Rugby League international and Cumberland and Westmorland wrestler, had turned to all-in wrestling, for he was hoping to set up a training camp at Saltpans, between Maryport and Allonby, to train there for his upcoming fight with the Masked Marvel. Fifty years ago the News reported that 'the question of whether Cumberland and Westmorland wrestlers should be registered like footballers, with their fees to go towards meeting the bill for insurance against injuries in the ring, has been raised.'

Jeremy Godwin also included handwritten notes about wrestling references in the Penrith Herald from a hundred years ago. The gist of these is that Penrith had a wrestling academy which, like that at Carlisle, met for competitions every Saturday evening. Appleby, too, had its own academy, and there were reports on wrestling at many local events: Greenholme School Treat and Gala, Tebay Sports, Warcop Rushbearing, Ravenstonedale Sheepdog Trials, and TebayWomen's Liberal Association's Meeting and Sports.

At Ravenstonedale Joe Bowman made his return to the ring for the first time since his suspension. 'Barneying' (buying and selling falls) had bedevilled the sport, and even at the homely Warcop Rushbearing two wrestlers were caught barneying. The Herald also reported on the measures to sort out the problem when it gave a long and detailed account of a meeting of the recently formed C&W Wrestling Association.

Meanwhile the local magistrates were also doing their bit when they found James Taylor of Kirkoswald, 'locally known as a wrestler,' guilty of drunken fighting.

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

Disclaimer ©2008 Webmaster