Christmas cards and Newspaper cuttings

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

Once more my personal archivist, Jeremy Godwin of Penrith, has furnished me with a Christmas card and a packet of newspaper cuttings on wrestling and Belted Galloways taken from regional papers.

The Whitehaven News in particular has a rich seam of anecdote and information in its 'Memory Lane' section which gives snippets from 150, 125, 100, 75, and 50 years ago. Some of the pieces go even further back, such as when a brief obituary in 1881 recalled that George Graham 'came to Whitehaven in October 1838 and took part in the heavy-weight wrestling on Bransty; and though only a tall, lanky young fellow he astonished everyone by the scientific way he grassed his men.'

In 1859 an account of the Whitehaven Races and Wrestling on Harris Moor, is a wonderful example of bored, seen-it-all-before journalism, as the writer deals with the weather, 'the arrangements of the police', the laudable lack of 'roulette and other gambling tables' before dismissively reporting on the action: 'the races were not inferior to those of last year while the wrestling was an improvement on last year'.

The Keswick Reminder journalist in 1884 even went on strike over the wrestling at the Blencathra Lodge of the United Order of Mechanics' Anniversary day: 'It is useless to attempt to give a return of the wrestling, in as much as so many of the contestants entered in false names.'

In any case, you can't believe everything you read in the newspapers: one week you have an authoriative letter full of detail about Pica people and how 'William Branthwaite, who worked at Oatlands Colliery, became the Cumberland and Westmorland 11st Champion at Grasmere Sports in 1945'. Next week a blunt note from Branthwaite's grandson pointed out that he died in 1926 and had won at Grasmere in 1900. Oops!

In 1909 the Wasdale Head News included an account of a challenge match, with a wager of £15 a-side, between Harry Carty of Egremont and Dick Wilson of Wasdale Head. 'There was a large field of about 300 spectators and great excitement was shown in the match' won by Wilson .

A Penrith Herald of February 1909 gives an insight into the deep hold that wrestling had at that time. I knew that Carlisle Academy had popular weekly competitions each winter Saturday, but I had no idea that this entertainment was commonplace in other parts. No fewer than four academies: Penrith, Keswick, North Westmorland and Appleby held similar events all with impressive entries of wrestlers.

After Jack Brown's protracted and eventually successful weight loss immediately prior to the Academy Shield earlier this month, perhaps he should note the ploys of a wrestler at Caldbeck Sports in 1934 who 'found he was overweight for the 12st event. Thereupon he ran around the field, took off his socks and even took out his false teeth. His effort was not in vain as he just succeeded in weighing in.'

Jos PattinsonIn the same year The Hexham Courant reported that Bardon Mill wrestler J. Pattinson won the 11st wrestling championship of Great Britain at the 81st Annual Border Gaames. 75 years later, his grandson Jonjo Pattinson is still keeping the family traditions of wrestling and Hexham style Blackfaced sheep going.

A mere fifty years ago are two cuttings which seem at odds with each other. By the narrowest of margins Bootle defeated Gosforth in an entertaining indoor match at Gosforth. Although Gosforth won two of the three weight divisions, they lost by 28 falls to 26 By contrast, at the AGM of the Wrestling Association, the secretary, Mr J Fisher, expressed concern about the dearth of wrestlers. Wrestlers have found something alse to do, and more to their liking. It would take a very big effort to arrest this downward trend. The crispy crinkle of a handful of notes, to be the possessor of a medal and the temporary holder of a trophy, which should be the pinnacle of ambition, inspires all too few.

The effort continues......

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

Disclaimer ©2008 Webmaster