None of our Wrestlers in Brittany this week for their Backhold Championships

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No wrestlers from our area will be in Brittany this week-end for their Backhold Championships. This is particularly disappointing in view of popularity of the trip in the past few years with big batches of wrestlers travelling by coach to compete. There are young wrestlers who wished to take part, but the problem lay in finding an adult able to lead the group. We may be long in tradition, but we are also short of man-power.

The Breton Backhold Championships originally arose from the usage of our wrestling style in the training of beginners in schools in Brittany . Cumberland and Westmorland Wrestling is significantly simpler than the Breton style and was used to develop a feel for the sport before moving on to Gouren, with its complications and technicalities. At first there was very little participation by our wrestlers. I remember travelling with Russell Housby as the only representatives of our region to a snowy, slippery Brittany . Then the Milnthorpe Academy, with David Parsons in charge, took up the mantle for a year or two. Three years ago so many wrestlers wanted to compete that I organised a coach. Last year, the Northumbrians under Darren Whitfield went, en masse, and swept up wrestlers from other academies en route with their luxury coach. We had so many wrestlers that the huge Rocher Tremblant (trembling rock) at Huelgoat was moved as never before. Our wrestlers always did well and many returned year by year. This time work commitments prevented David Parsons and Darren Whitfield from taking charge and no-one else has come forward.

Ted Dunglinson and trophiesFor most of the Twentieth Century Cumberland and Westmorland Wrestling was a parochial affair, popular in its own area, but separate from the rest of the world. In my youth, the nearest I had to international competition was to don a kilt and wrestle at Braemar Highland Games.

Then in the early seventies Ted Dunglinson persuaded a group of us to travel to Cornwall, surely the other side of the world, to wrestle in the Cornish style: loose canvas jackets, interminable bouts and total exhaustion. Only in 1985, again inspired by Ted Dunglinson, did we become truly international and became founder members of the International Federation of Celtic Wrestling. Since then our wrestlers have competed in Iceland, Holland, Scotland, Ireland, Brittany, Spain, Austria, Sardinia and the Canary Islands.

Although we have failed to send anyone to Brittany this week-end, the international connection is not redundant. At Easter, a team of young wrestlers from the North will be taking part in the European Espoirs Championships at St Brieuc in Brittany. In preparation for that event there are weekly training sessions at Currock House, Carlisle, the home of Carlisle Wrestling Club, under Alan Jones, David Atkinson and Andrew Carlile. The training is not a secret affair, so if anyone wanted to watch the young wrestlers being prepared for the international, they would be welcome to watch 2pm to 4pm on Sunday in the Gym at Currock House.

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

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