Billy Nichol

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“Tommy and Billy Nichol of Knightslodge” .........The poetic ring of the title appealed to my Junior School mind as my father recounted to me the heroes of his youth in the best traditions of oral history. For twenty years I had the words in my head, but had no idea where Knightslodge was, until I bought some land and found myself a neighbour of Tommy's son Jimmy Nichol who died recently. Tommy Nichol had been a phenomenal wrestler in times of huge entries. Forty-five men entered for the 11st World Championship at Egremont Crab Fair in 1911 when T J Nichol felled J Williams of Kentmere in the final. He won the title twice more before World War I, served in the trenches, and then won the title five more times, the last being in 1926 at Wearhead. As a wrestling judge he made his mark, too. John Williamson of Bootle was puzzled when he was awarded a fall that should not have been his. When he saw Tommy in the pub afterwards, he asked about it. “Well, lad, I was in the trenches with thee father”. At the Cumberland Show, Tom Harrington remembers an opponent hanging on for dear life even though well beaten. “Leave go, man, you were felled a fortnight ago,” said Tommy. His son Jimmy was not in the same league as a wrestler, but Cyril Bragg remembers meeting him in the final of the lightweights at Wigton Show in 1949. All was going well for Cyril till his feet slipped from under him as he tried to hipe. Then Jimmy clinched the decider with the buttock. In 1949, too, he was a member of Carlisle Academy .

A contemporary photograph shows him crouched down at the extreme right of the front row, with an array of champions, Tommy Little, Ted Dunglinson, Billy Bragg, Robert Carter (still a Governing Board Member) and the Carr brothers behind him. Behind them all is the paint peeling off the walls, a symbol of wartime belt tightening. He was part of the groundswell of enthusiasm for wrestling in the Post War years. Always well turned out, he won many costume prizes and was a regular and cheerful competitor in all the sports meetings and shows in the Carlisle area.

Carlisle Academy ground to a halt at the end of the fifties, and the area was without a centre for wrestling training, until Tom Harrington, Ted Dunglinson and I started Carlisle Wrestling Club in 1970. At this week's AGM the Club decided to mark its fortieth birthday with a celebration night on 11 th December. Details are still to be confirmed, but it is planned to have a sentimental slide show and have youngsters demonstrating that the old skills are still well alive, and that girls are stronger than ever before.

The Club's Winter programme starts next week at the slightly earlier time of 7.30pm on Wednesday evening, 13 th October, in the Gym at Currock House.

Only three wrestling events remain this season, and two of them are on Saturday: Wasdale Head Show is one of those events which usually relies on enthusiasts from the crowd. Alwinton Show in Northumberland hos ts the Under 15 Years Championship and early at 1pm. Travel early to avoid rural grid-lock.

Saturday, 9th October 1pm Alwinton Show U10/U13/U15 Ch'ship/U21/11 ½ 14/AW

Wasdale Head

Wednesday, 13th October7.30pm Carlisle Wrestling Club in Currock House Gym.

Written by © Roger Robson. Photographs by © Roger Robson, Julian Richardson or Linda Scott (October 7th 2010)

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