SearchES in Local Newspaper Archives


Wednesday, 11th January 7.30pm Carlisle Wrestling Club training at Currock House
Wednesday, 18th January Junior Points Night
at Currock House

For years I have fielded enquiries about former wrestlers and wrestling history. In the past they mainly came through the Cumberland News. Now they come from the CWWA website.

"Hi how many keswick regatta wressling belts are known in existance please from early 19thc thankyou s brown"

"There is a family story that he was World Champion of Cumberland & Westmorland Wrestling some time in the 1920s -1940s"

To have any hope of success, I need a name, a place and an indication of age. Usually my routine response is to head for the index of Roy Lomas's book on 150 years of Grasmere sports, and if there is no mention there, then I simply tell the enquirer that they should look through the archives of local newspapers for the period when their forebear was likely to be wrestling. This is not such a huge task as it seems, for you focus on the years when the subject is in his twenties. The area of search is further cut if you only look at the months of May to September, and only the sports section.

The newspapers have closely followed C & W Wrestling for over two hundred years, so this is a good methodology, and it gives the enquirer ownership of their own research. Sometimes I become more involved, as when a lady from Kent had details of James Scott one of the famous wrestlers of 140 years ago. That led to a visit up North to see the wrestling at Penrith show, and the donation of silver medals and belt buckles to the CWWA.

More recently a granddaughter of JS Robinson made contact and I found myself following my own curiosity to help her queries, for three generations of the Robinson family made their impact on our sport.
My first port of call was to telephone some of the older wrestlers who could remember when Joe Robinson, from South Africa, won the All Weights Championship in 1951. Apparently it was a tale of rivalry and controversy, mainly stoked up by Joe's father JS Robinson. Peter Hunter went one better than hearsay, and lent me a book, "Lancashire (folk-style) Wrestling" by Gary Pollard which, incongruously, had a detailed account of three generations of Robinsons.

I knew also that Bob Horsley, who wrote this column for 29 years after the War, had a file on the family, so I visited the new County Archives in Old Harraby, where the Horsley Papers are lodged. The visit was a revelation, in two ways.
Firstly, the archive facilities are brilliant: no more cramped tables and dust as was the case when they were in Carlisle Castle, and no more pre-ordering of files kept miles away in temporary stores. Within minutes of renewing my reader's ticket I was sitting at a spacious well-lit table with the Robinson Family file in front of me.
The second revelation or reminder was how interested and organised Bob Horsley was, and that was clearly illustrated by the file in front of me.
Jack Robinson won the Barony wrestling in 1883 and at the age of 53 won the CWWA All Weights World Championship in 1913. His son, Joseph Spedding Robinson, also known as "Jack" was 11st World Champion in 1929 and 1930 before going off to South Africa to make his living from wrestling and Judo. He was a larger than life character, given to self-promotion, but he also had the drive to set up a Judo association in South Africa. His sons and daughters were all Judo champions, and Joe especially with his amazing physique was in several films.

All this plethora of detail about four generations of the Robinson family, several letters from J S Robinson to Bob Horsley, and lots of photographs and cuttings, and many shorthand notes which are gobbledygook to me are there in the archives - an enquiry well answered.

Wrestlers and coaches need to make up their minds speedily if they wish to accept the Bretons' invitation to compete in their backhold championships in February. They need to know details this week.

Written by © Roger Robson. Photographs by © Roger Robson, Julian Richardson or Linda Scott (December 8th 2011)

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