some BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES OF 20th century wrestlers - Gilpin bland

Gilpin is rated as one of the greatest Cumberland and Westmorland wrestlers of all time. Between the years 1919 and 1938, Gilpin won the World Heavyweight Cham-pionship twice, the 11 stone Championship 4 times and the 11st Gras-mere Championship 6 times. This was an outstanding achievement at any time, but more so in an era when there were many more competitors and the standard of wrestling was very high. Other wrestlers have won more Champion- ships, but very few can claim to be so highly regarded amongst their peers. At first, with only a bicycle for transport, he was limited to local sports events and shows around the Kirkby Lonsdale area. Following his successes, he bought a motor bike which gave him the freedom to travel further afield. Throughout this period he honed his wrestling skills with the help of his good friends, the Hayhurst brothers from Milton near Milnthorpe. Gilpin was the first to admit that the experience gained wrestling with the Hayhursts played a very large part in improving and perfecting his talent. His first appearances at Grasmere in 1919, brought him - in his own words, "two firsts at the wrong end't . He was felled in the first round in both events. But as he started winning, he did it in style. The next 2 years saw much improvement, but he was beaten in the 1922 heavyweight final by Dougie Clark. In 1923 he won the 11 stone event at Grasmere, came second to Bill Knowles in the Heavyweight competition and also won the Heavyweight World Championship at Bowness, where he had his revenge on Clark by defeating him in the 2nd round. In 1924, he repeated his success by again winning the Grasmere 11 stone event. He also had his revenge on Knowles by defeating him at Pooley Bridge in the 5th round of the Heavyweight World Championship, before going on to beat J. Liddle in the final. Clark and Knowles were undoubtedly the outstanding heavyweights of that era, and they dominated the wrestling ring for many years. As an 11 stone wrestler, Gilpin Bland's level of success against these top heavyweights was nothing short of remarkable. After completing a hat trick of wins in the 11 stones at Grasmere in 1933, 1934 and 1935, he retired from wrestling, but in 1938 he attended Grasmere as a spectator, only to find that he had been entered in the 11 stones by his brother-in-law. Gilpin turned out and won. Exactly the same thing happened a week later at the Ullswater Sports at Pooley Bridge, when Gilpin again won the 11 stones, before finally retiring at the age of 39. His legacy is that of an outstanding sportsman, a modest man who, to quote a newspaper of the day -

'...... was one the finest sportsmen who ever entered a wrestling ring. During the whole of his career, I never heard him dispute a judge's decision once, always taking any defeats as a gentleman and a sportsman'.

In an obituary written by the Grasmere Wrestling Manager, Roger Robson says -

'For several years past at Grasmere Sports, a slightly built man in a blue suit, cloth cap and glasses could be seen sitting on a bench in front of the pavilion. There seemed nothing exceptional about his appearance. But every wrestler stopped to have a word, for this was Gilpin Bland, one of the most famous wrestlers of the century. My father tells of seeing Gilpin win the 11 stone Championship in a field of more than 100, and then go on to win the Heavyweights with an even larger entry. Here he encountered Douglas Clark, whose usual tactic with lighter men, was to swing them until they broke hold, but Gilpin did not wait. He turned under his mighty opponent, 'loaded him right' and brought him over his head with an improvised judo throw'.

Following his retirement from active wrestling, Gilpin Bland acted as a judge at Grasmere for many years, and took great satisfaction from the fact that his five sons continued to win many competitions there. Between them, Gilpin Bland and his five sons have totalled 23 Grasmere wins and 25 World Championships.