taken from 'NORTH COUNTRY SPORTS AND PASTIMES' published in 1893

harry graham of brigham


HARRY GRAHAM was a clogger by trade, at Brigham, a pleasant but irregularly built village, whose square church tower catches the eye of the passing tourist

between Cockermouth and Workington. Born and bred in the heart of a district which has produced many noted wrestlers, and practising the art from boyhood, Graham possessed rare abilities as an athlete; but was either too indifferent, or else of too petulant a disposition, to take his chance in the ring, like his compeers.

The most famous victory gained by Graham and we know of no other of any moment was the one over Tom Nicholson, in 1811, which goes far to prove him to have been, for his inches and weight, one of the best men West Cumberland has produced. Litt speaks of his having wrestled more matches than any man in the county, but fails to single out any others, wherein Graham was the conqueror, than the two mentioned in this brief notice.

Harry attended the annual meeting at Carlisle , in 1811, for the first and last time, and competed for the head prize. In the first round, he threw one Thomas Hoodless, said by Litt to be "of some celebrity," but long since forgotten; and in the second round, he came against John Jordan of Great Salkeld, waller, and fairly won the fall, without even going down. For some cause or other, the umpires decided it a dog-fall; and on taking hold a second time, Jordan won. This exasperated Harry's friends, who felt confident his rare science, quickness, and activity, rendered him a match for any man existing.

(Litt speaks unguardedly when he calls Jordan "a noted wrestler from the Penrith side," as there was nothing worthy of note about any of his performances in the ring. Nature had endowed him with a considerable amount of strength, but being almost destitute of science, he had only one mode of dealing with opponents, and that was "just to tew them doon !" One who knew him well, described him as "a greit rammin' sixteen-stean man. creuk't back't, an' varra i fishin' !")

Be this as it may, a match was struck up with Tom Nicholson the taller man by three inches who backed himself for three pounds to two, the best of five falls. Harry lost the first and second.

This made Tom's supporters cock-sure of winning the match. The third was disputable, and decided a dog-fall, although a great majority of the spectators insisted Harry won. The fourth and fifth he gained cleverly. They were then equal, with the dog-fall in dispute. After some squabbling, they began again afresh ; and Harry won the match by scoring first, third, and fourth falls.

Graham's match with William Richardson which he won, and which Litt sets forth as one of some importance was merely the result of a drunken spree at Cockermouth. It took place in a garden belonging to the Old Buck inn. Among the handful of people who witnessed the scene, was John Murgatroyd, at that time a growing youth interested in the sport.

Harry left the locality of his native hills in 1822 and settled in Liverpool , where he brought up a family in a manner which reflected much credit upon himself. When more than sixty years old, he took a voyage to Australia , to join his eldest son, a graduate of Dublin university, who was following the scholastic profession, with a considerable amount of success, at the antipodes.

Graham died in November, 1878, at the venerable age of eighty-eight, and was buried in Shooter's-hill cemetery, near London .