some BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES OF 20th century wrestlers

J. T. Richardson

 

I was born on February 23rd 1937 at Laverock Bridge Kendal. I was the youngest of 5 children with 2 brothers and 2 sisters. We also had an evacuee from Tyneside, called Laurie Burns, staying with us during the war. He stayed on with us after the war and played a significant part in my wrestling career.
I attended St. George's Primary School, and then moved to Kendal Grammar School. I was always mad on sport, mainly boxing and rugby which I played at first team level. Throughout all my schooling years, Jonathan Gibson of Burneside was my best mate. Jonathan broke the Juvenile Guides Race record at Grasmere in 1953.
When I was 13 years old, I started wrestling at the newly formed Kendal Wrestling Academy under the tuition of Edgar and Tommy Hayhurst. Tommy was Middleweight Champion at Grasmere in 1932 and 1948. They gave my brother Rob , Laurie and myself a thorough grounding in the art and skills of Cumberland and Westmorland style wrestling. Rob who was much bigger than me, later won the World Championship at 12 stone in 1954, and the World Heavyweight in 1961. Laurie and I were smaller at around 10 stone, and spent hours and hours wrestling what we called 'fast and loose' in neck holds from where every chip in the book can be executed.
After leaving school, I worked on the family farm at Laverock Bridge, and at the age of 21, became a partner along with my father and brother Rob. We started breeding Pedigree Hereford cattle in the 1960's and 1970's. Following my father's death, Rob and I changed over to breeding French Charolais, and Limousin cattle in the 1980's and recently succeeded in breeding the Supreme Limousin Champion at the Royal Agricultural Society's Millenium Show.
The first event I ever won was at Kirkbride Sports when I was 14 years old. My first success at Grasmere came in the 1952 'Centenary Sports', in the Under 16 Boy's event. Laurie incidentally was runner up in the 9½ stone Lightweight event. In 1953 I moved up into the Senior events and won the Lightweight. I did the same in 1954. In 1955, the Lightweight became a 10 stone event, and I won that again the following year, and in 1961, 1963, and 1965 too. The biggest rivals I had at that time were my mate Laurie, whom I beat in the 10 stone finals in 1953 and 1954, and Penrith farmer Geoff Wilson, who beat me in the final of 1957, and later went on to win many more times at Grasmere. I was never VERY excited about winning at Grasmere. At that time we thought it was run by 'Toffs' who were a law unto themselves. In 1958, several wrestlers travelling down from up North, and myself from the South, were held up in the traffic jams on Sports day. We failed to arrive in time for the stipulated 'weighing in', which according to the Grasmere rules, had to be completed 1 hour before any wrestling took place - and the 'weigh in' took place inside a tent! The Wrestling Association rules clearly stated that 'wrestlers should be weighed in within view of the public as they entered the ring'. So, although we were there long before any wrestling took place, we were not allowed to take part. Instead, we were herded into an enclosure, on wet, wooden plank seats, with no protection from the weather, and nowhere to keep our clothes dry.
I found County Sports and Agricultural Shows much more fun. The spectators were much more vocal and more knowledgeable about the nuances of the wrestling bouts. I have been a non smoker all my life, and I only drink socially. Between 1951 an 1967, I won 2 Boy's Championships and 17 Senior Championships ranging from 9½ to 11 stones. I didn't wrestle much after 1967.
Nowadays, I serve on the governing board of the Cumberland and Westmorland Wrestling Association. I married my wife Dorothy, from Longsleddale, Burneside, in 1963, and together we brought up 2 daughters, who now have 3 children of their own - all interested in sports. We still have a family connection with Grasmere. My eldest sister Margaret is married to Tucker Mason, the current 'Bellman’ at Grasmere and an ex heavy weight champion there himself in 1961.
John Bland recalls - ‘He had great knowledge of his opponents, and was very much a counter attacking wrestler. He had a very effective left leg outside stroke, followed by a right side buttock. Another was a left leg back heel followed by somersaulting over the top of his opponent.’