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Tuesday, 29 July 2014

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Was Saturday afternoon wrestling fixed? Just one of my many queries

Vulcan Park or Vulcan’s Park? Which one is the official name for this Workington recreational facility?

I was asked this recently. And the correct name, since it was officially declared open in 1925, is Vulcan Park – even though, as my enquirer pointed out, most people – myself included – in everyday conversation, have tended to call it Vulcan’s Park and, I suspect, will continue to do so.

Were you once a wrestling fan – one of the countless enthusiasts who plonked themselves in front of the telly on Saturday afternoons, all too many years ago, to watch the exploits of the exponents of grunt and groan and listen to the silken tones of Kent Walton?

I know I was and I can still remember many of their names. Mick McManus, Les Kellett, Kendo Nagasaki, Mal Kirk, Jackie Pallo – to name but a few.

And then, of course, there was Big Daddy, whose real name was Shirley Crabtree.

I was reminded of this when I came across an advert from your local paper, dated February 4, 1961, for All Star Wrestling to be held that day, Saturday, in the Workington Opera House.

You might be old enough to remember that the paper used to come out on Saturdays.

Topping the bill, from Halifax, was the “golden boy of wrestling” – Max Crabtree – Shirley’s brother.

He was up against Londoner, Tommy Holton.

In passing, George Kidd, the most impressive wrestler I’ve ever seen, was also on the bill. Tickets cost 3/-, 5/- and 7/6. It wasn’t a cheap evening.

So was wrestling a regular or an occasional event back in 1961? In the Opera House? Any grappling fans remember?

Just in passing, I used to think that the hysterical antics of some of the women onlookers who yelled and screamed at the “bad boy” wrestlers were plants, put there to liven up the proceedings. I changed my mind after being at a wrestling promotion held in the Princess Hall – sometime back in the 1970s – when a number of otherwise sane and normal local women flocked to the ringside and seemingly went berserk.

Max Crabtree quit the ring and took up management and/or promotion. He was in on the glory days of British wrestling. It’s a pity they killed the Saturday TV programmes. I’ve tried to watch American TV programmes – but they’re not the same. I find them incredibly boring. But then nothing stays the same forever.

I was, along with about 20 others, down at Workington Railway Station last week, waiting to catch the early train to Carlisle.

It was cold, grey and windy. Railway stations everywhere always seem to be windy. But, as I heaved my suitcase down over the bridge, I consoled myself with the thought that I could seek refuge in the platform waiting room.

Wrong! It was locked – with a platform full of fellow shivering passengers. And when I looked for a station clock, I couldn’t see one. No clock down on the platforms – unless it’s cunningly hidden from sight.

I’ve moaned before about the lack of a public clock in the Workington bus station. Further comment is superfluous.

Some time ago I wrote about the game of bowls and wondered if the local West Cumberland version still survived.

I was contacted by members of both the Cockermouth and Workington clubs, both of which run occasional competitions using the old rules.

One Sunday morning, back in July, I accepted an invitation to go down to the Workington club, next to the cricket club, to watch a competition, in which they were using the old rules, and have a chat about the game.

The big difference with the standard flat green game, as I understand it, is that when a player starts an end by throwing the jack, it stays where it is when it comes to rest.

If one of the bowlers, either by default or design, knocks the jack into the ditch, the jack is dead.

It’s an enjoyable game to watch and, no doubt, to play.

Not that I’ve tried it myself. I’d need a great deal of solo practice before venturing forth onto the green.

The season has, of course, finished. But there’s always next year.

I want to end, not for the first time, with a query.

About penny-farthing bicycles.

Does anyone know if anyone local “invented” a part for such a bicycle?

This would be sometime back in the late 19th century. If it is so, someone in the area might know.

But, as I’ve often mentioned before, when delving into the past, there are always more questions than answers.

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