Dundee's Jim Farrell was a popular light heavyweight of the 1960s, both in singles combat and as tag partner of fellow Scot Tom Dowie. He turned professional in 1962 as wrestling gained popularity throughout Britain. Jim's contests were confined to Scottish venues where he met highly rated visiting sassenachs such as Danny Lynch, Alf Cadman and Ernie Riley. In December, 1964 Jim challenged Wigan's Ernie Riley for the British light heavyweight championship at the Town Hall, Falkirk. Doubtless the fans were behind him to a man but unsurprisingly Jim came off second best against the Lancashire technician and skilled catch wrestler. By travelling further afield Jim Farrell would undoubtedly have become more widely acclaimed. He retired from wrestling in 1971 due to a severe back injury.
Jim's daughter Karen has old us that Jim's actual name was Maurice, who was born in Dundee in 1933. His other passion in life was hillwalking and climbing. He was a very active member of Tayside Mountain Rescue for many years too in fact he was Team Leader for a long time also. Following his retirement from wrestling, Jim went on to become a primary school teacher and subsequently a head teacher. Karen told us she was very proud of the fact that her dad had been a wrestler and remembers being taken as a child to watch him wrestle in Ayr. Jim Farrell died in February 2012.
The pages of Wrestling Heritage may well be filled with names of some long forgotten combatants of the ring.
Hold it right there.
No one reading this page will have forgotten the ever popular Vic Faulkner. Vic, along with older brother Bert Royal, ranks right up there alongside the most easily recalled, and fondly remembered, of British wrestlers – McManus, Logan, Kellett, Pallo, Daddy, Haystacks.The younger of the Royal brothers Vic Faulkner was handsome and immensely popular with fans. He was one of the new breed of acrobatic speed merchants that came onto the scene in the early 1960s, replacing the skilful but slower mat based technicians of the 1950s. Fortunately, the boy could wrestle too. Vic was born in Bolton on 14th July, 1944, turning professional when he was seventeen years old.
Vic was a modern day master of the mat with skills learned from his father, Lew Faulkner, better known as heavyweight wrestler Vic Hessle. Vic supplemented his skill with speed, so much so that he could be tiring to watch. A favourite move was to play “dead” up to the count of nine before springing to his feet and attacking his opponent. Highly predictable after being seen for the millionth time fans loved this ploy, though whether opponents enjoyed being humiliated is another matter. Although he was hugely popular Vic wasn't to everyone's liking, he was just so sickly nice!
Charisma and ability were more than enough; Vic didn't need a championship belt to secure popularity or status. Nevertheless, during his career Vic held both the British Welterweight title and the European Middleweight title; so it wasn't just the fans that liked him. More success came as part of the Royal Brothers tag team with his brother, Bert Royal. For two decades the Royals were one of the top two tag teams in Britain (their only near rivals being McManus and Logan), and certainly the most popular of all teams.
Wolverhampton middleweight worked for the independent promoters in the 1960s and 1970s.
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Bearded Canadian Rod Fenton was a skilful, fast moving exponent of the drop kick in the days when the move was sufficiently novel to excite the fans. He came to Britain as in 1938, already with a few years experience in North American rings as both a wrestler and matchmaker. He was destined to become a major promoter in Arizona and Canada.
In 1938 he was said to have taken part in over four hundred contests. Reports suggest that although Rod was a technically able wrestler who could wrestle as well as the next man he was not averse to turning rough (and seems to have been a bit of a villain back home in North America). Newspapers reported his match with Barnsley's Bert Mansfield was "A typical All-In contest" with Mansfield winning by two submissions to one.
The description of Rod Fenton at Preston is worth a mention. “Direct from the Canadian backwoods. This lumberjack has fought Sherman, Dory Detton and he has also defeated Al Korman, Johnny Dallas etc. The most sensational wrestler to appear in Great Britain. He is the most discussed wrestler at the moment. Don’t fail to see Lumber Jack.”
To say that Jean Ferre’s physique brought gasps from the crowd may well be an exaggeration, but his size was certainly a surprise to fans seeing him for the first time. Those of us old enough probably need little reminding and have vivid recollections of the young French heavyweight who appeared in British rings during the Spring of 1969. André Rousimoff , a Franco Bulgarian, had wrestled in his native land under the French fairy tale character’s name Geant Frerre (The Iron Giant). Joint Promotions missed the point and mangled his name into the Jean Ferre form that took him around Britain on two late sixties tours. This Iron Giant was undeniably big. Standing almost seven feet tall and weighing around twenty-two stones, his physique did nothing for his performance as a wrestler. He was simply too big and cumbersome, but his strength and size did result in considerable success, both in terms of his record and a box office attraction. He honed his skills with winning and losing streaks against Britain’s best.
Fans throughout the country were introduced to the athletic Franco Bulgarian in a televised match against pocket hercules Jim Hussey celebrated on this site in Pocketing A Giant Investment. To his credit Ferre travelled far and wide during his British visits, in contrast to many Continental visitors who limited their appearances to the south of England. Twenty four hours before he knocked out Hussey in St Albans Ferre had overcome Wild Angus, albeit by a disqualification, some 400 miles away in the Town Hall at Paisley in Scotland. The following week he travelled around the south of England (including a defeat of Big Bruno Elrington at the Royal Albert Hall), before heading north again to face Jock Cameron and John Lees in Yorkshire and then southwards again to knock out Wild Angus at the Colston Hall, Bristol. A rare defeat came his way when he ran into kendo Nagasaki at the Victoria Hall, Hanley, on Saturday 7th June, and on the following morning he flew to the Isle of Man to face Ian campbell at the Villa Marina, Douglas, on the Sunday evening.
No one could accuse Jean Ferre of taking it easy.
It was the same story when Ferre returned to Britain in the autumn of the same year. Intriguingly on his second visit Ferre and the promoters seem to have moved away from the careful crafting of an invincible giant. In the Spring the nationwide exposure of knocking out Hussey, swiftly followed by the defeat of Elrington at the Royal Albert Hall, swiftly established the giant as a near invincible force. During the autumn visit that sense of invincibility began to disintegrate with a series of disqualification losses against John Lees, Roy St Clair, Mike Marino, Tibor Szakacs, Gwyn Davies and Andy Robin. Jean Ferre's final appearance in Britain was on 17th December, 1969, when he partnered Britain's own giant, Gargantua, to lose to Albert Wall and Gwyn Davies.
In the United States he later ballooned and changed his name to Andre the Giant to become one of the World’s greatest, until his untimely death in 1993. Thanks to Allan Best for the photo.