The diminutive Irishman could certainly fly around the ring, making him an immediate attraction when he made his debut in the spring of 1967.
With a background in weightlifting and judo he had an unorthodox style and was a very strong man for his size, delighting fans as he got the better of heavier men.
Born in Ireland Jim moved to England, living in Burton upon Trent and later London, learning to wrestle at the YMCA Club on Tottenham Court Road.
For a while he formed a tag partnership with Iron Jaw Joe Murphy, The Shamrocks, which failed to catch the imagination of the paying fans. Jim wrestled mostly in the south of England for Dale Martin Promotions until moving to the independents in the early 1980s.
"The Kerry Leprechaun" popular Irish lightweight Tim Fitzmaurice was the younger brother of Jim Fitzmaurice.
He was a regular worker in the south of England during the 1970s and 1980s, sometimes tagging with brother Jim.
The wrestling fraternity was shocked when Tim Fitzmaurice passed away in December, 2008
The Autograph Hunter
The best wrestler to give you an autograph in my book was Kendo Nagasaki. He would always sign, plus a picture as well. George Gillette would also sign, and also Kendo would shake your hand as long as it was not cold as george Gillette said to me at a wrestling match in Aldershot when they where leaving. And yes kendo and George did shake my hand.
"The Fighting Irishman" Pat Flanagan, real name Winnett Wallingford Watson. He was a Canadian, who was encouraged to come Britain in 1936 by his friend and mentor Whipper Billy Watson, who was also working in Britain at the time. Flanagan wrestled in the UK from 1936 until 1938, returning home as the shadows of war gathered over Europe.
Joe Fletcher was a very strong heavyweight who wrestled quality opponents such as Stan Roberts, Dick Wills, Jack Atherton and Mike Delaney.
George Jackson was the name with which Joe was born and our earliest record of Joe in action was in 1932, losing at Belle Vue, Manchester, to Sam Rabin. Rabin, one of the greatest wrestlers of the 1930s seems to have been one of the most prolific of Joe's opponents, and this itself tells us that Joe was a more than capable wrestler.
By the end of 1932 Joe was billed as Lancashire heavyweight champion, though without a Governing Body such a claim could not be universally recognised.
Joe served in the Royal Air Force during the war, but did manage to keep his career going when leave from the forces permitted. Following the war he resumed his wrestling career and continued until 1950, with post war opponents including Billy Joyce, Vic Hessle, Bill Garnon and Alf Cadman. Joe's family have been in touch with Wrestling Heritage and would like to know more.
Please get in touch if you can provide more information.
Swiss heavyweight Lucien Fleurot made a six week visit to Britain in December and January of 1954-5.
He worked for Joint Promotions and opponents included Jack Pye, Mike Marino, Pat Curry and Tony Mancelli.
Those Were The Days
Many years ago, it must have been in the 40s, the Ideal Skating Rink was the predecessor of the Victoria Hall as the main wrestling venue in Stoke-on-Trent. During a bitterly contested feud between The Red Mask and the Blue Mask which had gone on for ages without spectator intrerest flagging, it was decided that that would wrestle every consecutive night until there was a clearcut winner. It started on a Monday night and ended on the Friday with the Red Mask winning and the Blue Mask unmasking and revealing himself as Bob Silcock.
Memories may disappear into the mists of time but Danny Flynn is someone who should not be forgotten. We watched him in the 1960s in the twilight years of his career, but even then it was clear that here was a class act. We were unaware at the time that Danny had been one of the top welterweights of the late 1940s and 1950s when he was a regular opponent, and oft conqueror of many of the post war names that are still remembered: Mick McManus, Tommy Mann, Vic Coleman, Jack Dempsey, Cliff Belshaw, Alan Colbeck, Bill Howes and Les Kellett.
Danny Flynn took up wrestling in the late 1930s, making his debut at the Ardwick Stadium, Manchester (The Blood Tub as it was known) against Johnny Stafford. In thos early days his wrestling career was combined with his contribution to the war effort. This meant that he was a regular at his local Manchester’s Belle Vue Stadium, which was one of the few in the country to continue with weekly shows during the 1939-45 hostilities.
With the outbreak of peace Flynn took up wrestling full time and was a favourite throughout the north and midlands. He was a skilful wrestler, usually working within the rules but the Irish temperament showing itself on occasions to produce a fiery and all-action style. We understand from colleagues that he was a hard, skilful opponent who could outwrestle most of them, but was always a generous opponent in the ring.
Danny Flynn played as big a part as any in establishing wrestling as a post war spectator sport, and when Joint Promotions were formed in 1952 he continued to find regular work with the newly formed cartel against the big names of the day. The advent of television brought new audiences to wrestling and fame to many. Alas, Danny Flynn was not amongst those chosen for exposure, and we can find only one 1956 televised bout against Frank O’Donnell.
Like so many others Flynn became disillusioned with the way that Joint Promotions organised the business and chose to work for the independents from 1959 onwards. Shortly afterwards he began to promote shows through the North and Scotland in partnership with fellow Salfordian Fred Woolley.
They formed Cape Promotions, one of the biggest independent promoters of the 1960s with regular workers including Mike Marino, Al Hayes, Wild Angus, and a young Johnny Saint, who also put up the ring!
Danny Flynn continued to wrestle and promote until the late 1960s, when he was tragically killed in a car crash returning home from a wrestling engagement.
In a sport that produced larger than life characters the north of England seemed to produce more than it’s fair share.
Enter Grant Foderingham, the West Indian Manchester domiciled wrestler of the 1950s and 1960s.
Foderingham, known as The Black Panther, was a regular feature of Joint Promotions bills, especially in the north and midlands, during the 1950s, opposing men of the stature of Billy Joyce, Jack Beaumont, Geoff Portz and Johnny Allan.
Overlooked by promoters when it came to television bookings Foderingham left Joint Promotions in 1959. Usually billed as Grant Foderingham or Black Panther he was also known as John Grant.
He spent the remainder of his career, which extended into the early 1970s, training a multitude of talented newcomers at his Manchester gym as well as wrestling and promoting on the independent circuit.
PANTHERS GYM by Eddie Rose
Panther's Gym, Crossley House Youth Club, Ashton Old Road, Openshaw, Manchester.
The gym was in the basement and run by Grant Foderingham, the Black Panther. Grant was a Barbadian who worked for Direct Works Department, Manchester Corporation as a joiner. He had enjoyed a very successful career as a heavyweight during the years 1945 - 1965 -ish after a war time career in the RAF. Grant also traded as Unique Promotions of Manchester.
Married to Marilla with a daughter, Annette and lived in Levenshulme, Manchester.
Johnny Saint, Johnny South, Paul Mitchell, Dave Grant, Micky Coen, Brendan Moriaty, Monty Britton, Mark Wayne, Billy Graham, Hill Billy Bert Ellam, Alec Burton, Big Bill Blake, Llew Roberts, Tony Barrie, Mike 'Flash' Jordan, Pete Lindberg, Sugar Ray Francis aka The Zulu, Boston Blackie, Ian Mad Dog Wilson, Jumping JIm Moser, Ken Else, Kevin Cawley, Roy Fortuna, Roy Scott, Alf Margates aka Marquette, Ricky and Norman Mendez, Johnny Clancy, Steve Allan, Chunky Hayes, Pat Curry, George Carpentier, Tiger Delmonte and some who's names escape me (apologies).
The famous & not so famous, the good the bad and definitetly the ugly for sure but a wrestling legacy left behind by a truly athletic and far-sighted Black Panther who founded and maintained the gym for many years to encourage young professional talent in Manchester in the '60s.
Grant had wrestled the biggest and the best over the years - Assirati, Bartelli, Beaumont, Pye, Mitchell, Portz, Mancelli, Marino, the Ghoul, Popopocopolis, Anaconda; a Who's Who of the post-War years. He passed his skills on willingly to those keen enough to learn. Grant had a simple philosophy about wrestling: entertain but do it with skill and flair.
Some made their mark big time like Mike Jordan, Johnny Saint, Sugar Ray Francis, Alf Marquette; many bumped along as journeyman wrestlers providing the grist to many a wrestling bill nation-wide. Some are still working quite actively like Johnny Saint and Ian Wilson both with forty-plus years of wrestling under their respective belts. It was a small gym that had a great impact upon professional wrestling during the Golden Age of our sport and it helped many of us along the road in our chosen sport.