H: Bill Harrison

'e Wur Wigan. 

'e Wur Reet Gradely.

(Meaning he was from Wigan and very good indeed)

Bill Harrison

The Lancashire town of Wigan is famous for wrestling, coal mining and Uncle Joe's Mint Balls (with apologies to fans of rugby, Northern Soul, and the multitude of entertainers hailing from the town). 

Bill Harrison was born in Wigan, three miles east of the centre in Hindley to be precise, and shared his time between wrestling and working down the coal pit. Born on 27th August, 1927, in a town steeped in wrestling heritage Bill was brought up learning of the exploits of Wiganites Jack Pye,  Harold Angus and Charlie Green who had left the town and were making money in a sport in which the men of Wigan excelled. 

Life was hard in the 1930s, and nowhere was it harder than in the mining towns of  south Lancashire, a time recorded in George Orwell's Road to Wigan Pier. Cut Bill in half and the words grit and determination would be found running right through him.

Like so many young Wigan lads Bill took up wrestling. There were no grand ideas in Wigan. The sport was there to make money. The words wrestling and  professionalism   had been linked together for a century. As he learned the business alongside Jack Dempsey, Billy Joyce, and Joe Robinson under the tutelage of Billy Riley the plan was always to use his talent as a source of income. 

In 1947 he turned professional. Things did not all go to plan and shortly afterwards Bill joined the army and left Wigan. He joined The Middlesex Regiment (Duke of Cambridge's Own) and was based at the Inglis Barracks in Mill Hill, London. Army life didn’t put paid to his wrestling ambitions. He was made of sterner stuff than that.

In the army Bill pursued another of his sporting interests, boxing, whilst continuing to wrestle professionally for Dale Martin Promotions.  It wasn't long, though, before he was travelling further afield when, in August 1950, Bill's regiment was called to serve in the Korean War as part of 27th British Commonwealth Brigade. Injured in combat Bill was discharged from the army and returned home. 

When recovered Bill returned to the ring, with top rated opponents in the early 1950s that included Granville Lawrence, Fred Unwin, Stan Stone and Vic Coleman. 

Bill  returned to Lancashire and worked at Bickershaw Colliery in Leigh. Tragedy struck on October 10th, 1959. An accident at Bickershaw Colliery left five miners dead. Bill was one of the fortunate ones who escaped with his life. 

The mental scars took their toll and Bill didn't return to the mine again. He did continue to wrestle, now mainly in the north, but the physical demands became increasingly great and he retired from the ring in 1963.

Bill Harrison died on October 27th 1996, aged 69.