WRESTLING HERITAGE

British wrestling history 


Black Jack Mulligan
(Also known as Bearded Black Mulligan, Jack Mulligan, Larry Coulton, Laurie Coulton, and probably a few more variations).

The Tyneside Tearaway

Whether the Master of Ceremonies announced Laurie Coulton, Black Jack Mulligan or any variation of those names wrestling enthusiasts  memories of this tough northerner are usually accompanied by a smile. Laurie, or Black Jack, epitomised the topsy turvy world of wrestling where  talented performers did not always win. Although Laurie said at the time that it was results that counted and he liked to leave the ring a winner it's now a  case of fans trying hard to remember a time they saw him win. But in wrestling, of course, that wasn't of the greatest importance. Success lay in the  wrestlers who we enjoyed watching and sent us home with the feeling of having had a good night out. In that respect Laurie Coulton was a champion.

Wrestling Heritage member Romeo told us, "I loved watching this guy because he was so unselfish. He often put other wrestlers 'over' and was hardworking and entertaining. Detinitely an asset to any Promoter."  "A pure professional," said SaxonWolf, whilst Powerlock, who watched Laurie Coulton many times in his local Newcastle Hall, told us, "He was most certainly one the most trusted of the roster, one of the core,  who could always be relied on to make the 'stars' look good," and WilliamR added "Really enjoyed watching your bouts."

That was the precise point. In professional wrestling it took talented wrestlers to enable the stars to shine. Laurie Coulton was respected by his colleagues as one of the best. With a body building background he joined the wrestlers for a pull around at the gym and took to it very quickly. His wrestling training came at the gym of a Newcastle old timer, Walter McRae. The gym was a primitive place underneath the railway arches in Newcastle city centre. A ring would have been a luxury and training took place on mats with the concrete floor beneath. That concrete floor made learning to fall correctly a matter of some urgency. At the gym Laurie met a man who was to become a life-long friend, Frank Robb.
More skills were learned in Ron Taylor's boxing and wrestling booth at the Newcastle Hoppings Town Moor Fair, alongside Shamus Lannigan, Boy Devlin, and Pat Roach. Even Muhammed Ali stepped between the ropes in 1977.  They were long hours, starting at 11.00am and sometimes working six or more bouts during the day. Working with and without a mask even greater demands were made on Laurie's work rate.

The experience was sufficient to get him regular work in the halls. He turned professional in the mid 1960s, signed by Bradford promoter Norman Morrell, a man who didn't suffer fools. Laurie arrived to find  the name on the poster was not Laurence Coulson, his birth name, but Laurence Coulton.  We discovered him for the first time in October, 1965, losing to Bernard Bradford in his local hall, the St James Hall. Bernard Bradford was a regular opponent in the first few weeks, but very quickly Laurie shared the ring with more experienced men that included Clay Thomson, Lee Sharron and The Red Scorpion.  

For a quarter pf a century he was  the bearded bad boy of the North East, the terror of Tyneside. We could suggest it was the frequency of his losses that led tough rule-bending Lary to scowl and complain, but we guess it was all part of the role he played.

The fans were happy to boo and jeer. One hall where he was always welcome was the St James Hall, Newcastle. This was Laurie's local hall, and when he wasn't wrestling on a Saturday night he could often be found in the audience, usually with his kit and ready to step in should a substitute be required.

A mid carder Laurie never made it to a regular main eventer  We almost feel that would have spoiled everything. One Wednesday night in December, 1971, those fans still awake at 11pm were rewarded with seeing Laurie, billed as Larry Coulton on this occasion, making his television debut against Ray Steele. Promoters had Steele on an upward projectionary at the time and Laurie did his duty.

This was to be the first of more than thirty television appearances, fixing him firmly in the top 100 television wrestlers from 1955 to 1988. Almost all were under the name of Black Jack Mulligan, the name adopted from an established American. Laurie bought the boots, the black cape, grew his hair and beard; he looked the part.  

In the mid 1970s when Max Crabtree took over management of Joint Promotion shows Laurie moved to Leeds and was rewarded with regular work travelling around the country. He was a man to be trusted, as seen by a selection of his tv contests, being the last opponent of George Kidd, wrestling a strong but inexperienced Harvey Smith and helping on his way another rising star, Dynamite Kid.

Laurie left our rings for the last time in 1990, we last find him wrestling Little Prince, losing of course. Wrestling was on the decline and Laurie had enjoyed it through some good years. It was time to hang up the boots.

A man who allowed the stars to shine?

No.  Laurie Coulton was a star.

Page added 09/08/2020