B: Bob Bannister
“Ladies and Gentleman. In the blue corner …. Robert Retsinnab”
If you're in on the joke you'll have a smile on your face already.
The Master of Ceremonies may have introduced Hungarian Robert Retsinnab, but beneath the dressing gown was Accrington's Bob Bannister. Get the joke? These promoters really were having a laugh at our expense.
Now for the serious bit.
British wrestling in the second half of the Twentieth Century was dependent upon many unsung heroes who ran gymnasiums around the country and trained hundreds of wrestlers who entertained thousands of fans around the country. Spartan conditions in small gymnasiums in sheds, above or behind public houses, or anywhere that cheap rent was available. In Accrington, Lancashire, it was Bob Bannister’s gym that trained, amongst the many, Ian St John, Andreas Svajic, Don Plummer and Mike Agusta (Heritage’s Philip Kenyon).
Wrestling wasn’t Bob’s only sporting interest. He started out as a professional boxer (we’ve uncovered nine matches between 1947 and 1949 and there may be more) and was a lifelong fan of Accrington Stanley football club. Then there was the wrestling.
Bob Bannister was born on 1st October, 1926, the eldest son of Robert and Clara Bannister. Prior to wrestling Bob worked down the pit at Huncoat Colliery, midway between Accrington and Burnley. He was called up as one of the Bevin Boys, young men conscripted to work in Britain's coal mines between December 1943 and March 1948. Almost 48,000 Bevin Boys performed essential, dangerous, and largely unrecognised service in coal mines.
Bob trained youngsters in both boxing and wrestling, at his first gymnasium in Bridge Street behind the Commercial Hotel, later in Argyle Street, and still later at the Central Working Men's Club in Accrington. Leaving school at 14 he worked as a printer’s assistant and later in the local coal pit. Following a pit injury, he became a well-known window cleaner in the family business with his Dad in Accrington. Maybe dad had a hand in that.
Bob wrestled for the independent promoters in the 1960s, trained dozens of youngsters, promoted his own shows at the Ambulance Drill Hall, Accrington, and provided wrestlers for promoters around the country. An unsung hero worthy of celebrating.
Following retirement Bob moved to Middleton, near Morecambe, pursuing an interest in the electric organ.
Bob Bannister died on April 25th, 2008, aged 82.
Page added 30/1/19