D: Carver Doone

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Carver Doone

Whilst we have previously questioned some aspects of Atholl Oakeley’s interpretation of wrestling history  we will willingly give him some credit. He was a creative and talented promoter and a major player in the resurgence of British wrestling in the 1930s. He was also the  creator of some of wrestling's greatest characters,  one of whom was Carver Doone. Oakeley was obsessed with Lorna Doone, a novel by Richard Doddridge Blackmore. In “Blue Blood On the Mat” Oakeley writes that he took one look at Jack Baltus and immediately named him after Blackmore's creation, Lorna Doone.

Carver Doone was the stuff of legends. Irrespective of any wrestling skill he may or may not have possessed few names are as evocative as the name given to Jack Baltus. 

Although Oakeley portrays Carver Doone as some invincible monster, “The Frankenstein of Devon,”  though the results we have seen suggest something otherwise. Doone was said to stand seven feet tall, we'd settle on 6'9" max. Doone was a headline act for Oakeley, said to weigh anything up to 29 stones. Certainly a tall, well built man, but no monster, he was well proportioned. It wasn’t just the height or the name that were fictitious. Carver Doone was not from Devon (he was from London), he hadn’t met all the best American wrestlers whilst living there for two years (he may have boxed in America), and we seriously doubt that he was a product of the public school system or had worked on the Stock Exchange. 

Returning from Canada in February, 1932, Carver Doone was quickly seized upon by Oakeley and persuaded to ready himself for life as a professional wrestler. Not too much readiness it seems as Doone was certainly wrestling in public by July, 1932. His match against Oakeley at Nottingham may well have been his wrestling debut. Oakeley did a good job at making the giant, already heavyweight champion of Devon and Cornwall (more fiction) look almost invincible.

Carver Doone's over-reliance on his size and strength made him something of a novelty and led inevitably to a short career that fizzled out in 1938. Opponents were carefully chosen to allow him to create his monster of the mat persona. Men like Jack Pye, Izzy Van Dutz,  Norman the Butcher,  and Ben Sherman were regular opponents with the qualities of being famous names, less than fully blown heavyweights, and generosity to make him look good. Occasionally other big men of limited ability such as Jumbo Giles and John Bell would be matched with him but put Carver Doone in with a wrestler of Douglas Clark’s calibre and the result was very different. Clark had the strength to lift and toss Doone at will, it taking just thirteen minutes for the champion of Devon and Cornwall to lay battered, bruised and stretched out on the mat face downwards.

Irrespective of wrestling ability, or lack of it,  in the wonderful world of professional wrestling we feel he deserves acknowledgment as one of the top wrestlers of the 1930s.

Carver Doone and Atholl Oakely  by Ray Hulme

I'm off to Exmoor again next month. During my previous visit early on in the summer I bought a copy of Lorna Doone and this time intend to walk up the East Lyn as far as the Doone Valley. I have discovered that just as Sherlock Holmes fans used to walk up and down Baker Street in search of the fictional detective's lodgings, so too do Doone fans roam the landscape between Exmoor and the Bristol Channel seeking out the location of RD Blackmoor's classic tale; and that is turning out to be a tale in it's own right.

The history of old time show business is littered with fake titles. "Count" this, "Sir" that. "Colonels" who never made it to Lance Corporal. Indian "Rajahs" who never ventured east of Mile End and more "Professors" in theatrical digs than in any town of dreaming spires. Naturally the hall of mirrors that is the world of professional wrestling has been home to it's fair share of fake Earls and phony Lords but one, Sir Atholl Oakeley, was the genuine article. Oakeley introduced modern professional wrestling to this country in 1930 and went on to become British Heavyweight Champion and one of the leading promoters. His autobiography, Blue Blood On The Mat, mainly concentrates on the authors involvement in the wrestling business but does mention in passing his interest in Lorna Doone and I believe that as a promoter Oakley once had a wrestler billed as Carver Doone. Quite what Sir Atholl Oakely Bart. was doing in the almost exclusively working class world of grunt and groan is a bit of a mystery. When he retired from the mat game he ran sailing holidays on an old Bristol Channel Pilot Cutter and also tours of Doone country; or at least that's what I have heard. I suppose that compared to the duplicity of the wrestling game, convincing people that Lorna Doone was based on fact was money for old rope.

Now I discover that RD Blackmoore wrote his most famous book just ten minutes walk from where I live. Unfortunately there is no overgrown Gothic mansion to explore but just a dull 1920s development with the only link to the past being a Blackmoore Close and a Doone Road.

So a short break in North Devon, a new found interest in Lorna Doone, my long time fascination with wrestling history and a couple of streets of unassuming 1920s semi-detached, have all come together to reaffirm once again that most profound of philosophical cogitations - the interconnectedness of all things.

Page added 24/01/2021