Charlie "Red Devil" Glover
If the name Charlie Glover is remembered today, and sadly it’s quite a big if, it’s most likely by those who knew his son, Leon Arras, had a dad who was a wrestler. Leon, otherwise Brian Glover, school teacher, actor and professional wrestler, was the son of Charlie Glover, a top wrestler of the 1930s with a little known name.
The name Charlie Glover may not be over familiar because for most of his career his identity was hidden behind the mask of The Red Devil, one of the few career masked men of the 1930s. Not only was Charlie successful in boxing and wrestling he was a most influential sportsman in his home town of Barnsley, guiding dozens of young boxers and wrestlers over the years.
Born in Newcastle under Lyme, Staffordshire, on 23rd April, 1890, Charlie moved to Barnsley whilst a child. We have found reports of him boxing as early as 1910 and as late as 1924, and the website boxinghistory.org.uk records 35 professional fights. A boxer named Roland Todd was reported to be in training at Charlie’s Gym in Barnsley in 1925, that’s our first reference to Charlie’s gym. The gym was based at the Lord Nelson Hotel in Shambles Street, Barnsley, In the same year we have found references to Charlie Glover as a boxing promoter. Boxer, trainer, promoter; this boy was obviously going somewhere.
Researching his boxing career we found Charlie to be a prolific competitor, but we were surprised to find an article in the Lancashire Evening Post of 22nd May, 1956, “There was Charlie Glover, self styled pitman’s champion of the North and a lightweight who took part in over 400 contests. A fair percentage of those were for side stakes that reflected confidence in his own prowess.... I recall one period when he won as many as 45 contests in a row.”
For a while Charlie in the early 1930s Charlie lived in Sheffield. It was here that he met Ida with the eventual birth of their son, Brian, on 2nd April, 1934. The family returned to live in Barnsley where they opened a grocer's shop, run by Ida.
Charlie was the kind of man who is nowadays fondly referred to as "a character," a boxer, wrestler, juggler, illusionist and dancer. Highly respected and authoritative, not known to raise his voice, he objected to alcohol and believed in hard work and good manners,
One man who knew Charlie well was Sam Betts, otherwise Dwight J Ingleburgh, “I would never have lived without knowing Charlie. He was a man who parents, troubled by the antics of their wayward sons, might well turn to with a request that he helped take their child ‘in hand.’ "
One such youngster was Gordon Allen, who later wrestled as Pedro the Gypsy. Gordon told us how his father had approached Charlie because, as his dad put it, “I’ve never seen that lad do any work.” Gordon was only twelve at the time, but Charlie instilled a need for hard work; working with weights, working on the mat, increasing his bodyweight, developing strength and skill.
There’s no doubt that Charlie’s first sport was boxing. Boxer, trainer and promoter. Until the opportunity to make a living our of professional wrestling came along that is. With wrestling’s growing popularity in the early 1930s Charlie made his move into the world of wrestling. For reasons that will now remain unknown his identity was to remain hidden.
Charlie Glover was a prolific worker throughout the north and midlands during the 1930s. Billed as The Red Devil, a mystery man from France, he entered the ring wearing a red cloak lined with black silk, red tights and a face concealed by the red mask. He certainly lived up to his name.
Posters proclaimed "The Frankesnstein of the mat. Loves the sight of blood and stops at nothing." Maybe so, but the Red Devil's record was not unblemished, losing on the occasions he faced quality opponents such as Charlie Green. Win or lose the mask remained in place, with the exception of a courtroom appearance when he was charged with assault whilst working as a door man.
Reports illustrate that Charlie Glover was a very rough wrestler, where the referee was never safe, with disqualifications often coming his way. In April, 1940, he defeated another masked man, The Black Owl, who was revealed as Jules Kiki. When one fan called out "He's never seen France," the promoter is said to have responded that the Red Devil had certainly done so, between 1914 and 1918!” Whether or not that's true we don't know, but we do know Charlie Glover served as a Physical Training Instructor during the First World War.
Charlie, The Red Devil was working the rings of northern England by 1933. In December we find him defeating Joe McCoy by two falls to one, “The Red Devil, a picturesque figure clad from shoulder to heel in a close-fitting suit of red wool, with a mask of the same material and colour to hide his identity.”
He was a top performer during the 1930s and continued wrestling until the 1940s. Following his retirement the name Red Devil continued, with protege Sam Betts being one man who used the name, and even wore Charlie’s original costume (photo left).
Another was Eddie Rose. Well, same name but different costume, “When Jack Atherton put me in a mask and called me the Red Devil around 1968 he said Charlie was the one who gave him the idea: Charlie was, according to Jack, the best of the pre-war masked wrestlers.”
Charlie’s gym had moved to Quarry Street when Sam Betts joined shortly after the Second World War. The gym later moved from Quarry Street, to a self built building on an allotment, to a stable at the rear of the Prince William public house in Sackville Street, and finally, around 1956, to the famous Junction Gym, behind the public house of that name.
Sam Betts remembers that Charlie taught primarily boxing, but when the Entertainment Tax was abolished in 1957 his interest turned to wrestling, “It wasn’t easy to make money out of wrestling until the Entertainment tax was abolished. When the tax was abolished everyone wanted to get into wrestling, and Charlie taught us to wrestle.”
A host of famous wrestling names graduated from the Glover school, amongst them Bruno Elrington, Dwight J Ingleburgh, Pedro the Gypsy, Karl Von Kramer and Charlie's son, Leon Arras.
On the wall in the gymnasium was a photograph of dapper Charlie wearing top hat and tails. Having bestowed boxing and wrestling stars on the world for more than thirty years Charlie was again in the national spotlight in December, 1958, when the Daily Mirror devoted a full page to Charlie opening up his gym for businessmen to keep fit, “All this riding around in comfortable cars is very nice,” said Charlie, “but it puts pounds on the waistline ….They’re mostly well off men, but I charge only ten bob a session.”
The gym was his second home, and it was there, the following year, that Charlie collapsed, and died at home later that evening.
Charlie Glover, born 23rd April, 1890, died 1959.