P: Chic Purvey
The Tartan Terrier
There was no mistaking Chic Purvey.
A rough, tough middleweight in his trademark tartan trunks; a master of the forearm smash, blindside skulduggery and a nice look of contempt for the paying public.
Only a look, though, because Chic respected the fans and made sure they had an enjoyable night out as they jeered him on his way. He had a bit of a wild look, and wild nature to match; we remember him as a wrestler always on the attack, giving opponents little time to catch their breath.
Born near Pitlochry in 1927 Chic was a friend of lightweight George Kidd who hailed from nearby Dundee. Shortly after the second world war George encouraged Chic, already interested in amateur wrestling and with fairground booth experience, to pursue a professional career.
Kidd took the teenage Scot to Bradford, a journey he himself had made a few years earlier, where he was introduced to wrestler promoter Norman Morrell and Les Kellett. Kidd, Morrell and Kellett were to become influential tutors of the young Purvey, though their styles were nothing like that which was to be adopted by the young Scot.
In 1948 Chic Purvey was given the opportunity to turn professional by promoter Morrell. Les Kellett was an early opponent, and within a year Chic was working regularly throughout the north and midlands, facing the likes of Mike Delaney, Cliff Beaumont and Danny Flynn. His style wasn't just popular with fans, but with promoters also.
Initially working for Morrell he was soon taken on by Wryton Promotions and began travelling into the midlands, followed in early 1950 with his first venture into southern rings working for Dale Martin Promotions. It was on one of those southern sojourns, at Chelmsford in Essex in March 1950 Chic partnered Cyril Knowles in a tag match and defeated a team of two other youngsters, Mick McManus and Bob Archer O’Brien. 1948 was the start of a thirty year for this full time career professional.
By 1952 wins over Jack Dempsey, Cliff Beaumont, Alan Colbeck and Johnny Stead established Chic as a force to be reckoned with. Now wrestling full time and covering the length and breadth of the country the biggest match of his career to date came in December, 1953, when he faced (and lost to) Cypriot Chris Londos in front of more than five thousand fans at the Royal Albert Hall. Make no mistake, Londos was no easy opponent, he was back at the Royal Albert Hall the following month and beat Jack Dempsey. A few weeks later another career highlight, on Boxing Day 1953, when he failed to wrest the European middleweight championship from Belgian Fernand Bawin.
Just five years after turning professional, and still in his mid twenties, Chic Purvey had established himself as one of Britain's top middleweights. An opportunity to take the British middleweight championship from Frankie Hughes, at Willenhall in February, 1954, again ended in disappointment. He came close enough to earn a return contest two months later but again this ended in disappointment with Frankie Hughes declared the winner.
By now championship contests seemed to be coming along thick and fast, with British heavy middleweight champion Eric Taylor also fending off the aggressive and clever Scot. A second billing at the Royal Albert Hall, in December 1955, resulted in further disappointment with a loss to Young Milo.
That aggressive style and unpredictable nature made Chic one of the more exciting wrestlers of the 1950s and 1960s; a man who fans loved to see on the bill, and loved to boo and jeer. With professional wrestling introduced to television audiences Chic was one of the first to appear in the small screen, facing Gorilla Reg Ray at Lime Grove in a broadcast of 17th April, 1956.
He was back on television a few months later against Martin Conroy, and shortly afterwards faced Mick McManus for the first time on television. In November 1960 Chic defeated Mr TV himself, Jackie Pallo, on television in Huddersfield. Chic was to appear on television around forty times, his final appearance being a tag match with his long time partner Ted Hannon against the Royal brothers in April 1969.
A long rivalry with Manchester's Tommy Mann was a feature of the wrestling landscape in the first half of the 1960s. Chic's first attempt to take Mann's British middleweight title came in January 1960, but ended in failure. With victories over Mann in non title contests Chic's championship aspirations seemed as far away as ever until things began to look up in March 1961. In a championship contest in Glasgow the Scot held Mann to a fifteen round draw. It was to take nine more months, with a couple more unsuccessful attempts, before Chic Purvey had his hand raised in victory as the new British middleweight champion, beating Mann at Belle Vue on 16th December, 1961.
Chic and Tommy Mann exchanged the British title three times in bouts which are now almost legendary in wrestling folklore. Chic, who was at the lighter end of the middleweight division and gave away quite a few pounds, using his more aggressive style on those occasions that he overcame the Mancunian. During the following two years the title passed back and forth between Purvey and Mann, making Chic a three time British champion.
Between times he challenged Alan Colbeck for the European welterweight championship, Rene Ben Chemoul for the world middleweight belt, holding it for five months in 1964, and regularly defended his Scottish middleweight championship. In the Mad Hatter's world of wrestling maybe his greatest recognition came when Dale Martin Promotions provided the opportunity for Chic to notch up a draw with Mick McManus to a draw in front of five thousand screaming Royal Albert Hall fans.
In the mid 1960s northern promoters came up with the idea of team matches. Only one team seemed to really catch the imagination of fans, and that was a Scottish team consisting of a combination of Scots wrestlers that included Ian Campbell and Chic Purvey.
What is clear from the records is that whilst Chic Purvey was deservedly given top of the bill matches he was never consistently given the push by promoters at the time it really mattered. Nonetheless, with career highlights that included championship success, winning the Belle Vue trophy in 1963, television exposure and continental travel Chic Purvey was most definitely an important part of Britain's wrestling landscape in the second half of the twentieth century. Chic is an often overlooked star of post war British wrestling who was added to Personality Parade on the sixteenth anniversary of his death.
Chic Purvey died in November, 1996 at the much too early an age of 69.