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O: Derek Oldham


Derek Oldham


(Big Mike McGurn)


The Man Who Hospitalised The Ghoul.

For quite a few years the name Derek Oldham was one that intrigued us here at Wrestling Heritage. Why? Because we had records that told of a powerful northern based heavyweight, all 21 stones of him,  with a successful but short career of around five years.   He was advertised as “The Ghoul’s greatest opponent", and there was a report that claimed he had “hospitalised the masked man.” That may well be part of wrestling codology but was surely a sign that this was a man to be taken seriously and worthy of remembrance. 

Derek Oldham wrestled all the big heavyweight names of the time including Charlie Scott, Al Hayes, Dave Armstrong, Jack Atherton and Bill Verna. Two of his most frequent opponents were British Heavyweight Champion Ernie Baldwin and The Ghoul. In December, 1952 he failed to take the British heavyweight title from Ernie Baldwin at Willenhall Baths.  It was clear that Derek Oldham  was a wrestler with a future. And then in 1957, five year after coming on to the scene he suddenly disappeared from our rings. 

What happened to Derek Oldham?

Thanks to Heritage member David Vickers we have some answers. Derek Oldham was born in the Ardwick area of  Manchester in 1932.  As a boy he must have been aware of the wrestling tournaments  at “The Blood Tub,” namely Ardwick Stadium and Belle Vue.  No doubt he was amongst the fans in the 1940s cheering on the great names you read about on Heritage. 

He wrestled part time, working as a joiner and shop fitter during the day.  In 1962 Derek married Hilda Cragg and moved to Openshaw in Manchester.   The mystery of his disappearance was solved when David told us that Derek left Joint Promotions to work for the independents under the name Big Mike McGurn. We found records of Big Mike McGurn, an alleged Canadian lumberjack working for the opposition from 1958 until 1964.  Ron Historyo has helped to establish just how busy a worker Derek Oldham was, under his own name for Joint Promotions and the independents in the north west of England. Putting Derek’s move into context the removal of the Entertainments Tax  had led to a growth in independent promoters in the late 1950s and many wrestlers, including George Kidd, Joe D’Orazio, Paul Lincoln, Danny Flynn and Fred Woolley moved away from Joint Promotions who often paid less than the independents.

On other occasions Derek  worked as a masked man for northern independent promoters using the name  The Great Bula (not to be confused with Charlie Scott, the original Bula), entering the ring wearing a purple cloak and purple mask.  Use of the mask makes it very difficult to precisely pinpoint the time of his last match.

Derek Oldham died in 1996.

Page added 23/6/2019