D: Eric Day

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Eric Day 

Eric Day was a character. A tough man inside and outside the ring and never one to shirk a fight, in the ring or in the street. A hard, decent man who stood up for what was right and fought unfairness and injustice which led to a leading role in trade unionism.

As far as wrestling was concerned. Eric  was a busy Lancashire post war heavyweight in the north of England who wrestled the likes of Norman Walsh, Jim Hussey, Chic Knight, The Ghoul, Ernest Baldwin and Bill McDonald. These  are big names; Eric mixed it with the best of them. It was a short career, though as he was around for about four years until he disappeared from the circuit in 1952. When his name appeared on the posters Eric was  billed as a Canadian footballer who had come to Britain to play rugby league.  Although a Canadian citizen he was, in fact, born in Britain. Eric Doubleday was born in Salford on 16th December 1920.  

Eric was said to have played professional football in Canada and the USA. Although we have no reason to doubt this we have been unable to find any evidence. He returned  to Britain in the late 1930s to pursue a rugby league career, and  was signed by  Salford Rugby League in 1939. Shortly afterwards the Second World War was declared and Eric served as a Sergeant in the Canadian Military Police. 

Following the conclusion of the war Eric  played over 100 games for his hometown club, Salford, before joining Bradford Northern. The Bradford Club's website reports this was for a record signing fee.

But wrestling was on the cards for Eric. A solid 15 stones and just under six feet tall he pursued wrestling and rugby simultaneously in the late 1940s.

Our first sighting of Eric in the wrestling ring came in 1948, against Harry Pye at the St James Hall, Newcastle. Heritage's Bernard Hughes saw Eric in action and recalls  "A fast moving, rough, tough heavyweight." 

Ron Historyo unearthed a report from Tayside, Scotland of one of Eric's matches in March, 1949, “Ernest Baldwin and Eric Day figured in the best bout of the evening.  It went the full six rounds before ending in draw at one fall each.” Posters  proclaimed “A 23 year old Canadian Football star,” and also capitalised on his growing reputation on the rugby field. (As was common in wrestling the promoters had shaved a few years off his actual age).

Eric disappeared from our wrestling rings in 1952 and soon afterwards departed Britain for New York en-route to Canada where he settled in Ocean Falls, British Columbia. Ocean Falls is a remote community accessible by only boat or seaplane. It is noted for its exceptionally high rainfall with residents nicknamed "Rain People." 

For residents life was hard. Most people worked in the paper mills, were physically cut off from everywhere else and relied for supplies on the sometimes erratic transport links.  Most of the buildings were located on the fairly steep slope of the Caro Marion mountain. A  mudslide in 1965 killed seven of the town's inhabitants.  Eric worked as a carpenter. This was no easy job. It was hard, outdoor work servicing the local roads, most of which were made of timber and winded up the hillside away from the harbour.

Eric  was an active supporter of the local trade union fighting for workers rights in a town where the dominant employer held all the cards. Eric progressed up the union ranks  and elected President of the local union in  February, 1966.. 

Eric was a fiery character outside the ring which led to the ultimate tragedy. An argument with a friend led to an untimely death on 14th December, 1967, just two days short of his 47th birthday. 

Not a long career, nor a particularly significant one. Nevertheless, a colourful character who deserves a place in Britain's wrestling heritage.

Page added: 08/09/2019