T: Eric Turner
Wrestling Heritage A-Z
(Eric Leyland, Laurie Leyland)
At launch in 2007 Wrestling Heritage promised to celebrate all those who played their part in the success of post war professional wrestling, giving credit to unsung and long forgotten players who did their bit and allowed the perceived stars to shine. If anyone has stretched that ambition to it’s limit it must be Eric Turner, a middleweight type from Leyland in Lancashire.
We had watched Eric twice, a few weeks apart in 1967. At Preston Public Hall he wrestled Stoker Brooks and a few weeks later, Casey Pye at Chorley Town Hall, both for Cape Promotions. Recollections of the matches are scant. We remember black tights, an unimpressive physique, know that as local boy Eric came out the winner, and that we were disappointed. Eric failed to impress a local crowd who so much wanted to be impressed, “I could get a Leyland bus under those shoulders,” shouted a ringside fan as the referee counted Eric’s pin of Casey Pye.
Eric’s disappearance from wrestling was mercifully swift, gone but not forgotten at Heritage. Who was he? What became of him? For fifteen years we asked those questions. Progress was painfully slow. Eventually we located a lady who said she had been a neighbour on the Broadfield estate in Leyland, that he sometimes wrestled as Eric Leyland, and she had heard he went to America. Someone else said he had gone to work in the Middle East. Progress of sorts, but then nothing more. We found a couple of Eric Leyland matches, one of them against Jack Dempsey, which still makes us anxious about Eric’s safety.
We did hear that he had been drinking in the British Legion in Leyland, but that must have been over forty years ago. The biggest break came when we heard from a friend of Eric’s, Bruce. After all these years Bruce was keen to share memories of a man who had made an impression,
“Hello to anyone who bathed in the effervescent glow of Eric Turner’s fun personality. Boy oh boy, Eric was 'a piece of work', always with a big grin and a quick quip. When he came into the 'Brazilian Coffee Bar' he lit the place up. Everyone knew and liked Eric. his fund of stories from when he was driving 'heavy-goods', were enthralling to those of us stuck in Leyland as teenage apprentices, and had never been anywhere.
I helped him deliver milk around the Sandy Lane area when he drove an electric-milk truck for Millers milk out of Bamber Bridge. He even let me 'drive' in some quiet streets.
His story of driving a Waggon Wheels” truck through a hedge, as his brakes failed, and climbing out of the wreckage to find the cows feeding on wide-strewn “Waggon Wheels” still makes me smile.
He would have a 'go' at anything, and wrestling was typical of him. Wherever he is, I wish him well as he left warm memories with me.”
Bruce’s stories were supported when our research uncovered a 1961 news report headlined “Scrambled Eggs.” A trailer of an articulated lorry mounted a pavement, demolished a lamp post and distributed four tons of eggs across the Chester Road in Erdington, Birmingham. The driver of the lorry? That’s right, Eric Turner of Leyland.
The next piece of the jigsaw was provided by Heritage member Wryton who provided a photo of a wrestler called Laurie Leyland. Could this be our Eric? Possibly, said wrestler Paul Mitchell, who recalled the wrestler, though thought he was called Eric Brooks. Paul told us that Eric had been trained by Alan Wood, which came as something of a surprise, and believed that by the late 1960s was living in Adlington, a few miles from Alan’s home in Coppull.
The Laurie Leyland name enabled us to make the final, definitive link, they were one and the same person. In 1939 Eric was three years old (born 1st August, 1936) and living with his parents in Chorley, four miles from Leyland and Adlington. So, it looks like he was born in Chorley, moved to Leyland, later Adlington and then goodness knows where.
A twenty year old who earned a crust as a milkman, lorry driver and a bit of wrestling. The link with Alan Wood most likely gave him access to Wryton Promotions and contests with Jack Dempsey, Terry Downs, Colin Joynson and probably a few others.
Whatever happened next we don’t know. If he’s still enjoying life we wish Eric well, and thank him for our enjoyable journey of discovery. We hope he reads this and enjoys his re-discovered fame. Probably more famous now than the night he pinned Crafty Casey.
Page added 08/05/2021