S: Francis St Clair Gregory
Francis St Clair Gregory
It would be a disservice to this great heavyweight to refer to him as the father of two Mountevans stars, which he was. Much fairer to state that he was one of the fathers of modern day professional wrestling.
A man of many talents. Francis Gregory was one of the greatest Cornish wrestling champions of all time. The Daily Mirror of 24th August, 1934, reported that he had won the Cornish style wrestling championship (heavyweight) for the seventh successive year. Simultaneously he was also one of his county's finest rugby union football players, playing for Redruth and his county. And let's not forget a short career as a professional boxer in 1929.
Francis was born in the village of St Wenn. He took up Cornish wrestling whilst working on a farm, and entered his first competition, at Bugle, when he was thirteen years old. He was runner up in the youth competition. It was the start of a long and succesfull Cornish wrestling career. In 1927 Francis was one of a troupe of wrestlers who appeared for two weeks at the London Palladium in a demonstration of Cornish style wrestling. The following year he was a member of the Cornish team that travelled to Brittany to take part in the inaugural Cornu-Breton Inter Celtic championships. He wrestled undefeated in the Cornu-Breton tournaments seven times, four times in Brittany and three times in Cornwall. According to his son, Roy, it was wrestling in the French village of St Clair that led to his professional wrestling name of Francis St Clair Gregory.
In 1934 Francis joined the growing number of sportsmen capitalising on the boom in professional wrestling. His background of wrestling, boxing and rugby gave him a good foundation, and in the West country at least he already had star status.
In 1935, with victories over Gaston Gheveart, Jack Wentworth, Jack Pye, Bill Garnon and the Iron Duke Francis was rewarded with a World Heavyweight Championship challenge. On 5th August, 1935, Gregory was Sherry's challenger for the World Heavyweight Championship at the Penzance Cricket Ground. Referee for the match was erstwhile British champion, Atholl Oakele. In the fifth ten minute round, shortly after Francis had been thrown from the ring and fallen heavily Sherry went on the offensive and Oakeley stopped the contest, Sherry retaining his title.In February, 1938, Francis was given a second chance. Posters described Gregory as “The Perfect wrestler. Clean, classy, clever. A masterpiece”
In August, 1936, there was another watershed moment in Francis Gregory's life. He gave up amateur rugby union, moved to Lancashire and signed for Wigan Rugby League club. Two seasons with Wigan he was then signed by Warrington and in 1939 was capped by England, playing against Wales.
All of this and establishing himself as one of the top professional wrestlers of the 1930s. What a remarkable life. The end of the decade did not, of course, mean the end of Francis Gregory's sporting achievements.
Beginning In the 1940s he was one of the most prolific and successful wrestlers in the Mountevans era. Starting out using the family name of Gregory it was one of the promoters who decided the family name was too plain for the wrestling business and suggested the name St Clair which was a town in Brittany visited by Cornish wrestlers for wrestling tournaments. Francis St Clair Gregory had the honour of appearing in the first televised wrestling show on British television; a bout against Mike Marino on November 9 1955 from West Ham Baths. Other tv opponents included Kiwi Kingston, Billy Two Rivers and Masambula. Francis retired from wrestling in 1963, bestowing to the wrestling world our memories of a great heavyweight and those two sons who were destined to become even more famous than their dad, Roy and Tony St Clair.