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H: Gerry Hoggarth

Gerry Hoggarth

The Iron man of the Lakes

Events that took place  long ago can easily disappear into the mists of time. Gerry Hoggarth was one of those mostly forgotten names until 2009 and the resourcefulness of Wrestling Heritage member Beancounter. It wasn’t that Gerry wasn’t a significant figure in British wrestling; it was just so long ago.

It was in August, 2009, that Beancounter got in touch with  a query about what he described as an “obscure topic.”  The obscure topic was with regard to one of his local wrestlers, Mick Duffy. Duffy had wrestled on one of the two shows held around 1963 in the Village Hall at Kirkland, near Garstang.. Two further shows were held in 1964. The promoter of the two shows was Gerry G. Hoggarth from Lancaster.  Beancounter then began to research Preston’s Bill Tunney, who he had watched on a show at the Lancaster Kingsway Baths. The promoter, Master of Ceremonies, and referee of that show was Gerry Hoggarth.

Who was Gerry Hoggarth?

Ten years ago we could offer little help other than one reference on the site and a listing of some of Gerry’s matches.  Undeterred Beancounter did what anyone could do, he started asking questions in his local community and visited his local library to consult the newspaper archive. This unearthed more details of the Kirkland show and the next small step, the mother of one of Bernard’s colleagues meeting Gerry Hoggarth in the supermarket! A fine example of how making your interests known, however obscure they may seem, can bring unexpected results from the unlikeliest of places.

Gerry Hoggarth is a name that should be remembered and celebrated. Here was a man who, in April, 1953,  beat champion Jock Ward at the Royal Albert Hall to clinch the British heavyweight championship. Ringsiders paid  30/- to watch that contest, a small fortune.  At the time Gerry, whose muscular physique looked as though he had just stepped out of one of those Charles Atlas adverts, had wrestled professionally for less than  three years, but already he had a wealth of experience against the country's top heavyweights.

The second world war broke out whilst Gerry was in his teens. Rural areas like those in which he lived played a vital role in the war effort by helping to feed the nation during these austere times. Gerry was enrolled to work for the War Agriculture Committee as a tractor driver  ploughing thousands of acres, at busy times of the year for as many as sixteen hours a day.

Gerry took up Cumberland and Westmorland style wrestling as a recreational activity to keep fit, and found success was aided by his enormous strength, a trait that he claims was in his blood.  Uncle Jack was said to be one of the strongest men in the country, not to mention a man reputed to drink his beer out of a bucket! Gerry's strength developed from an early age when he helped his father in the village smithy. The hammer in the smithy weighed 45 lbs and Gerry was wielding it from thirteen years of age.

The village of Gerry's birth was Lindale,  in England's lake district.  A farming village when Gerry was a child, Lindale was  part of Lancashire until 1974 when local Government re-organisation resulted in the village becoming part of Cumbria.

Following the war Gerry married his wife Vera. His interest in wrestling continued  and twenty eight year old Gerry  turned professional shortly after winning the Egremont Fair Cup in the Cumberland and Westmorland wrestling competition in 1950. The Egremont Fair can trace its hisory back to the 13th century and winning the prestigious competition was, quite rightly, one of the highlights of Gerry's life.

Muscular with a 50 inch chest and weighing around 17 stones Gerry was an imposing sight and a formidable opponent from the moment he joined the professional ranks.

For seven years Gerry wrestled around Britain and Europe, winning the European heavyweight title along the way. Initially brought into professional wrestling by Atoll Oakeley who was at the time still trying to revive his pre-war promotional business, it was Oakeley that provided the opportunity for Gerry to challenge for, and win, the British championship.
Gerry was soon taken on to the books of Joint Promotions following their formation in 1952.  Everything was going well for Gerry, wrestling around Britain and abroad, opposing, and often defeating, the best of British heavyweights, including Jim Foy, Ernest Baldwin, Dave Armstrong, Alan Garfield, Jack Pye and Bert Assirati.  

Gerry recalled the only time he faced Assirati and regreted that he was never granted a return contest. It was at the Eldorado Stadium, Leith, on 19th May, 1952, that Gerry faced Assirati. When he took the lead with a third round submission, using an arm and leg lock, Gerry thought he was in with a real chance against the Islington Hercules. Maybe he was, but over-confidence led to Gerry trying to repeat the move in the next round. Assirati was ready for him and turned the tables to win by a knock-out.

With broadcasters showing an interest in the televising of wrestling there was expectation that Gerry could become nationally known as one of the country's top heavyweights. Fate dealt a cruel blow. Abruptly, at the age of  just 35 tragedy struck and Gerry suffered a serious arm injury whilst defending his European title against Mario Matassa. An appalling gash  to his right arm brought Gerry's career effectively to an end in 1959, save for the occasional contest near his home.

Home for Gerry and his wife was always in Cumbria. Following his retirement Gerry and Vera bought a farm at Arkholme, with  5000  hens and a herd of dairy cattle.

Gerry also worked on Morecambe's Central Pier and in holiday camps on the Lancashire coast. The photo show Gerry performing one of his strongarm entertainment feats  lifting holidaymaker at the Pontins holiday camp in Blackpool.

Injury did not diminish Gerry's involvement in wrestling and in the 1960s he could be found as a referee, Master of Ceremonies or promoter in the north of England.

Long after retirement fitness remained high on Gerry's list of priorities, with a daily training regime well into his eighties. Now in his nineties Gerry still likes to keep active and can  be found out most days walking in the countryside he loves near to his home.

Gerry remained healthy and active until close to the time of his death on 14th August, 2019.

We thank Heritage member Beancounter for bringing the career of Gerry Hoggarth to the attention of Wrestling Heritage readers.