D: Jack Dale

Jack Dale

Every wrestling fan of the post war years had heard of Jack Dale. For most of them he was known as one of the founders and director of the leading wrestling promoter, Dale Martin Promotions. Most were probably unaware that he had been one of the country's most successful wrestlers.

The name that everyone knew was not the one he had been born with. The name registered at birth was Leonard Abbey and he was the middle son of John and Emma, born in Croydon on 8th August, 1912.

In the years before he began promoting wrestling Jack Dale was one of Britain's top lighter weight wrestlers. Good enough for the esteemed wrestling historian Charles Mascall to list him one of the world's greatest ever middleweight wrestlers; bettered in Britain only by Billy Riley.

Jack Dale at his best could beat anyone of similar poundage and many that were quite a bit heavier. His skill was supplemented by remarkable strength for one so slight of build, developed by a rigorous weight training routine which he continued long after retiring as a wrestler.

Before he started wrestling Jack was a physical culturalist trainer. But there was wrestling in the air; his father was a boxing and wrestling promoter. Which brings us to a bit of a mystery. Wrestling folklore relates that Leonard Abbey changed his name to Jack Dale for a wrestling promoter one night  when a promoter had advertised a non existent wrestler of that name. Fair enough, but by the time Jack's father, John George Abbey, was killed in a car crash in 1936, he also was known professionally as Jack Dale. It seems very unlikely that father would have taken his son's wrestling name, which leads to the conclusion that wrestling mythology is just that, a myth. When their father was killed in 1936 Len and brother John took over their father's business interests and began promoting boxing and wrestling.

Our earliest evidence of Jack Dale wrestling is 1933. He was soon wrestling far and wide, travelling up and down the country. He was a fast and exciting grappler, known as the “King of the Flying Tackle,” and naming the double wristlock as his favourite hold when feeling less energetic. Bob Archer O’Brien said there was no tougher wrestler. By 1935 Jack Dale was British middleweight champion, a title he was destined to hold for fifteen years,by which time his priority was to develop the potential of the promotional business started by his father.

Jack formed a friendship with another young wrestler, Les Martin. They spotted the potential of professional wrestling as a spectator sport. Their first show was at Beckenham with Jack Dale topping the bill. With little money in reserve a failure at Beckenham would have meant a very quick end to Dale Martin Promotions. Fate stepped forward once again, and success at Beckenham was the start of Britain’s biggest and most influential wrestling promotion business. Len Abbey, known universally as Jack Dale, died in 1991.

Page added 17/04/2022