A: Jim Anderson

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Jim Anderson

Also known as The Bat

Jim Anderson was one of Scotland's greatest sportsmen from champion amateur boxer to champion pro wrestler and between times a giant of the Highland Games. He was born in 1908 in Tealing, a village in Angus in eastern Scotland, six miles north of Dundee at the foot of the Sidlaw Hills. With memories fading in the mist of time it's surprising to discover that the achievements and status of this man who topped bills for more than twenty years. Here was a man who could hold his own with the likes of Mike Demitre, Mike Marino and Norman Walsh.

We are fortunate to have one man who did see Jim Anderson in action. "Jim Anderson was a hard Scottish professional,"  according to Bernard Hughes, and Bernard was accustomed to the best at Newcastle's New St James Hall in the 1950s. Bernard's opinion is that Jim could have been a heavyweight champion had he been a bit heavier and taller. Jim certainly had the strength and agility having already established himself as a competitor in boxing, shot putting, hammer throwing, tossing the caber and wrestling before turning professional.  Amongst his greatest successes were breaking his brother Ed's eight year hold on the Dinnie Trophy  by winning  the Aboyne Games in 1936, and winning the Coronation Medal at the Braemar Highland Games. The Aberdeen journal asked the question, "Where his strength comes from, we wonder?"

Amateur success do not provide for life's necessities, so Jim took up professional style wrestling, which was  gaining popularity in the 1930s.  It was his friend and Highland Games rival, George Clark, that inspired Jim to turn professional. He told the Dundee Evening Telegraph that as they competed in the Highland Games he was envious of George then going off to earn money. We have undocumented reports of Jim travelling south and wrestling in London as early as 1932. We can't confirm this, but have confirmed records of him wrestling professionally by 1935. Opponents that year included his friend and rival George Clark, Black Butcher Johnson and Mike Demitre. With opportunities limited in Scotland Jim travelled the country. Down the years he certainly had a range of opponents, from one of the top middleweights, Jack Dale, to the tank-like Anglo Italian Bert Assirati.

By the time Bernard was watching Jim in Newcastle as he had already been around for the  best part of twenty years.  Naturally Jim was a firm favourite at the Caird Hall, Dundee, where George deRelwyskow began promoting in 1933. A victory over Alf Lagren of Methil at  the Caird Hall in April 1938 led to Jim Anderson being crowned British cruiserweight champion. It was a memorable bout by all accounts with  much fine wrestling over six ten minute rounds. The first forty minutes were evenly matched. It was nine minutes into the penultimate round that Lagren was felled by a drop kick which was followed up by a pinfall. Lagren became far more aggressive in the sixth round, Anderson reciprocating and both men being counted on a number of occasions. As the bell ended the match both men were groggy and barely able to stand.

A return championship match the following month was equally exciting, though the result was more decisive. Again the two men were evenly matched but it was Anderson that proved his previous win had been no fluke.

With the outbreak of War in September, 1939, Jim continued to wrestle, albeit in a more limited capacity. During the second world war Jim served in the Royal Air Force stationed near London. Whenever service commitments permitted he continued to wrestle, usually required to travel to northern England where wrestling continued on a weekly basis in Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle and other large towns. 

Following the war a series of matches against Mike Demitre riveted the Dundee fans. Having held World Cruiserweight champion Demitre to a draw  over six ten minute rounds in May a return match for the championship was arranged for 10th June, 1947.  Over six gruelling ten minute rounds Anderson caused many problems for the champion but had to be content with a second draw. Following the match Anderson issued a challenge for a third contest, this time over 90 minutes. The match was arranged, but with the current season coming to a close will not take place until 30th September. It was another marathon, even surpassing their two previous encounters. Eighty-one minutes of wrestling passed before a decisive move was made. Anderson hoisted Demitre on to his shoulders. Demitre wriggled free and in the process jerked Anderson from the ring. Both men were drained of energy after 81 minutes. Demitre rose to his feet at the count of eight whilst Anderson just failed to return to the ring.

The rivalry between Anderson and Demitre continued with wins awarded to both men. We have seen newspaper reports referring to Jim winning the European Cruiserweight championship from Demitre in their 100 minute match in Dundee on 9th November, 1948. This may well have been true but Demitre continued to have recognition also. Without any overall organisation wrestling honours were a law unto themselves.

British Championship success did come his way onn 22nd November, 1949, again at the Caird Hall, when Jim defeated Norman Walsh by a single fall to win the British light heavyweight champiosnhip. The fight went the full fifteen rounds, with the only fall obtained by Anderson in round 12.

1949 was also the year Jim wrestled in Singapore, a popular destination for British wrestlers in the late 1950s. In Singapore he wrestled as the masked man Kid Masque until he was unmasked by King Kong Emile Czaja following a third round defeat at the Great World Stadium on 26th February. 

On his return to Britain Jim resumed a second masked man's identity. The Bat appeared in 1950, with a run of victories that included Karel Istaz, Ernest Baldwin and Jack Beaumont. The anticipation of a match against the established masked man Count Bartelli was cultivated during the year, culminating in  a loser to unmask battle at The Tower in New Brighton on 25th November, 1950. Bartelli unmasked The Bat to reveal the features of Jim Anderson. 

In 1952 Jim moved to Skelmanthorpe, near Huddersfield where he took up duties as the landlord of the Commercial Inn. He continued wrestling until the late 1950s. 

Jim Anderson died suddenly in January, 1988, whilst holidaying in Tenerife.

Page added 06/06/2021

Reviewed 06/02/2022