British wrestling history 

J: Doug Joyce, Harry Joyce and Ken Joyce

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The Joyce Family

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Harry Joyce, the Father

Harry Joyce has been a name familiar to wrestling fans for many years without little actually known. It was common knowledge that Harry was the father of wrestlers Doug and Ken Joyce, had lived in Toronto, Canada for a few years where he opened a gym before returning to Britain in 1936 as a wrestling promoter, bringing with him Whipper Watson and a troupe of Canadian wrestlers. Ron Historyo investigated and reported, "Harry Joyce was born in Welligborough, Northmptonshire in 1898 and married Doris Wilson in 1922. Harry, Doris and seven week old son Ken went to Canada in 1923, travelling third class.The ship was the Montcalm and it sailed Liverpool to Quebec 13th July 1923. Harry stated Canada was to be his residence and he was a Farm Worker.It transpires that he had lived in Canada from 9th April 1920 to 1st December 1921 in Maryfield Saskatchewan. This was before he was married and Doris had not been there until 1923. By the late 1930's Harry lived at Sartoris Road Rushden claiming he was a retired grocer, so young, perhaps making money from wrestling. Pretty sure Harry died in 1965 in Rushden."

On his return to Britain in 1936 Harry occasionally wrestled but was mostly involved in the management of the business. Our member TheWrestlingNick discovered Harry's involvement in wrestling management in Northern Ireland around 1940. Post war Harry became a promoter in Northamptonshire, eventually taking over Devereux Promotions. He was involved in wrestling promoting until his death in 1965.

Doug Joyce (also known as Whipper Wilson)

Doug Joyce was the Canadian-born mid-heavyweight title challenger from Rushden, the rule-bending brother of rule-abiding Ken. He was also mischievously and misleadingly billed also as Whipper Wilson, deliberately to confuse with fellow Canadian world champion Whipper Billy Watson.  One of Doug’s major claims to fame was the time he flew headlong out of the ring in a televised bout only to smash right into Kent Walton causing him to have three stitches in the wound.

Joyce made his professional debut in 1948, closer to the lightweight division in those days than the heavyweight into which he blossomed. Early opponents included Jack Queseck, Pat Kloke, Johnny Lipman and Jim Mellor. 

During the 1950s Doug was a run of the mill light heavyweight until he shaved his head and changed his style. The result was an aggressive whirlwind with the ability to arouse hostile emotions amongst the fans.  He remained a significant figure in British wrestling until the 1970s.

Ken Joyce

Mention of the name Ken Joyce brings to mind one of the most skilled and respected wrestlers who brought credibility to our sport for more than three decades. A master of the counter hold Ken was reputed to have a solution for just about every wrestling hold conceivable. Like most of the lighter men of his class his entire career was spent way down the bill, often opening tournaments to entertain the fans with a bit of wizardry and prepare them for the colour and excitement to come. In other words, a man who deserves more recognition and celebration than many of those who come more readily to mind.

Born in Britain Ken was often associated with Canada because the family emigrated shortly after he was born in April, 1923. The family returned to Britain in 1936 when father Harry brought a group of Canadian wrestlers to Britain, amongst them a young Whipper Billy Watson.  Ken was already a skilled amateur wrestler. Although it has been reported that Ken turned professional in 1941, in Belfast against South African Ronnie Hurst we find find him (and brother Doug) wrestling regularly in Britain from April, 1948, the start of a long association with Dale Martin Promotions. One opponent that soon cropped up in the records, with whom Ken will be forever associated, is Eddie Capelli, with whom he tagged and claimed the European welterweight championship. On other occasions ken tagged with older brother, Doug, though the more aggressive and rugged style of Doug’s made them an incongruous pairing.

In 1959 Ken, along with George Kidd, Joe D’Orazio and Eddie Capelli, deserted Joint Promotions and went to work for the independents. He returned to Joint Promotions at the beginning of 1962 to continue an association that extended into the 1970s as a fine wrestler, and later referee.

Ken continued his involvement in British wrestling as a promoter and head of Devereux Promotions, a first class company started by Herbert Devereux, later taken over by his son Charles. Whilst Devereux strongly stated their credentials as independent promoters for much of their existence they had a close working relationship with Joint Promotions. This arrangement meant that Devereux fans were able to watch both independent and Joint Promotion wrestlers on the same bill, resulting in some extraordinary shows.

Related article: The Haunting in Armchair Corner at www.wrestlingheritage.com