G: Mitchell Gill
Wrestling Heritage member John Webster is the nephew of one of Britain's great pre-war pioneers, Mitchell Gill. John embarked on a journey of detection, and invites us to share his discoveries........
Mitchell Gill born 1908 weighing 16lbs 3oz in Bradford, West Yorkshire to Alfred and Grace Gill; his Father a Haulier and Furniture Removal owner married Grace, the daughter of Jeremiah Green, a Silsden Timber merchant who employed over 180 men in his National tree felling business.
Mitchell, the eldest of three children, his sister Dorothy, the, author's Mother and his brother Leonard who later took over their Father's business- here part of the Wrestling story begins. Mitchell, he claims always had the meat, his sister and brother- the gravy, he was born a giant of men and his career was his destiny.
Mitchell standing at 6'-0" and 18 stone had the perfect physique which having an equal balance in proportion; gave him a stance few could knock. He was taken on by a Canadian trainer Larry Gains who gave Mitchell the ability to be a heavy weight boxer - in two years he had 22 heavy weight fights, 16 were won by knock out and he lost two. He boxed under the name Pat Delaney.
Featured in the "Boys Companion" book is the article on the style of Lancashire form of "Catch-as-catch-can" widely acknowledged as the forerunner to Professional Wrestling. Mitchell is mentioned as a noted wrestler of modern times in the 'Catch-as-catch-can' and all-in styles. The only fighter he never beat was Douglas Clark, who discovered the powers of the young Yorkshire Rugby player and introduced him to Lord Lonsdale, a great patron of wrestling, at the famous Grasmere Games. Mitchell did win the Lonsdale belt but he conceded later to his mentor who retained it.
Douglas Clark, who was also the British All-in Champion and World Champion took a further interest in Mitchell and began to coach him in Wrestling. Norman Morrell, like Mitchell, a Bradford born man, was England's 1936 Olympic representative a wrestler now promoter introduced Mitchell to Professional Wrestling - Mitchell became European Champion.
Still working for his Father alongside his Brother Leonard, Alfred, their Father told them both- "Whoever knocks me out first, can have the business." Sometime later an argument ensued between Mitchell and his Father, Mitchell knocked Alfred out, and as Alfred picked himself up from the ground he said "Well Son, the business is yours". "I don't want it, "he replied, "Give it to my Brother, all I want is to go wrestling in Australia, you have to let me go." He did.
In Australia he wrestled under the name Mick McGill, his time there took him as a celebrity to many venues; he was employed by the Australian Milk Marketing Board to promote Milk. Time spent in 1937 at the Broken Hill mines Company; gifts given to him by the mine were amongst a large nugget from which, in India he had the gold removed, two signet rings made, one for himself and the other his then to be bride, Kathleen; the rest of the gold was made into the finest delicate pair of cufflinks you could imagine, these are still in existence.
Moving his talents to India, he wrestled many and the final trophy of "All India Cup and Belt" presented to him by the Maharaja of Jaipur then with war breaking out, his call to duty was to the British Army in India; his first day of enrolment he was a Sergeant Major and was given a "two meal ration card." Well, how else was he to maintain himself. Mitchell took on bouts in India in aid of the Red Cross; he also refereed many a match.
After the War, he returned to England, married his sweetheart Kathleen and settled in Silsden. His wrestling career re-started in 1946 with bouts up to the last one against The Ghoul at Belle Vue, Manchester in November 1951 which ended in a draw.
I was told by my Uncle, after the War the sport was not as it was and was not something he wished to pursue.He bought a shop in his village, then to be interviewed by a local paper, Yorkshire Life. The journalist wrote, "It was like meeting and shaking hands with a freight train." The journalist went to on to question as part of his story, "Are you as strong as they say you are" Mitchell, now in his 50's took a butter barrel by the edge between his fingers and palm, put it above his head and then picked the young man up by his trouser belt and lifted him up above his head at the same time.
The author, at 18 years of age had difficulty locating clothes "off the peg." Mitchell advised that he had always had to have his clothes made, "A cost of the sport" he remarked. His wife had at some point been asked whilst he was away to locate a new shirt maker - the tailor countered the size of collar given at 22 inches,
"Madame we need his neck size not his waist."
"That is his neck" she replied!
Mitchell, with an awareness of the new trends in society, visited boys clubs, to give talks on the better ways of behaviour and give a better worth to society.
Mitchell remained in Silsden, retired, now in his late seventies and there until he died on 7th March, 1990 at the age of 80, peacefully, after taking his regular afternoon walk.
John R. Gill Webster
An Ambassador of Wrestling
by Ron Historyo
You may like to consider Gwyn Davies, Albert Wall, Ian Campbell, Bruno Elrington or Tibor Szakacs or even go more recent with Tony St Clair, Wayne Bridges, Pat Roach and John Quinn. Mitchell Gill was of that Ilk. He went to Australia because he wanted to see the world and when he went he hung out with the very best. Many are content on tour to be a mid carder and get a good living. Believe me Gill was one of our top 10 thirties wrestlers. Oakeley travelled to USA to get a taste, Assirati went to USA for experience and Doug Clark went to Australia as our champion. Mitchell Gill went also to be a star.
Only three weeks after Doug Clark, his mentor, left England, Mitchell Gill set sail on the second version of the Otranto from London to Sidney. The date was 25th April 1936. The first Otranto having sunk in a collision in the first world war. By his own admission Gill had fought nine matches in the last ten days in Britain.
Australia was already peddling Jack Britton as English and had the British Champion in Clark so from the moment of his arrival Gill had to adopt a new persona of Irish champion Mike McGill. Rough, tough and sporting with a fantastic physique in the days before Steve Reeves, Reg Park, John Grimek and Protein supplements.
Six feet was a big man back then, and that physique and a lot of skill made Mike McGill top billing.
Australia had 4 great champions in a decade and one of them was Tom Lurich. Mike McGill had the physical attributes to match the beefy Lurich and it was a repeat contest all over Australia, portrayed as a grudge series.
Only because Mitchell Gill was one of our ambassadors, I have trawled the newspapers for as many stats as I could find. He deserves the tribute. It's a great record, fighting only well known men and those special multi matches with Tom Lurich, and what is more there must have been a real comradeship between these wrestlers to work together so many times. This is evident when you consider that on 31st July 1937 McGill broke his leg/ankle in a match at Crystal Theatre, Broken Hill. Against Fred Atkins. McGill was out a long time and on October 2nd Atkins fought another opponent King Elliott in a benefit match to raise some money for the injured man. Unfortunately a poor turn out saw just £10-12 raised.
At the end of October McGill was ref for a couple of matches at Broken Hill, probably to raise a little cash and finally back in the ring mid November against Lou Szarbo. By the 20th November he was again with Lurich. I think in the stats I capture 15 fights with these two, a lot of draws, a slight edge to Lurich, the police involved in riots and the use of Tin basins as weapons in the ultimate grudge.
A tough year for a tough man, in hospital with a severe sore throat and out for several weeks and back just before Christmas 1937. Twenty months away from home. But that is not all, it was to be 1945 before I could pick him up again in Britain.
29th December 1937 leaves Melbourne for India, then the war, the Army, and the billing of Indian Army champion when he came home. I first pick him up 23rd June 1945 at Stark's Park Kirkcaldy in a no contest with another giant George Clark, and in January, 1946 this billing as a souvenir of his time in India.
And below some Stats.…
4th July 1936 Sydney Leichardt Stadium Lost to Tom Lurich on points after draw.
25th July drew with Fred Atkins after extra time at Brisbane Bohemia Stadium
8th August beat Fred Atkins at Bohemia in return bout 2-1
15th August Bohemia after being scheduled to fight Jaghet Singh and then Al Walburg actually fought George O'Brian and won 1-0
19th August drew with Tom Lurich at Bohemia 1-1
29th August drew with Tom Lurich in Sydney.Leichardt Stadium
5th September drew with Fred Atkins 1-1 in Sydney Leichardt Stadium
7th September at Melbourne Fitzroy Stadium lost to Tom Lurich 1-0
14th September at Melbourne Fitzroy Stadium drew with Jack Britton
19th September at Sydney drew with Tom Lurich 1-1 at Rushcutter Stadium
3rd October Sydney Rushcutter Stadium lost 1-0 to Glen Wade
10th October Sydney lost to Tom Lurich 2-1
12th October Melbourne Fitzroy Stadium lost on points to Jack Britton
31st October in Sydney beat Jack Britton on points
7th November in Sydney Rushcutter Stadium beat Tom Lurich on a DQ
16th November Sydney Rushcutter Stadium lost to Tom Lurich
21st November Sydney Rushcutter Stadium drew with Tony Lamaro
30th November Melbourne Fitzroy drew with Jack Britton
4th December Tazmania Launceston drew with Tom Lurich
14th December Carlton Stadium Sydney lost 2-1 to Tom Lurich
19th December fought Leon Labriola in Sydney Rushcutter Stadium won on a DQ
22nd December lost 2-1 to Tom Lurich at Sydney carlton Stadium.
23rd December fought Alex Londen at Carlton Stadium Sydney
4th January 1937 fought Tom Lurich at Melbourne Fitzroy …........draw
6th January 1937 fought Billy Meeske at Glenelg Adelaide
23rd January fought Alex Lunden in North Sydney
25th January fought Pat Gallagher in Auburn
12th February Launceston drew with King Elliot of Texas at National Theatre
6th March Sydney lost to Jack Britton on a DQ
8th March Melbourne beat Tom Lurich on a DQ
29th March Arcadia Stadium Melboune beat Jack Britton 1-0
12th April Melborne drew with Tom Lurich
8th May lost 2-1 to Tom Lurich in Sydney Leichardt Stadium
19th July Fitzroy Melbourne fought Tom Lurich.....Lost on points
24th July at Broken Hill fought Tony Lamaro 1-1 but won on points
31st July at Crystal Theatre Broken Hill fought Fred Akins Lost Retired hurt (Ankle)
30th October ref for Lurich v Britton Match at Broken Hill
6th November ref for Lurich v Szarbo at broken Hill
13th November fought Lou Szarbo at Broken Hill won by K.O.
20th November fought Lurich at Broken Hill........Draw
In Hospital with sore throat
18th December fought Lurich at broken Hill double DQ after tin basin was used.
22nd December fought King Elliott at Sydney Carlton Stadium
29th December 1937 leaves Melbourne for India
Finally, Mitchell and his opponents ..