Yorkshire Family Rawlings
Wrestling fans with memories going back to the 1950s remember a turbulent wrestling family from Yorkshire, Hooker Alf Rawlings and his two talented sons, Bill and Jim.
HOOKER ALF RAWLINGS
The father of the family.
Alf Rawlings was born on 5th September, 1909 in Dewsbury but was a long time resident of Stockton on Tees. Alf was a crafty ring general of the post war years. In the 1920s Alf played in the reserve team for Leeds Rugby league Team, earning him the nickname Hooker Rawlings.
Our earliest record of Alf wrestling is in December, 1941, at Belle Vue, Manchester, in the main event against Farmer’s Boy.
Alf’s bald head and rugged features made him look a formidable opponent, and looks were not deceiving. His rough-house style prevented him from ever becoming a crowd's favourite, and how could he be with a broken nose and cauliflower ears?
Grizzled Veteran recalled Alf and his sons:
"In April 1959 it was announced that the Rawlings family were in town with a Tag Team Challenge with a side stake of £50 (a lot of money then!) to be given away at ringside if they lost! The Team that answered the challenge was Alan Garfield, Gori Ed Mongotich, and Tibor Szakacs. An interesting combination two heels with what we now know was the fairly newly arrived Tibor. Although revolutionary at the time the rules were much as we would now expect. Three individual contests followed by a three man tag match. However bear in mind that at this time I had never seen or heard of a tag match! In the individual contests; Alf pinned Mangotich, and Alan and Tibor pinned Jim and Bill respectively. So the Rawlings trailed 2 to 1. Going into the tag Alan extracted submissions from both Bill and Jim in fairly quick succession. So the Rawlings now trailed 4 to 1! Some of the audience were probably already mentally counting the money. Then Alf entered the fray and k.o.’d both Mangotich and Tibor, I seem to recall his favourite finisher was the piledriver. So it was now 4 to 3! It was now Alf and Alan and after a flurry of action Alf gained a submission. So; 4 to 4 the next score must be the winner.
But to everyone’s disappointment Alan refused to continue on his own and the Rawlings were declared the winners."
Bernard Hughes is another who remembers Alf Rawlings, a regular visitor to the St James’s Hall in Newcastle during the 1950s.
“Alf Rawlings was a big, hard man not prone to fat. He normally was around fifteen and a half to sixteen and a half stone. Rough in the ring with a presence and a bit of humour if the opportunity arose. Like many big men, out of the ring Alf was a mild ,quietly spoken gentleman.”
One match Bernard recalled was against the Billy Two Rivers:
“Alf wrestled quite nicely until Billy Two Rivers got the fall, then he started the rough stuff. We then had the Indian war dance, followed by the throw to the ropes and the chop. Alf shot up, did his own version of the Stockton on Tees war dance, which wasn't pretty. Two Rivers pretended to be mad, threw Alf at the ropes, Alf threw a punch, and caught Billy Two Rivers a beauty behind the ear sending him through the ropes and into the crowd. We then had the disqualification and the rumpus that followed.”
Fans were shocked when Alf suddenly disappeared from their rings, and even more so when they were told why he had retired. Alf quit the ring to become Deputy Superintendent of an eighty place children’s home in Pontefract, Yorkshire.
Alf Rawlings died in 1988.
Son of Alf and Sarah Rawlings, born in 1932 Alfred William Rawlings used the name Bill when he joined the professional wrestling ranks.
Bill was a stocky mid heavyweight more in the mould of his famous dad than brother Jimmy. Despite having skill and capable of creating more than a flicker of excitement in the British rings of the 1950s and 1960s Bill failed to capture the imagination of the fans in the way his father did. Sometimes it’s just hard when you’ve got a famous dad.
For a short time in the late 1950s all of the Rawlings clan settled in Hamilton, Canada, where Bill and his brother worked in a nail factory. They continued to wrestle and worked out at the Al Spittles gymnasium. Apart from his father Ernie Baldwin was a big influence on the young Rawlings, training him at his gymnasium in Tingley. Bill was a familiar figure to television fans in the 1960s yet is remembered as a more than competent worker seen at his best as part of the three man Rawlings team described by Grizzled Veteran above.
The third member of the Rawlings clan who, like his brother, was a powerful skilled wrestler who failed to match the ring presence of the old man. Hardly surprising with Alf being such a rugged force in the ring.
None of this should take anything away from Jim, who was a valuable part of the 1950s and 1960s wrestling fraternity. Although never a main event performer he was often seen wrestling on television during the first half of the 1960s. Trained by his dad he could certainly handle himself in the ring and the photo demonstrates that the youngest of the Rawlings family certainly looked the part.
Also like brother Bill his father’s influence was given a finishing touch when he went on to train at Ernie Baldwin's Tingley gym, following amateur grounding at the Hill Top Amateur Club in Bradford.
Not long after making his professional debut he and the family moved to Hamilton in Canada for around six months, returning to the UK in the spring of 1957. Whilst in Canada Jim worked in a factory making nails as well as continuing to wrestle part time.
The Rawlings brothers and their father were often seen working in pairs as a tag team or the three together taking on another team..
Like his father Jim Rawlings also became a carer in a children's home and we are fortunate to have the memories of one child for whom he cared.
We were pleased to receive the following message from one of those youngsters under Jim's care
Memories of Uncle Jim
I was placed in Romanby Shaw Children’s home in Eccleshill, Bradford, West Yorkshire, due to family breakdown in 1970, I was 13 years old.
Staff were known/addressed as “Uncle” or “Auntie” followed by their first name.
Jim was a big powerful looking bloke with big hands but was a gentleman in manner and actions. He told us that he used to wrestle and showed us some wrestling moves. He was really strong and I remember hanging from one arm while my mate hung from the other, and we quickly realized this was one member of staff that we would never get away with giving cheek to.
He was a really decent chap. I managed to find a set of weight lifting weights in a waste skip and he arranged for me to use them in the boiler room and gave every encouragement to keep fit. I was a bit skeptical about his tales of being a wrestler until one day during the school holidays I was in our local library and I came across a book on wrestling and found his picture amongst the other wrestlers. I took the book back to the home and showed it to him and he was really appreciative and pleased that I had found it.
I was into mending radios and he had a reel to reel tape recorder that the switch crackled when the volume was turned up. So I stripped it down in his kitchen flat, and had it running good as new. He said he would sort me out with a bit of extra spending money and the next day gave me £1 and told me not to let on to his wife as she had said give me 50p. This was in 1973 (good money for a kid)
I remember he had a wife and two children who lived in the attached flat; a young boy and a girl who he really protected; she may have been around 13 years old. I left the home when I was 16 and worked in Bradford for a while then moved down to London and have not had any contact with anyone from the home since. I did go down the road on a nostalgia trip a few years ago but the home has long gone and replaced by offices.