A: Young Atlas Jack Austin
When Wrestling Heritage began researching the career of Young Atlas we found not one, but three! That didn’t make for an easy life but then nothing that is worthwhile comes easy. Uncovering the story of Jack Austin was most definitely worthwhile.
Jack Austin was born in Bradford on 20th January, 1917. In his teens he was a keen sportsman, excelling at swimming, in which he went on to compete nationally, and in wrestling.
For most of the 1930s Jack was content to work at the Post Office and wrestle as an amateur, but towards the end of the decade decided to join many of his contemporaries who were profiting from the booming professional wrestling scene. We find the name Jack Austin on wrestling posters in 1939, our first documented match being on the 17th May, 1939 at New Brighton Tower.
How can we imagine the excitement and nervousness of a young twenty-two year old that night working alongside wrestling greats Billy Riley, George deRelwyskow and Karl Reginsky? Another early opponent we find in 1939 was the Olympian wrestler from Bradford, Norman Morrell.
It wasn’t an easy life. Working by day before travelling to to halls around northern England, travelling home the same night for an early start at work the next morning. In those pre motorway days it was especially hard for Jack as he didn’t own a car. For journeys to and from home he relied on lifts from others, especially his brother in law, who was handily a motor mechanic.
Suddenly the name Jack Austin disappeared. No sooner had his career started but there was a little intervention called World War 2 and Jack was posted to Northern Ireland, serving in the Royal Artillery.
The war didn’t prevent Jack wrestling but he chose to change his name to Young Atlas. At the Ulster Hall, Belfast, in August, 1941, it was reported that Young Atlas proved himself “more than a raw novice” as he flung opponent Jock McIntosh around the ring on his way to a knock out win. Young Atlas was a popular performer in Belfast during the war years, defeating the Black Owl, providing “one of the finest contests seen in Belfast” when he wrestled a draw with Chick Elliott, and continuing his long running rivalry with Newcastle’s Buddy McTaff.
Wrestling wasn’t Jack’s only interest in Ireland. In Belfast he met Kathleen. We wouldn’t be so presumptuous to declare that it was love at first sight. But it was pretty quick!
The couple were married six weeks after meeting! This was the start of a remarkable chapter in Jack’s life as seventy years and seven children later the couple received congratulations from HM The Queen as they celebrated their platinum wedding anniversary.
Wrestling and married life aside there was a war to get on with, and Jack played a very active role, evacuating from the Dunkirk Beaches, providing armed artillery support in Belfast and London, landing in Sicily in 1943 and fighting his way to 100 miles south of Rome and the Battle of Monte Cassino.
Following the end of the war Jack and Kathleen returned to Bradford. Jack resumed work at the Post Office and continued wrestling. Opponents included many who were, or went on to become, the biggest names in post war wrestling, amongst them champions Sonny Wallis, Jack Dempsey, Tony Lawrence and Tommy Mann.
Jack’s son, John, has been told of a time he was taken to the wrestling when he was only three or four years old, “I was found wandering about the changing rooms. Dad was apparently getting changed for his bout, and I was taken to the ring to see if anyone claimed me.” When he was older John would accompany his father to the Windsor Swimming Baths when he was wrestling and recalled the “quite vicious female spectators.”
Jack continued wrestling until 1952, retiring when he was thirty-five years old. Daughter Brenda recalled that he earned five guineas a match, which was good money.
In 2000, aged 83, Jack and Kathleen moved from Bradford to Fort William. The couple remained active with Kathleen working in a charity shop for five years. Jack died in 2013, aged 96.
We would like to thank Jack and Kathleen's family for their help in preserving another corner of our wrestling heritage.
Related: The Jack Austin Gallery
Jack Austin's Wartime Story
Jack rarely talked to his family about his experiences during the Second World War.
When he was eighty years old he agreed to write down a commentary of his war service.
Jack's family have now shared this treasured family archive with Wrestling Heritage readers.
Page added 9/12/18