We met Barbara Jones at a community lunch in Bentilee, and were delighted when she let us have this evocative article on wrestling greats from the 1960s and 70s. This piece was previously published in the Bentilee Magazine and is reproduced here with Barbara's permission. For more information on the wrestlers mentioned here, see the Wrestling Heritage site at http://www.wrestlingheritage.co.uk/
A few years ago I was fortunate enough to meet and become friends with some well-known wrestlers from around the country. I met many of them while they were working for Orig Williams from a base in Rhyl. Amongst my favourites were Might Chang, Klondyke Kate (who lives in Bentilee even as I type), Frank Cullen, Steve Peacock and Johnny Palance. My most favourite of all though was Klondyke Bill who sadly is no longer with us. He was the twenty-nine stone hero who fought people like Giant Haystacks and Big Daddy, and sometimes tagged with Klondyke Jake, his ring partner.
While living at the house owned by Orig, Klondyke also ran the house, which was let as holiday flats. When the season ended we stayed on, and moved to the top floor, which we shared with Steve Peacock, Rusty Blair, and Gloria who was the Cherokee Princess. We became close friends with Klon, and I remember him as being a warm, friendly, loveable man, with a heart as big as himself. My husband and he worked together up and down the country, on the holiday camps, in the summer. Sometimes I went along to watch and sell programmes. I remember one night in Liverpool Stdium, when the fans tried to turn Klondyke’s car over, with us in it! A very hair raising experience, I can tell you. It didn’t bother Klon though, it was all part of life’s rich tapestry to him. He made a joke of it whilst we panicked.
Most evenings after working we would all end up in the Morville Hotel in Rhyl. It was right next door to where we lived. And sometimes we would go on to a nightclub in the town. We had good times and long happy summers. Most spare time was spent in Klondyke’s basement flat. We made wine, grew tomatoes in growbags, while Klon had a fad on being self-sufficient turning the basement yard into an allotment, drinking tea and chatting, putting the world to rights. There was always someone dropping in, and they were all made welcome. We spent hours listening to Klondyke’s tales of working abroad in Hong Kong and Dubai. His stories were fascinating and he never had any shortage of listeners. Being a Yorkshire man, he could rattle forever.
Christmas came round and Klondyke decorated the hall with streamers and a huge tree. Some of us came in a bit the worse for drink after a good night on the town, and decided to have a party on the top floor. It got a little high-spirited and someone decided to hide the tree while playing the 1812 overture at full bore, at 5 o’clock in the morning! Klondyke discovered his tree was missing and his sultry tones <MORE LIKE VESUVIAS WAS ERUPTING> could be heard at Splash Point, demanding to know who was responsible. He saw the funny side, as he always would, and ended up laughing- although he’d gotten little or no sleep with all the noise. I rarely saw him in a bad mood-if he was, everybody got out of his way!!
To watch him in the ring was pure magic. He had a great following on the circuit, and was loved by all, young and old alike. The kids doted on him, and he was never too busy to sign autographs, no matter how tired he was. Towards the end of his career, even though he was quite ill, he never let the punters down, and would insist on getting in the ring no matter what. To him the public came first- and he was a showman to the end. When he was advised to give up wrestling, he ignored all warnings, saying it was only life he knew, and the only one he wanted.
Such was the case when he was working in Scotland. Sadly, he collapsed and died in the dressing room after thrilling his audience to the last.
To me he will always be one of the best friends I ever had, and my life became the richer for him being a chunk of it.
As long as wrestling goes on, he will be remembered as part of this wonderful sport. The few years I spent around the professional wrestlers that this article is dedicated to are well remembered, with more than a fondness and a small tinge of sadness, but most of all with a big Thank You to them for all their contribution to a wonderful sport, and for being the showmen and women that keep the punters coming back for more. An extra thanks goes to our own Klondyke Kate, who carries the Klondyke name on. Long may they all continue to delight us all.