Captain Tom Gundry, champion Cornish wrestler. Probably early 1880s
A studio portrait photograph of the champion Cornish wrestler, Thomas Gundry, wearing a wrestling jacket and two championship sashes. Gundry was born at Higher Prospidnick, Sithney, on 16th October 1818 and died at Stennack, Camborne, on 22nd October 1888. His obituary in the 'Mining Journal' of 27th October 1888 reads "Captain Tom Gundry is dead. This brief announcement will be read with regret by Cornishmen in every quarter of the world. 'Captain Tom' was the best known of the old school of Cornish wrestlers, and will be remembered for his prowess in the ring, and not as a mine agent. Born 70 years ago Captain Tom was bred in the parish of Sithney and from a child developed a strong passion for the favourite sport of the West Countryman. In the old days, wrestling was cultivated to a far higher degree than now; the leading gentlemen of the county, assisted by their patronage, presence, and financial support; and a match was the signal for an exodus of miners to witness the bouts. Captain Tom held the championship for a long period; he won many cups, and wrestled, not only in Cornwall and Devon; but in London also. It is said of him that whilst he unquestionably bought many 'backs', he never sold his own. He was at one time agent at Camborne Consols, and at another period agent at North Basset. Of late years he now and then assisted as stickler in the wrestling field. He expired at his home near Camborne, on Tuesday evening." He was married four times, the last at Treslothan, Camborne in May 1880. Photographer: John Charles Burrow.
© From the collection of the RIC
James Polkinghorne, the Cornish Wrestler, Artist Unknown
Oil on canvas, English School, 19th century. In the 15th century, wrestling was the national sport of Cornwall and historical sources have written that, at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415, Cornish men fought under a banner depicting two wrestlers in a lock. James Polkinghorne (1788-1854) was one of Cornwall's greatest wrestlers and his best known match, against Abraham Cann of Colebrooke in Devon, happened on 23rd October 1826 and attracted over 10,000 spectators. Though the fight finished a draw, it was not without drama and Cann's biographer relates the match in detail, noting the different Cornish and Devon styles of wrestling. The fight became so famous that a folk song was written about the event. As a Cornish wrestler, Polkinghorne was known as a 'hugger' who fought barefoot, whereas his adversary dressed in the traditional Devon style, with heavy boots soaked in bullock's blood.