Saturday, 20 August 2011
Carver Doone and Atholl Oakely.
I'm off to Exmoor again next month. During my previous visit early on in the summer I bought a copy of Lorna Doone and this time intend to walk up the East Lyn as far as the Doone Valley. I have discovered that just as Sherlock Holmes fans used to walk up and down Baker Street in search of the fictional detective's lodgings, so too do Doone fans roam the landscape between Exmoor and the Bristol Channel seeking out the location of RD Blackmoor's classic tale; and that is turning out to be a tale in it's own right.
The history of old time show business is littered with fake titles. "Count" this, "Sir" that. "Colonels" who never made it to Lance Corporal. Indian "Rajahs" who never ventured east of Mile End and more "Professors" in theatrical digs than in any town of dreaming spires. Naturally the hall of mirrors that is the world of professional wrestling has been home to it's fair share of fake Earls and phony Lords but one, Sir Atholl Oakeley, was the genuine article. Oakeley introduced modern professional wrestling to this country in 1930 and went on to become British Heavyweight Champion and one of the leading promoters. His autobiography, Blue Blood On The Mat, mainly concentrates on the authors involvement in the wrestling business but does mention in passing his interest in Lorna Doone and I believe that as a promoter Oakley once had a wrestler billed as Carver Doone. Quite what Sir Atholl Oakely Bart. was doing in the almost exclusively working class world of grunt and groan is a bit of a mystery. When he retired from the mat game he ran sailing holidays on an old Bristol Channel Pilot Cutter and also tours of Doone country; or at least that's what I have heard. I suppose that compared to the duplicity of the wrestling game, convincing people that Lorna Doone was based on fact was money for old rope.
Now I discover that RD Blackmoore wrote his most famous book just ten minutes walk from where I live. Unfortunately there is no overgrown Gothic mansion to explore but just a dull 1920s development with the only link to the past being a Blackmoore Close and a Doone Road.
So a short break in North Devon, a new found interest in Lorna Doone, my long time fascination with wrestling history and a couple of streets of unassuming 1920s semi-detached, have all come together to reafirm once again that most profound of philosophical cogitations - the interconnectedness of all things.