Wednesday, April 17th, 2024

Residing at Rockdale: Local Sports Hero is 5x British Wrestling Champion

If there’s one thing we’ve learnt over the years, it’s that Sevenoaks is a town brimming with stories – with its rich history, buzzing business hub and remarkable residents. Many journalists spend hours actively seeking out a good scoop. Not in Sevenoaks, everywhere we look there are incredible tales just waiting to be told.

Such was the case when we visited Terry Brett, an independent living resident at Rockdale Housing Association. When we caught wind that we had a local sports hero in our midst, we couldn’t wait for the opportunity to immortalise Terry’s words into online print for our community to enjoy.


terry brett with wrestling trophy


Tales from a bygone era

It was an honour to sit down with Terry and his son, Max, for a good, old-fashioned chinwag about a bygone era. For many of Terry’s age (76), these memories have been lost to the recesses of time. But there’s a pretty sharp wit still lurking behind this exterior.

Born to parents who hailed from Hackney and Charlton, Terry smiles a lot when he reflects on how fantastically supportive his family had been throughout his childhood and his career. Terry’s father, Harry, a great boxer who saw out WW2, is a hot topic for conversation and huge source of pride for Terry.

Coming from a long line of boxers, Terry recalls visiting a pub with his father as a young teenager and being heckled with someone shouting out “Look at you, you skinny thing! Your dad is one of the best boxers in the country but look at you.” Roll forward to a professional wrestling career that spans across multiple decades… and well, Terry’s impressive accolades speak for themselves.


A career in wrestling – from national titles to coaching champions

When asked why he didn’t follow in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps into the boxing ring, Terry’s repartee is “my mum wouldn’t let me do boxing, she didn’t want me to have the ‘boxer’s nose!’” Terry laughs as he proudly shows us a photo of his father, whose young and handsome face does indeed feature a bit of a ‘saddle nose’.

No, for Terry,  wrestling was the way to go. In his teens, Terry was offered a prestigious Winston Churchill Scholarship. This scholarship afforded him the opportunity to travel the world. He spent 4 months in Japan (and can still recite some Japanese lingo!), saw the Blue Ridge mountains in West Virginia (where he also spent some time working in a soap factory) and of course, trips across Europe.

Terry has won title after title across all disciplines of the sport – freestyle, Greco-Roman, sambo – with five major national titles. His proudest career highlight was in becoming the champion of British Freestyle Wrestling in Edinburgh in 1971.

Terry retired from wrestling at 41 years old – for context, the average retirement age for a wrestler is early-mid 30s! But his passion for the sport didn’t end there. Terry went on to coach some of the greats, such as Chris Bowells (European Champion) and Steve Bayliss (who competed in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles).


terry wrestling in scotland


Families thriving together

Terry’s son Max had a few stories of his own to share. There were more than a few memories of his dad teaching Max and his sister some self-defence moves… which often led to the pair of them being thrown on the floor! It’s clear there’s a lot of love in their family and it’s heart-warming to see how Max looks up to his father.

Another funny memoir Terry recalls is being jumped in the street by 3 men who mistook Terry’s small stature and limp for an easy target. They were each, in turn, swiftly dispatched onto their backsides to the muddy pavement by Terry’s own hand – we believe ‘instant karma’ is the phrase?

Max cheekily let us in on one of his father’s secret tactics… when wrestling with a bad knee, Terry would strap up his good knee so that his opponents would go for that instead – “strap up the good knee to protect the bad knee!” The perfect decoy!

Aside from the wrestling, Terry was also a teacher for children with special needs. We can see that Terry’s sense of humour, gentle disposition, unwavering patience and excellent storytelling skills would have made him an ideal candidate for this noble vocation.


Terry’s life at Rockdale

Terry has happily made his home in one of the many properties at Rockdale, with his own flat which is just short walk to Sevenoaks High Street and all its amenities. He has resided there since 2022. His circumstances at the time meant it was quite a rush to have him moved and settled in time for Christmas ’22, something that was a real source of stress for Terry’s family. Fortunately, the Rockdale team really came through and were able to provide the service and structure needed whilst minimising the impact on Terry’s loved ones.

Ever the social butterfly, Terry told us that he loves his life here in the Rockdale community, enjoying the extensive social calendar and the proximity to Knole Park where he still takes his bike for a leisurely cycle. Terry made a point of mentioning the Rockdale staff who continue to be fantastic – from the initial transition and adjustment through to his day-to-day interactions with them all now.

All in all, this little peek behind the curtain of a truly fascinating life was wholesome, hilarious, inspiring and we feel all the better for it. How lucky we are to have people like Terry enriching our community in Sevenoaks.

Get in touch with Rockdale Housing Association

Rockdale Lodge
Rockdale Road
TN13 1JT

01732 458762

Download the brochure here.

Learn more about fundraising and donations here.

Check out our other blogs about Rockdale:

Rockin’ at Rockdale – 75 year anniversary
Rockdale celebrates 75 years providing homes for older people in Sevenoaks

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