Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Cann, Abraham
CANN, ABRAHAM (1794–1864), wrestler, the son of Robert Cann, a farmer and a wrestler in Devonshire, and his wife, Mary, was baptised at Colebrooke, near Crediton, on 2 Dec. 1794, and, inheriting from his father a love of play, soon defeated John Jordan, Flower, Wreyford, Simon Webber, and the other best wrestlers in Devonshire, and carried off the prizes at all the places where he became a competitor. In these matches he wrestled in the Devonshire fashion, namely, wearing shoes and endeavouring to disable his adversary by violently kicking him on the legs. On 21 Sept. 1826, at the Eagle tavern, City Road, London, he contended without shoes for the first prize with James Warren of Redruth (conspicuous for his bravery at the time of the loss of the Kent, Indiaman, in 1825), and although the latter made a gallant struggle, Cann was declared the victor. He had long been known as the champion of Devonshire, and he now challenged James Polkinghorne, the champion of Cornwall. Polkinghorne was 6 ft. 2 in. high, weighed 320lbs., and had not wrestled for some years, being the landlord of the Red Lion inn at St. Columb Major. Cann was but 5 ft. 8½ in. in height, and weighed 175lbs. This match, which was for 200l. a side for the best of three back falls, took place at Tamar Green, Morice Town, near Devonport, on 23 Oct. 1826, in the presence of upwards of 12,000 spectators. After a long struggle the Cornishman won a fair back fall. Cann next threw Polkinghorne, but a dispute arising, a toss gave it in favour of the latter. After several other falls, Polkinghorne threw Cann, but the triers were divided in opinion as to the fall. Polkinghorne left the ring, and after much wrangling, the match was declared to be drawn. The Devonshire man, with the toes and heels of his shoes, kicked his adversary in the most frightful manner, while the Cornishman neither wore shoes nor practised kicking. In 1861 Lord Palmerston headed a subscription among the west-country gentlemen, by which the sum of 200l. was presented to the former champion of Devonshire.
Cann was for many years the proprietor of an inn, and died in his native place, Colebrooke, on 7 April 1864. He had four brothers, James, Robert, George, and William, all of whom were wrestlers. Messrs. Sparkes & Pope, solicitors, Crediton, are said to possess a manuscript biography of Cann.
[Times, 23 Sept. 1826, p. 3; Englishman, 29 Oct. 1826, p. 1, cols. 3–4; Sporting Mag. lxvii. 165 (1826), lxix. 55, 215, 314, 344 (1827); Cornwall Gazette, 28 Oct. 1826, pp. 2–3, and 4 Nov. p. 2; London Mag. 1 Oct. 1826, pp. 160–3; Annual Register, 1826, pp. 157–8; Hone's Everyday Book (1826), ii. 1009, 1337, and Table Book, ii. 415, 499; Illustrated Sporting News, 7 May 1864, pp. 100, 101, 111, with two portraits.]