Story: Blomfield, Meynell Strathmore

Page 1 - Blomfield, Meynell Strathmore

Blomfield, Meynell Strathmore

1908–1971

Wrestler, hotel-keeper

This biography was written by N. A. C. McMillan and was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand BiographyVolume 4, 1998

Meynell Strathmore Blomfield, later known as 'Lofty', was born at Wellington on 18 July 1908, the son of John Collis Blomfield, a newspaper cartoonist, and his wife, Amy Ellis. The family moved to Auckland when he was a child. As a schoolboy he did track work for horse trainers but increasing weight put an end to this. After two years' secondary education he left school and moved around the country, working at various jobs. When he married Agnes Myra Lawton at Wairoa on 14 July 1927 he was a taxi proprietor at Waikaremoana. Blomfield played senior rugby in Auckland, Gisborne, Murchison and Nelson.

In 1930 he returned to Auckland, just as wrestling was becoming popular with the New Zealand public. Inspired by an influx of top performers from overseas, Blomfield began wrestling as an amateur, winning the Auckland and New Zealand heavyweight titles in 1931. After these successes he decided to turn professional. Blomfield realised his appeal to promoters in New Zealand would be limited by his lack of experience, however, and he went to Australia where the sport was booming. Calling himself Walter Browning and claiming to be Canadian, he persuaded promoters in Sydney to give him a trial. Although he met with mixed success, his non-stop aggressive style appealed to spectators.

After a brief return to New Zealand in 1934, where he wrestled under the name Lofty Blomfield, he left for the United States. His performances there were good enough to impress Walter Miller, booking agent for the Dominion Wrestling Union of New Zealand. Overseas wrestlers were still flocking to New Zealand and Miller needed a home-grown product capable of opposing these imports. He persuaded Blomfield to return home in 1935.

Lofty Blomfield was six feet two inches tall and tipped the scales at around 16 stone. He quickly became a popular figure with the New Zealand public and promoters were guaranteed a full house whenever he wrestled. His bouts also had a huge following on the radio. Blomfield's wrestling matches were brought alive for listeners by Gordon Hutter's vivid commentaries, which were inevitably punctuated by cries of 'Come on Lofty!' from a blind Greek immigrant named Peter, who sat beside Hutter at the bouts. A popular wrestler and personal friend of Blomfield's, the Canadian Earl McCready, opposed him on 28 occasions. Of these bouts McCready won seventeen, Blomfield two, eight were drawn, and one bout was abandoned when the referee was injured.

All wrestlers had their favourite holds and Blomfield's was the octopus clamp, which won him numerous submission falls. On 17 March 1938 he wrestled the American Bronko Nagurski for the heavyweight championship of the world at Vancouver. Nagurski took the first fall when he pinned Blomfield in the third round, but the New Zealander secured a submission fall with the octopus clamp in the last round. A draw in a world championship bout was no mean feat.

Lofty Blomfield continued wrestling until the outbreak of the Second World War when he joined the army. He served in the Middle East and New Zealand, and after his discharge resumed his wrestling career. He finally retired in 1949 having wrestled five world champions during his time in the ring in New Zealand. After his retirement from wrestling he took over the licence of the Whangarei Hotel.

Blomfield was married four times. In 1937 his marriage to Myra was dissolved, and on 2 June that year he married Lily May Balenzuela at Auckland. Lily died in 1945 and on 20 February 1946 Blomfield married Heather June Ingley at Auckland. This marriage was dissolved in 1960, but the couple remarried at Auckland on 10 September 1969. Lofty and June Blomfield had three children. There were also two children of Lofty's first marriage.

A great deal of Blomfield's time in Whangarei was devoted to the Intellectually Handicapped Children's Parents' Association (later the Intellectually Handicapped Children's Society), and he was a foundation member of the Northland branch. One of his children was intellectually handicapped. He also owned racehorses, coached a junior rugby team and was a skilled angler. A genial man, Blomfield was regarded with great affection by his many friends. He died at Whangarei on 29 June 1971, survived by his wife, June, and at least two children.