Every October we celebrate the achievements of the African and Caribbean community through Black History Month. Black History Group hosted Black to the Future to highlight achievements within their community.
Among those honoured was the late Henderson Duval.
Sally Dyer had only known her grandad, the late Henderson ‘Harry’ Duval, a few years, but she was honoured to have known him.
He was a well known figure in Preston, firstly becoming a wrestler and was the city’s first black publican. He was also a taxi driver and was often revered for his well turned out presence.
Read more: In pictures: Black to the Future event to celebrate African and Caribbean achievements in Preston and Tributes to taxi driving ex-wrestler and Celebrating Black History Month: Preston Caribbean Carnival founder Phil Duncan
Sally, 29, says: “I didn’t really meet him until I was 19 as he didn’t have a great relationship with my dad.
“I went to university and did a contemporary arts degree. I was interested in exploring identity and heritage and so I started visiting, asking him questions. We became quite close until he died in 2013 aged 77.
“He was very enigmatic and mysterious as he didn’t talk about a lot of things. There are massive holes in information and so there will be things we won’t know about him.
“He was very calm and strong and slightly intimidating. I was always intrigued by him.”
Mr Duval was born in Dominica and moved to Preston when he was 18 to get away from his abusive father.
Sally says: “When he was in the West Indies he didn’t have a great time. His mother and father were abusive and so he ran away. He had a fight with his dad and he had been waiting for him to come home with a shotgun. So he had nowhere to stay.
“He hid on the island and managed to stow away. He was one of the first people from the West Indies to
“He stayed at a refugee place and worked at the ROF in Euxton. That was where he met my grandmother, Jean Dyer, and they married in 1956.
“They moved to Moor Nook and had a council house there. They had two children, Robert and Phillip.”
In 1960, Mr Duval became a wrestler under the name Paul Duval and competed in matches all over the world.
He trained at Billy Riley’s gymnasium alongside Jack Dempsey and Billy Joyce, which prepared him for a professional debut around 1963.
Sally adds: “Grandad became a bit of a fighter. As one of the first here, he needed respect. He was very strong and intimidating and he played on that.
“He was into his health and wellbeing and looked after his body. I think he was known mostly for his wrestling. He travelled around India and different countries, as well as the North West.
“Whilst travelling with his wrestling matches, he had a singing and strong man act where he blew a hot water bottle until it popped and he smashed coconuts with his hands.
“He was quite big at the time.
“He did lots of different things: he was a doorman in Liverpool, sold clothes, worked in Courtaulds factory and he was a croupier.”
British wrestling website http://www.wrestlingheritage.co.uk, cites Mr Duval as a “powerful, muscular heavyweight” and “a strong contender for the title of Britain’s most underrated wrestler.”
He retired from wrestling in 1973, fulfilling another of his ambitions by going into pub management as landlord of the Prince Consort pub in Preston.
After leaving the pub trade, he became a well known taxi driver with Preston Hackney Carriage Association until his retirement in early 2000.
Sally adds: “He was the best turned out taxi driver as he always wore a chauffeur hat and had a red carnation in his pocket.
“He wore a lot of jewellery and even had a jeweller’s shop near the old hospital. When the hospital closed he lost a lot of trade and sold up.”
Sally, who works at They Eat Culture arts organisation, in Preston, says she is proud to call herself Henderson Duval’s granddaughter.
She says: “He was a big figure in Preston, Wherever I go and I mention his name, everyone knows him. It is interesting to hear what people say about him. I am sure he would be very proud.”