THE world of Cumberland and Westmorland wrestling is in mourning after the loss of a stalwart of the sport.

Roger Robson, who died at the age of 78 following a long illness, lived at Ivegill, near Carlisle.

He spent almost 70 years involved in the sport and was a familiar face and voice at the region's agricultural shows, including at Wolsingham and Stanhope, where it is a popular attraction.

Born the son of a mole-catcher in a family of hill-farmers, he was brought up in Alnwick, Northumberland, where he became the first in the family to attend university.

He gained an English literature degree from Durham University, where he met wife of more than 50 years, Jill.

The couple both had careers in teaching but Mr Robson's first love was always wrestling, which he shared with his family including granddaughter, Gemma, who is a leading woman of the sport.

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He first competed in the sport himself, in the under 11 age category at Rochester Show.

In 1964, in his early 20s, he was named Best Performer at Grasmere Sports – wrestling’s most prestigious event and wrestled in front of The Queen, at the Braemar Highland Games.

Mr Robson trained at home by swinging a wheelbarrow to strengthen his arms and learned Cossack dancing to do the same for the leg muscles.

He won at Grasmere again in 1970 and 1980 in the 12 stones category and wrestled around the country until the age of 45, when he retired.

He continued in the sport as a coach and travelled widely in that role, including to France, Iceland and Italy.

In 1970 he set up the Carlisle Wrestling Club, with two friends, and later joined the Cumberland and Westmorland Wrestling Association, serving in many capacities including President.

Mr Robson used his English language talents to become the reporter for the Association in 1978, writing articles for the Cumberland News until relatively recently.

He is also an author of books, including local history and the celebrated ‘Cumberland and Westmorland Wrestling; A Documentary History’.

He gave up teaching when he was 51 and he and Mrs Robson spent their time farming, rearing Belted Galloway cattle and sheep.

Friends say his dedication to the sport and the indefatigable work he has done over the decades has allowed many young wrestlers to take part in events around Europe.

Mr Robson forged links with wrestling clubs around the continent and has been instrumental in the organisation of international competitions.

His contribution to the continuing popularity of the sport cannot be over-estimated.

Mr Robson was well known in Weardale where he commentated on bouts at Wolsingham and Stanhope agricultural shows.

Jimmy Atkinson, from Harperley, was one of many people he encouraged to enter the sport. Himself a teacher who became a local wrestling champion with help from Mr Robson, was shocked to hear of his death.

Mr Atkinson said: “A lovely and genuine man whose passion for the sport was infectious.

“He will be very much missed at the Dale’s shows, as he will be everywhere.”

Mr Robson leaves a wife, three children – Heather, Simon and Catherine – and six grandchildren.