Page last updated at 15:48 GMT, Thursday, 12 November 2009

Former wrestler El Bandito dies

Orig Williams, known to his fans as El Bandito, toured the world promoting the sport of wrestling.

Welsh wrestler El Bandito has died at the age of 78.

Under his stage name, Orig Williams toured the world promoting the sport of wrestling.

He found even greater fame in the ring on the Welsh language TV programme, Reslo, shown in the 1980s on S4C, and became one of its biggest stars.

But before even entering the wrestling ring he was a professional footballer and a boxer, and later a newspaper columnist.

He leaves a wife Wendy and daughter Tara Bethan, the actress, who was a finalist in BBC TV's musical talent show I'd Do Anything last year.

"He contributed extensively to programmes and series on S4C, particularly Reslo, and was a strong, warm and exuberant personality, which made him a popular character with viewers and colleagues," said a spokesperson for S4C.

"We extend our sincere sympathies to his family."

The fighter and promoter gained his famous El Bandito name while touring America.

More recently he worked to promote young wrestlers, including organising bouts to raise money for Urdd national eisteddfod.

Urdd eisteddfod director Aled Sion added: "It is a great loss to the nation and to the Urdd.

"He was an enthusiastic supporter of the movement and worked hard to organise events to raise money for the 2008 Conwy eisteddfod, including a night of American wrestling in Llanrwst."

Born in the village of Ysbyty Ifan near Betws-y-Coed in 1932, he once described how he took to fighting when Liverpool evacuees came to stay in the area during World War II.

"We couldn't speak English, they couldn't speak Welsh, so we had fights, naturally," he recalled.

The online British wrestling site, Britannia Wrestling, describes him as "one of the best villains in the business", who "played hard and wrestled hard and had great admiration for guys who did the same".

But alongside his wrestling and promotion career, he was also a skilled footballer, playing professionally for Oldham Athletic and Shrewsbury Town, later becoming the player/manager for Nantlle Vale.

He also was a regular columnist for the Daily Post newspaper.

Wales' Heritage Minister Alun Ffred Jones said: "I was very saddened to hear of Orig Williams's death.

"Orig was a very likeable, colourful character.

"He was a man who brought pleasure to people across Wales through his wrestling, his work on TV and radio, and also as a footballer and football manager, especially for Nantlle Vale FC.

"Wales will be a less colourful place without his unique personality."

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