R: Pat Roach
Light the Blue Touch Paper
Those who saw Pat Roach will know what we mean. A man who could wrestle clean but unsmiling. Big Pat was never a convincing villain and yet never a fans favourite either. Temperamental as he was it usually didn't take too long for the touch paper to be lit and the arguments to begin. Arguments with some very hard hitting.
Brummie Pat Roach, he of the Brummagem Bump, was a big, bruising heavyweight who despite reaching the dizzy heights of European Heavyweight Champion never really received the push he deserved from the promoters.
Pat certainly looked the part. He was big, strong, could wrestle with the best of them, and had a bit of a temper. Maybe the promoters just didn't feel they could find the right niche for this more than capable bearded goliath, which was everyone's loss.
He first came to our attention when he stubbornly resisted Billy Robinson as Billy punished him with successive boston crabs in a 1967 bout in Solihull. Maybe wrestling wasn't everything that it appeared to be, but this certainly looked very real indeed, and this one punishing hold by Robinson was discussed at length some years ago by fans on the internet. This was the moment we knew Roach was something special.
Pat learned the wrestling business from Jack Taylor and was quick was to point out that his entry into the paid ranks, and all his subsequent successes, would have been very unlikely without the encouragement and knowledge of the Lancashire born, Leicestershire based promoter. It wasn't very long after coming under Taylor's tutelage that Pat began wrestling and promoting shows in the midlands. Another man who played an influential part in preparing Pat for the professional ring was fellow Brummie Alf Kent.
The movement from the opposition promoters to Joint Promotions came within a few years, and with it came national exposure on television, contests in the country's biggest halls against the best in British wrestling, winning the European heavyweight championship, and a huge amount of overseas travel, throughout Europe, North America, Africa and the Far East. Travel though he certainly did Pat Roach's heart and soul was always in Birmingham, the city in which he was born and lived, and in which he ran a successful fitness centre in the city centre.
When we saw Pat in the 1960s he was at the time a hard man who stuck to the rules, clean but unsmiling. In the 1970s and 1980s he developed a harder edge becoming more of a villain. The style was to change again in the 1980s during which he was playing more popular roles in television dramas, which may not have been a coincidence.
In 1988 Pat and Caswell Martin brought twenty-two years of ITV wrestling to an end. Following the final match it was Pat that was invited to make a poignant speech in which he thanked viewers for allowing the wrestlers into their parlours over the years.
His greatest acclaim came outside the ring, making a big screen debut in “A Clockwork Orange” and going on to further roles in “Robin Hood:Prince of Thieves” and the Indiano Jones trilogy.
A small part in the 1971 film “A Clockwork Orange” led to parts in numerous films and eventually his greatest acting success as Brian "Bomber" Busbridge in “Auf Wiedersehen, Pet,” a popular television comedy drama that began in 1983 with the fifth and final series in 2004. During the latter part of Pat's career, which continued until the early part of this century, he became Bomber Pat Roach.
His death brought the television series to a premature end with the final programme being a fitting tribute. At the time of his death his obituary in The Guardian stated: "Pat Roach, who has died of cancer aged 67, was the solid rock of the extraordinarily popular 1980s Central Television series Auf Wiedersehen, Pet."The nation mourned.
It was time to say Auf Wiedersehen , Pat.
Francis Patrick Roach: born 19 May 1937; died 17 July 2004.