George Kidd: The Dundee wrestler who ‘paved the way for athletes of any size to play any sport’

A wrestling historian has paid tribute to one of Dundee’s most famous sons former world champion wrestler George Kidd.

Next week marks 20 years since the legendary grappler died, aged 92.

Since his death, the former Clepington Road Primary School pupil has been honoured with a plaque marking his induction to the Scottish Wrestling Hall of Fame.

The memorial detailing his achievements adorns a wall of the Caird Hall, a venue where George had his first paid bout, and where he made a name as one of the biggest British stars in the business in a career of more than 30 years.

George Kidd working out in 1975.

Bradley Craig, the man who set up the Scottish Wrestling Hall of Fame and chose George as the first inductee, said he was the “obvious choice” to be the first person honoured.

Bradley, who has written about the sport for two decades, said: “George is generally considered by fans and wrestlers to be the first proper wrestling star to come from Scotland. He was a highly innovative competitor, invented many holds and mastered even more.

“He faced some of the finest athletes of his time and brought a credibility to the title when he became world lightweight champion.

“George paved the way for athletes of any size to play any sport — that was his true legacy.”

George was born in 1925, in Dundee’s Hill Street. Before taking up wrestling, he became a member of his local boxing club to learn how to look after himself.

George had always been small, standing just 5ft 6in as a grown man. Wrestling folklore has it that during one boxing match, George, aged just seven at the time, dived at a larger opponent and dragged him to the canvas.

By the time he was dragged off, he had settled a score with one of his bullies. George Kidd, the would-be wrestler, had arrived.

Kidd hold his title belt at the Caird Hall in 1976

Having left the Navy in 1946, he had his first bout that year under Dundee promoter George de Relwyskow.

A master of fitness, stretching and weight lifting, George also studied Ju Jitsu, self-defence and yoga. Yoga in particular aided George’s famous flexibility and allowed him to go into some odd positions to escape from submission holds.

His rise to fame and dogged determination to prove wrong those who said he was “too small” culminated with him being crowned world lightweight champion in 1951 — a title he went on to hold for 26 years.

George, third from left, showing his world title belt and a trophy to customers at the Ellenbank Bar in 1976.

Bradley said: “George brought a credibility to the title. He kept his style quite traditional and used the mat holds, rather than the over-the-top performances we see today. He was from the old school and wanted to keep the business respectable.

“When people watched his matches, they bought into what they were seeing, as he was such a great performer.”

George wrestled across the world, battling foes in rings in Mexico, France and South Africa.

Career highlights include wrestling in the presence of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, at the Royal Albert Hall in 1963.

George was also awarded Grampian TV Personality of the Year in 1965, cemented by his appearances on the show World Of Sport, before retiring in 1972.

George Kidd shows off a move in 1970

Bradley added: “He went on to be a crafty promoter as well, running his own wrestling shows. These were generally at the Caird Hall, but at venues in other parts of Scotland as well.

“Inducting him into the Hall Of Fame in 2015 allowed us to introduce him to a new generation of fans at a time when wrestling is probably at its most popular in Scotland. He was told more than once he was too small, but proved that with perseverance, athletes of any size can play any sport. That’s his true legacy.

“He’s undoubtedly one of the great heroes in both Dundee and Scotland’s sporting histories.”