Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Prominent author John Billot passes away

John Billot, a foremost Welsh sports author, has passed away aged 79, just six days short of his 80th birthday.

Mr Billot died in the University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff, in the city where he made a reputation as one of the most respected writers of Welsh rugby union history

He is best known as the former Western Mail Sports Editor and after taking the post in 1982, he steered the department for seven years before retiring in 1989, though he still reported rugby on Saturdays for the paper for several more years.

Under his tutelage, Chris Jones and Steve Bale learned their trade before they became rugby correspondents at the Evening Standard and Daily Express respectively.

But it is the rugby history books he has written that will define Billot’s legacy.

His first book, a HISTORY OF WELSH INTERNATIONAL RUGBY was published in 1970 and further books followed, including Bleddyn Williams' RUGGER MY LIFE; an update of the Welsh History in 1972; THE ALL BLACKS IN WALES; THE SPINGBOKS IN WALES.

He enjoyed a lifetime of contribution to the heart and soul of Welsh rugby and in 1970 he became Production Editor of the new WELSH BREWERS RUGBY ANNUAL FOR WALES. The latter lasted until 2006 and a year after his retirement from that position, the book finished.

Additional titles included Playfair annuals, Rothmans Annuals, the splendid TRY for the WRU.

Without Billot’s diligent research there would have been little history of the game in Wales.

WRU president Dennis Gethin said: “John was one of rugby’s great gentlemen. When I was playing he was always constructive in his comments and criticism and, like his great Aussie colleague JBG Thomas he never attacked the players. They both wrote it as they saw it and John probably covered more matches in Wales during his career than any other writer.

“The Western Mail built its great rugby reputation on the back of John and JBG’s words and John’s contribution to documenting the history of Welsh rugby through his various publications provided an invaluable service to our game.

“In my role as secretary and president of the WRU I never let his ‘History of Welsh International Rugby’ leave my side.

“As editor of the Rugby Annual for Wales for almost 40 years he provided the Welsh fan with a pocket book compendium crammed full of vital facts, figures and stories that is now sadly missed.

“He was also instrumental in overseeing and compiling the Western Mail Championship Table that was the forerunner to the modern day leagues system.

“His passing will be a great loss to Welsh rugby, although his overall contribution will never be forgotten.”

In 1955 Billot was married to Sheila who survives him. They have three children and four grandchildren.


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