Nearly every Thursday morning since 1978, Roger Robson has written a Cumberland wrestling column for The Cumberland News: about 2,000 of them.

“I have all my articles in files on a shelf upstairs,” says Roger. “I’ve had to rearrange the house around them!”

This impressive collection will not be expanding. At the age of 76, Roger has retired from the role.

Wrestling columns will still appear in The Cumberland News, monthly for most of the year and weekly in summer, written by other members of the Cumberland and Westmorland Wrestling Association.

For Roger, the end of an era brings a mixture of sadness and relief.

“I feel relaxed,” he says. “I realise now that part of my head was always working on next week’s article.

“I’ve always been a last-minuter. The deadline was Thursday, 10 or 11 o’clock. I always used to get up early on Thursday and take a couple of hours. I’d got it in my head already.”

He used to write the column in Biro and hand it in at The Cumberland News’ Dalston Road HQ on his way to work.

Roger was head of English at Carlisle’s St Aidan’s secondary school. He took early retirement in 1993.

More recently, the column has arrived via email... usually.

Cumberland News staff would occasionally see Roger turn up late on Thursday morning, clutching a copy of his article.

Such are the hazards of living at a small farm near Ivegill, where broadband was not always reliable.

“My wife Jill can drive faster than BT could send it - her grandfather was a famous racing driver.”

This is said with the smile which frequently tickles Roger’s mouth and eyes.

Was it all worth it: this four decades of early mornings, wracked brains and mercy dashes?

“You start writing and think ‘Who the hell is going to read this?’ Sitting in my garret on my computer, you write for yourself really.

“But the oddest things happen. I know people in County Durham who bought The Cumberland News just to get my wrestling article. My father bought it for the wrestling article in 1960 in Northumberland.”

Roger recalls talking to a man outside his gate. “He said the first thing he looked at when he got The Cumberland News was my article. I’m not surrounded by a clamouring horde of fans. But every so often, I’m aware that it has a life outside.”

As for his subject matter, summers were spent putting flesh on the bones of show results. The rest of the calendar was less generous.

“Sometimes in the winter, there’s absolutely nothing to write about. I remember sometimes feeling relieved when somebody died and I had to write an obituary. That’s got me out of the odd hole!”

He roars with laughter. “I just needed the idea and everything else followed on. It’s strange how things fall out of the sky. If you’re attuned to it, there are things you suddenly can write about.

“In winter, I tended to write more philosophical articles. You have to think more widely and more deeply, rather more like opinion pieces.”

Such as criticising British Wrestling for spending millions of pounds helping foreign athletes become British citizens to improve the country’s medal prospects.

“Compare that to Carlisle Wrestling Club needing new mats. We needed £4,000 to pay for 40 mats.

“The business community came together. I was gobsmacked how quickly it happened. They tended to be farming-related businesses: accountants, auction marts.

“The last £25 was given by a 15-year-old boy wrestler out of his winnings.”

Cumberland wrestling remains a niche activity even in its home county. But those who know it love it. Roger discovered this world when his father, a mole catcher in Alnwick, taught him the basics when Roger was 11.

Roger went on to train his arms by swinging a wheelbarrow and his legs by Cossack dancing.

Looking back on his long association with the sport, he pinpoints 1964 as his “miracle year”, in terms of wrestling and much else.

He graduated from Durham University with an English literature degree, got engaged to Jill, won at Grasmere Sports - felling his friend and rival Tom Harrington in the final - and won at Braemar, watched by the Queen.

“That was a wonderful time for me. The apex of everything I was interested in coming to fruition.

“That period of time, you felt you could walk through doors without bothering to open them.”

The act of wrestling is a distant memory now. But it comes back easily enough.

“There’s the struggle, and if you’ve hit the right spot, you’ve got someone swinging round to the ground, then almost like a victory roll over the top.

“You don’t want to fall on them or damage them. You throw them down and you roll over the top.

“Like any man-to-man sport, it’s very physical. You shake hands before you take hold and you shake hands when you’ve been beaten and when you’ve won. That’s one of the early lessons the youngsters get when they’re coming along.”

Roger says he was competitive. “But I didn’t put myself in the same bracket as the Tom Harringtons of this world who lived and breathed it. I didn’t have that final little killer instinct.

“I wrestled once with Tom at Beamish. It had been raining and raining and raining.

“We were being quite defensive, walking with each other. We entered this lake and wandered through it, still wrestling. It was ankle deep. He felled me on the far shore!”

Roger’s final bout came at Dalston Show when he was 45. He won the heavyweight class, earning £10 and spending it on the wicker basket which houses logs by his living room fireplace.

Roger spent many years coaching young wrestlers. In 1985, he helped to found the International Federation of Celtic Wrestling.

Last year, the federation held its European Championship for young wrestlers in Penrith.

“It was a big undertaking for this area. We had a superb championships. We had to raise £20,000. And it happened. I had nothing to do with that.

“There was a function at the George Hotel to welcome the teams. I went along. Suddenly, when I wasn’t really concentrating, I heard my name. They were giving me a lifetime achievement award. That was a thank you for all those years.”

He was also presented with a framed poster, featuring photographs and information about his wrestling life.

“It’s a lovely thing,” he says. “But I can’t put it up anywhere. It would be too conceited to put it up anywhere.”

Roger mentions that his life has had many threads. Their variety reflects his upbringing and the opportunities that education gave him. Mole catcher, wrestler, farmer. Teacher, playwright, author.

“Passing the 11 plus, which politically I don’t agree with, I was given an advantage.

“My father was a fourth-generation mole-catcher.

“When I graduated, a friend of mine said my father had come up to him and said ‘Not bad for a mowdy-catcher’s son.’”

Around the year 2000, Roger had eight short stories, inspired by his youth, published in The Northumbrian magazine.

Recently he has written several more. These are due to be published in September by Carlisle-based Bookcase.

He stopped writing the initial batch of stories in 2001 when his farm was struck by foot and mouth disease. This was, says Roger, “the worst time”.

“Amidst all the slaughter, I lost my mojo for writing. When I knew we had the disease, I sent Jill off the farm to stay elsewhere.

“To ensure that my animals were well treated, I took the role of putting the cows and their calves through our cattle crush where they were all shot and then dragged away.

“Then the sheep were put in the same collecting pen to be shot by a posse of slaughtermen. It ended up two-deep with corpses. The lambs were caught individually and killed by injection nearby.

“I remember the vet doing the job had to take a break and go for a wander before he could carry on.

“I consoled a young lass who had been drafted in to help, but couldn’t cope. Her usual role was counting flowers for English Nature in East Anglia.

“Left to myself, I kept busy moving big bales with the tractor so that there was a suitable route for the collection of corpses.

“After a while, I realised that I was colliding with gate posts and fences. I stopped the tractor, and discovered that I was crying bitterly.

“I howled for a prolonged time, and then got on with looking after six hens, two cats and a dog. The bald statistics are: over 50 cows and calves, and well over 200 ewes and lambs. But statistics in such cases mean nowt.”

You’d never guess at the existence of these scars, given Roger’s gently upbeat demeanour. His long-term health problems are another subject he will talk about but does not dwell on.

“I’ve had blood cancer for 23 years,” he says in a matter-of-fact manner. “I survive on fortnightly blood transfusions.

“Thank you very much to everyone who gives blood and keeps me going. Without that, I wouldn’t produce red blood cells.

“As I diminish over the fortnight, I’m not really aware of it. You never quite know if you can blame the haemoglobin levels or if you’re just a lazy sod! Jill has her own opinions on that...

“Physically I’m restricted. Quite literally, I’m an armchair farmer. I’ve hardly touched a lamb this spring.

“My younger daughter Catherine comes. She’s married to a farmer. For a fortnight, she checked the sheep morning and night. My son Simon is head of a primary school in Staffordshire. He comes here and he’s a farm worker.”

Many other family members help, including two grand-daughters.

“You spoil your grandchildren, and suddenly you realise they’re spoiling you.”

Roger says he feels lucky to have not suffered depression at seeing his physical prowess diminish. This is a man who appears utterly content.

“I’ve got my family helping me. I’ve got a wife who gives me a lovely cup of coffee. I’d be a curmudgeonly old fart if I didn’t appreciate all this.”

Another family treats him well too: the one he has been part of for more than 60 years, as competitor, coach and columnist.

“I’m treated in such a gentle, kindly way by the wrestling world.

“At Grasmere last year, it was a terrible day - wet. I was perishing. I really was suffering from the exposure.

“My son and daughter were trying to help me. Somebody said ‘I’m going to bring my car round to ringside. You can sit in it.’

“You’re not supposed to have cars at ringside. But I found myself in the only car at the ring, being fed Christmas cake through the window.”