ASK any senior member of society what their favourite hobbies are to pass the time, and weightlifting would not be high up on many agendas.

Then again, most people are not like Bill Despard, who describes the sport as “my life”.

At the grand old age of 87, the pensioner has just returned from a successful participation at the European Masters Weightlifting Championship in Poland, earning a silver medal in the 81kg category and laying claim to be Scotland’s oldest-ever competitive weightlifter.

Spending every day at the Kilwinning Olympic Weightlifting Club – which he has run for more than 20 years – Bill is showing no signs of giving up his extraordinary pastime.


Bill has run the Kilwinning Olympic Weightlifting Club for more than 20 years

Bill has run the Kilwinning Olympic Weightlifting Club for more than 20 years


“There were more than 1,400 lifters taking part over the week,” the remarkable OAP told the Times.

“A guy from Poland beat me, he is 87.

“I got a new hip last year which has slowed me down a little, it makes me a bit apprehensive when I’m lifting the heavier weights, but I finished second and got a silver medal.

“I made a wee bit of history for Scotland as the oldest ever weightlifter to compete at a competition.

“I enjoyed it, it was a terrific atmosphere and I was just hoping to get a medal.”

With five competitions coming up next year, Bill is just as active in the sport now as when he started out at 15 – despite some serious health problems over the years.


Bill Despard is aged 87 (Pic: Charlie Gilmour)

Bill Despard is aged 87 (Pic: Charlie Gilmour)


The widower had his right breast removed when he was 16 due to cancer, before getting back to competing at 18, and said his replacement hip has made him “very cagey” in fear of further injury.

Overlooking the challenges, he is adamant that the sport is one which more people should be getting involved with, particularly younger generations.

Bill said: “I love doing it, I love the sport. It’s been good to me physically, it’s been great to me.

“I just feel that if I can get kids off the streets and teach them an Olympic sport, and help them get out of difficulties, that would be great.

“We had loads of members but Covid killed us. We’ve got 14 members at the moment.

“I don’t care if they’re 100-years-old, anyone can join in.

“I don’t make any money out of it, I’ve been paid once in my life when I was in Japan and I refereed and they gave me 300 dollars. I’ve never made a penny out of it.

“It’s my life, it’s everything I know in life.”

The great-grandfather, who has won medals in the USA, South Africa and Japan, has one long-term supporter who is always by his side – 17-year-old Staffy, Holly.

Bill said: “My wife used to come to all of my competitions but all I’ve got now is my wee dog, so I’ve got a bed in the gym for her and it’s beside where I train.

“She just sits and watches me and as soon as she sees me change my shoes she knows it’s time to go up the road.”