Death of 'Fearless' Freddy leaves betting world poorer

ONE of racing's best-known bookmakers, "Fearless" Freddie Williams, has died from a heart attack after working at four race meetings in two days.

Mr Williams, 65, who earned his nickname for holding his nerve during battles with the biggest hitters in the betting world, died at his home in Cumnock, Ayrshire, on Saturday night after spending the evening working at Shawfield greyhound stadium in Glasgow.

Earlier that day, the bookmaker, who famously lost almost 1 million in one day at Cheltenham in 2006, had been taking bets at Ayr races.

He had also worked there on Friday evening, just hours after flying from Musselburgh race course in Edinburgh.

His daughter Julie, 35, who often worked alongside her father, last night called him "an inspiration". She said that she and her sister, Shirley, 32, were devastated. "This has been totally unexpected," she said. "It has come as a total shock and we are now trying to come to terms with it."

She said her father, who was the managing director of Caledonian Bottlers based in his home town and owned Glasgow restaurant 76 St Vincent Street, had been an "impressive and energetic man".

And she added that Mr Williams, who had a heart by-pass operation in 1999, had lived life to the full: "He enjoyed his life and I don't think he would have chosen to live his life any differently. I will remember him as a dad who was positive about everything he did. He had such a flair for the horses. He was very intuitive about when a horse was fit and ready to win."

In an interview with The Scotsman earlier this year, Mr Williams was asked about his hectic lifestyle and whether he wished he could have a quieter life working in an office.

He said: "No. When I'm not here everybody will remember me as a bookmaker. Everybody will remember me for owning a factory. Nobody will remember me for the days I worked for somebody else from five o'clock in the morning until six o'clock at night. Those were the hard days."

Mr Williams was born and raised in Cumnock, in the mining district of Ayrshire. Ill health at the age of 15 prevented him from working down the pits like his father and grandfather, so instead he went to work in a nearby lemonade factory.

As a teenager, he was keen to learn the trade and started as a bookie's runner. He opened his first book at Auchinleck Greyhound track in the late 1960s and money gained through a workforce buy-out meant he could afford his first racecourse pitch at Ayr in 1974. Musselburgh, Hamilton and Perth followed.

In 1999 Mr Williams paid 90,000 for pitch number two at Cheltenham.

It was here he both made and lost a fortune, most famously paying out around 1 million to racehorse owner JP McManus after he won a series of large bets.

Fellow bookmaker Bert Logan last night paid tribute to a man he said would be sorely missed. Mr Logan, who knew Mr Williams for more than 25 years, said he was a giant in the betting industry.

"The betting ring will be a sadder place without him," he said. "When he was working, he was a giant of a man – impressive and aggressive. But off the stool, he was a fantastic loyal friend and great fun."