Bradley Welsh: Former boxer from an Edinburgh estate who landed a part in Trainspotting 2

From the underbelly of the Scottish capital and skirmishes with crime, he rose to a place where he could give back to his community

Phil Shaw
Friday 19 April 2019 14:20
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Welsh, pictured in his Holyrood gym, feared being typecast as a hardman in ‘T2’
Welsh, pictured in his Holyrood gym, feared being typecast as a hardman in ‘T2’

Bradley Welsh won acclaim for his role as Mr Doyle, a gangland villain in the 2017 film T2 Trainspotting, but was also known for a spell as a professional boxer, for his devotion to the sport’s amateur form in which he became a British champion, charity work and time as a football hooligan and criminal.

Welsh, who was killed by a gunshot in Edinburgh at the age of 48, won his role in the Trainspotting sequel in unusual fashion. In 2014, he spent 24 hours in the ring at his Holyrood Boxing Gym, sparring with 360 opponents to raise money for the SickKids Foundation and earned a place in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Novelist Irvine Welsh (no relation), his friend and fellow Hibernian supporter, brought Trainspotting director Danny Boyle and screenwriter John Hodge along to support the event, which generated £42,500. Their meeting led to Bradley Welsh being invited to audition as Doyle.

A stranger to acting, he over-egged his lines and Boyle opted to look elsewhere for his crime boss. Two days later, at the launch of Irvine Welsh’s book The Blade Artist, Bradley Welsh explained to Boyle how he thought he had flunked the audition.

The director was impressed by his self-criticism and eventually gave him the part. In the film, Doyle owns saunas throughout the Scottish capital and subjects Sick Boy (Ewan McGregor) and Renton (Jonny Lee Miller) to vicious intimidation when they plan to open a brothel, at one point forcing them to strip.

Bradley Welsh hoped the role might lead to further acting opportunities but complained that the parts suggested to him would have typecast him as a “Scottish hardman”. Born among the high-rise blocks of the working-class district of Moredun in the south of Edinburgh, he often appeared to be striving to escape his past.

During the 1980s Welsh had been a member of the Hibs casuals’ “firm” Capital City Service and featured in the television documentary series Danny Dyer’s Deadliest Men. He gave the actor a tour of “the underbelly of Edinburgh” and recalled how he had been arrested seven times at football grounds by the time he was 14.

Welsh on YouTube show ‘Anything Goes’ in February

A schoolboy boxer at the time, he went on to become the British Amateur Boxing Association lightweight champion in 1993 and began four years as a professional 12 months later, going on to win eight of his nine pro fights.

Welsh served two jail sentences for what he later termed “extortion and firearms and all that”. Interviewed by the Edinburgh Evening News last year he said: “Between the ages of 15 and 19 I went through the stratosphere, got involved in protection rackets, the security industry, I was a nightclub promoter. However, the minute I landed in prison I realised I was with a bunch of imbeciles. The things I did, they were wrong, but I understand why I did them – because I had f**k all.”

Boxing, added Welsh, “got me through the very hard periods when I went off the tracks”. Yet he derided the professional sport and what he saw as the greed of promoters and managers. The Holyrood Gym – where scenes for T2 Trainspotting were filmed – was not only a business but staged free boxing classes for underprivileged children. He was also involved in Edinburgh Helping Hands, an organisation established to combat inequality and injustice.

On his death, the boxer Gemma Brodie tweeted that Welsh “supported female boxing when nobody else did”. He is survived by his partner Emma and their eight-year-old daughter Tiger Eva.

Bradley John Welsh, boxer, actor and businessman, born 4 November 1970, died 17 April 2019

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