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17 October 2014

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Body Building

Donald Dinnie

Donald Dinnie (1837 – 1916)

Donald Dinnie

© Gordon Dinnie

In the year 1860 a young titan named Donald Dinnie performed a feat of strength that was to become his lasting legacy when he carried two massive boulders across the width of the Potarch Bridge near Kincardine O'Neil, in Aberdeenshire.

These stones with a combined weight of 775-lbs had massive iron rings fitted to them in the 1830s to which ropes were fixed so that scaffolds could be attached from which workmen could repair the bridge's outer face. Donald carried both stones together across the width of the Bridge and back, a distance of about five yards.

Nestling on the south bank of the River Dee by the Potarch Bridge is the 18th century Potarch Hotel. A feature by the doorway is the original stones creating great tourist interest and challenge to strongmen throughout the world.

The first modern Olympic Games of 1896 were fittingly staged in Athens where 200 athletes represented 14 countries. Scotland's Launceston Elliot won Scotland's first Olympic medal. During that period Donald Dinnie often described as "Scotland's Greatest Athlete" was fast approaching the twilight of his amazing sporting career.

Donald was an all-round athlete developing his skills during a 20-year reign as Scottish champion (1856-1876). He excelled in sprint, hurdles, long and high jump, pole vault, putting the stone, hammer, tossing the caber and wrestling. Comparing his best performances long before the Athens Olympics of 1896 leads one to imagine him capable of winning seven gold, a silver, and a bronze medal. However, at that time Donald was in his 60th year and touring New Zealand and Australia as a successful professional athlete.

Donald was born in 1837 Balnacraig, Birse, Aboyne, Aberdeenshire, the son of a stone mason. At 16 years old Donald won his first sporting competition in nearby Kincardine O'Neil by defeating local wrestling champion David Forbes and earning £1 prize money! This sparked off an amazing athletic career spanning over 50 years and winning over 11,000 competitions.

Unfortunately, many of Donald's medals were stolen while competing in USA, but thankfully the Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museum house the many surviving awards; 59 silver medals and a magnificent silver belt presented to him by his contemporaries around 1901.

Donald Dinnie endorsing Iron Brew

© Gordon Dinnie

Also housed there is a 23" carved statuette of Donald engraved with the words "Presented to Donald Dinnie, Champion Athlete In Appreciation of his Athletic Prowess, by his Scotch Friends, In Newcastle 1870". In addition to these awards a distant cousin, Gordon Dinnie, today owns an original astrakhan breastplate adorned by 19 impressive medals won by Donald Dinnie from 1860 – 1896.

A more recent award on St. Andrew's Day 2002 acknowledged Donald's induction into the Scottish Sports Hall of Fame in Edinburgh. Gordon Dinnie proudly accepted a prestigious cut glass trophy on his ancestor's behalf.

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