The mighty Donald Dinnie has many claims to fame, from 11,000 competition victories to being immortalised by a soft drink.
An outstanding all-round athlete, he excelled in sprinting, hurdles, long jump, high jump, pole vaulting, shot-putting, hammer throw, caber-tossing and wrestling during a 21-year career.
Born in Aberdeenshire in 1837, the stonemason’s son began his career as a strongman, winning his first bout against wrestler David Forbes in 1853 at the age of 16. Heralded as ‘the greatest athlete in the word’ and ‘the strong man of the age’, he was world-champion wrestler and champion at the Scottish Highland Games Championships for an incredible 21 consecutive years between 1856 and 1876.
His documented achievements worldwide include winning 2,000 hammer throwing contests, more than 2,000 wrestling matches, 200 weightlifting contests and around 500 running and hurdle events.
Donald’s feats of strength included lifting a 17st man above his head. He famously carried two boulders with a combined weight of 733lb across the width of the bridge at Potarch, a feat which only five other men — including Dinnie’s father — have been able to equal. The boulders, now known as the Dinnie Stones, stand today outside the Potarch Café on the south bank of the River Dee.
His fame continued even after his sporting career was over. In 1903, he was recruited by Robert Barr to advertise Irn Bru, with today’s logo still bearing an image based on the original label featuring his athletic frame. And in World War I, heavy artillery shells were nicknamed ‘Donald Dinnies’ in tribute to the extraordinary strength of a man who died in 1916, aged 78.
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