1989 More Blantyre Highland Games


These photos were kindly shared by Jim Cochrane and feature Hercules the Bear and trainer Andy Robin, at Blantyre Highland Games in Summer 1989. The games were in their 3rd year and Hercules was a star attraction, pulling big crowds for being well known at the time. The pictures show how strong Hercules was, a nervous looking Andy at times, and even Hercules tucking into a 2 litre bottle of Irn Bru.

Hercules (1975 – 4 February 2000) was a trained grizzly bear from Scotland who appeared in a number of cameo roles for various television productions, reaching the height of his popularity in the 1980s.

He was owned by wrestler Andy Robin and his wife, Maggie, who originally bought him from The Highland Wildlife Park in Kingussie, south of Aviemore, as a cub in 1976. Andy, having wrestled a bear (Terrible Ted) in Maple Leaf Gardens in 1968, hit upon the idea of adopting his own bear to create a star. The wildlife park was unable to rehouse newly-born cubs, with their only option being to put them down, and sold one to Andy for £50, allowing him to take the cub home that September once he was old enough to leave his mother. Hercules grew quickly and in one year grew to a weight of 30 stone. They trained in a remote area in Sheriffmuir near Dunblane, where the couple lived.

Early Popularity – Andy commissioned a 60-minute documentary, “Hercules the Wrestling bear” in 1980 at a cost of £10,000, designed to promote public interest in their show. Hercules first appeared with Andy in his act on the UK wrestling circuit in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Playing the role of a gentle giant, the bear regularly drew audiences of 15 million viewers on ITV’s World of Sport programme. It was this which gave Hercules early success, leading to a number of small acting roles on television.

International Stardom –  While filming for a Kleenex television commercial on Benbecula in the Outer Hebrides on 20 August 1980, Hercules managed to escape, going missing for 24 days. In a rescue attempt joined by hundreds of volunteers, search parties looked for Hercules for three days before calling off the search (though Andy continued to search on his own). On 13 September, a crofter spotted the animal swimming; Herc was shot with a tranquilliser dart, netted, and flown by helicopter back to Andy.[3] The story quickly made Hercules a celebrity around the world, as the world’s media gathered around the cage as the bear was brought back to consciousness. Being used to eating cooked food (he disliked raw flesh), the bear had lost 15 stone, almost half his weight. Andy found it quite remarkable that the bear half-starved to death rather than feed on the many sheep, cattle, or various other wildlife on the island. This endeared him all the more, including to all the people who had previously feared him for being a “wild beast”, leading him to ever larger celebrity status. This also led to the “Big Softy” Kleenex campaign, which kicked off his film career. For the years following, Herc continued to abandon more of his wild instincts, acting more and more like “a person” with his adoptive “parents”.

He would go on to secure higher profile roles in films such as the James Bond movie Octopussy (1983), in which he shared the screen with Roger Moore, and a documentary for the Disney company, as well as moving to California for two years and starring in a number of other small film roles, children’s documentaries, and chat shows. All this net his adoptive parents a small fortune for all their efforts.

Later Life – While filming a BBC television documentary, Eyewitness Bear in 1997, Hercules fell over and slipped a disc in his back, marking an abrupt end to his career. Andy nursed him back to health over the next six months, with swimming exercises in Hercules’ pool. The determination paid off and he slowly started to walk again. But the following winter he again lost the use of his legs.

Before entering hibernation, Herc (as he was always called) died of old age on 4 February 2000, aged 25 (which is around the natural lifespan of a grizzly). “Big Softy” Hercules is possibly the most well known grizzly bear.

In 2013, Andy and Maggie were invited to unveil a life-size statue of Hercules on North Uist. A documentary, Hercules the Human Bear, aired on Channel 5 (UK) on 3 April 2014.

Source: Wikipedia

On social media:

Murray Macleod Emma Joanne Allardice remember going to this?

Emma Joanne Allardice Oh my days!! Yes! I actually thought I had made it up in my head going to that! I remember the circus as well, and having to leave as I was crying too much because of the evil clowns me

Murray Macleod A fine summer afternoon watching a man fight a bear.

Emma Joanne Allardice just the norm for a Blantyre child’s childhood.

Lynsey Fojut This was the highlight of my childhood.

Frances Maguire Kelly Maguire remember this.

Bary Maguire Remember winning gold in the relay at this John Cleland ? Think it was you, me, Michael Hart, Johnnie Polockus and Colin Bartwicki . Maybe Davie McWilliams too?

John Cleland Remember it well. Hazel Irvine presented us with our medals😂

Johnnie Polockus Ahhhh the memories.great times

Michelle Evans I LOVED these. Highlight of the year smile emoticon
You know sometimes you wonder if things ever really happened, it wasn’t all that long ago that I was trying to describe our “highland” games to my husband. He didn’t believe that they actually happened!
Claire Mcdade Kimberley Wilkie is this down the back field??x

Angela Kerr Aw I remember this and the highland dancing Nicola McCart???? Remember you were in this ??? Xx

Drew Burnett I remember that day. We were helping out by selling programmes at the games. It was a great day.

Stix Robert Mackinnon It sucks that nothing like that would ever happen nowadays

Scott Cain Was at this

Stephen Murdoch Used to love watching him wrestling wae the bear 🐻 good times man

Jean McIntosh Great memories xxx

Alan Reardon Yes Jean great times and a lot of hard work. I don’t think Health and safety would allow it to happen now they would have to cage the public to protect the bear smile emoticon

Jean Gibson Those were the days! I remember working in the bar!

James Burns I remember this and I was only 5

Margaret Mary Kerr Joanne Nelson do you remember this. X

Eileen Geddes Used to love Andy wrestling in Airdrie town hall

Colette Duffy Martin Martin Duffy remember I told you about this 😂👍

Nicola Hughes Crowe lol i remember this

Karen Sim I remember going to see this

Emma Reilly Remember these games. My dad has loads of photos somewhere 😊

John Richardson I remember a right good fight at this 😂😂😂

Craig Niven Wow, was there, brings back so many memories

Edd Park I remember Andy wrestling Hercules at the highland show in the Hirsel estate here in Coldstream back in the 80’s, what a buzz!

Betty Mctaggart I was there with my mother !!!!!! Gt a signed foto, need 2 dig it out !!

Frank Wylie I was there but thought it was earlier 80,s !! Great times anyway !!

Joanne Wright I saw the documentary only recently, and enjoyed every second of it. The love that man had for his bear was second to none xxx

Tracy Poulton James James Rogan

Janette Minto I was there that day. It was great.!!

Sharon Little Awww this was a highlight of the summer. A full day out… pony rides and herc.

Stewart Hay This was a great day, even better when I got my photo taken with Hercules. Yes got it to prove it too. Andys wife took the photo. It was in the back of the bus. That what happens when you help where you can.
Ps also targgart ( Mark McManus )

Kelly Ann I used to love this!! Xx

Craig Nobes I was there ,great memories

Johnny Hasson Seen him at the Blantyre games.
Remember it very well considering I lived virtually across the road from wilkies farm!👍

Lindsey Meechan Rosemary do you remember this?

Karen McGowan Used to love going to the highland games…Takes me back 😀

David Mosley Dåniêllê McKåy show our Paul this. Great memories of when we were weans! Xx

Kerry Tremble Kevan Great memories in Blantyre games x

Beth Lang David Lang remember we went to this? It was Wilkie’s Farm 😊

David Lang Wow yeah. I remember the log toss and the guy who came down from the helicopter on a rope. Good times. 😊😊😊

Grace Nelson Great times. Great memories. 😀

Catherine Rena Odonnell Great memories

Margaret Mcculloch I was there at Wilkies farm ……


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