William Beattie – The Scottish Apollo

williambeattie-scottishapolloMr. William Beattie – or Wullie and his sons Alexanders and Wullie Junior were a performing family of the early to mid 20th Century.

The circus family were the Beattie family, who originally came from Twechar and may have travelled settling for period of time in many places, including Blantyre. Mrs Beattie was a Balfour from Burnbank and her mother was a Holmes.

William in his early years worked on a farm, intenstive hard work, which likely formed his strong physique. The family members known for throwing and lifting weights was Wullie Beattie and his son Alexander (Sandy). Other son Wullie had scars on his body.

Wullie in his later years lived at Dixon’s Rows in Stonefield where his family was known for their perfoming and entertaining shows, even in the raw’s themselves. Wullie Beattie was the British 12 stone Weightlifting Champion in 1929, later touring Britain and Ireland as the mighty Apollo. His family also joined the act as acrobats, jugglers and of course son Sandy as the incredible ‘Young Apollo’.

“The Scottish Apollo” William Beattie could do a bent-press with a pair of 56-pound block weights. It should be noted that he first swung them up to that position which is a fantastic feat of grip strength in holding the blocks together. Beatties was also fond of juggling these weights. William was 5 foot 6, but had a 44” chest and 16” biceps.

Unsurprisingly, Beattie was one of the many students of William Pullum and won the British Amateur Weightlifting Association (BAWLA) 12 stone Championship in 1929. Beattie went on to perform feats of strength and acrobatics with several circuses. The “Scottish Apollo”, and the “Scottish Strongman”, appeared with Sir Robert Fossett’s circus, 1948 and 1949, juggling two 56lb weights. With Rosaire’s circus, touring in 1950 and 1951, demonstrating strength with weight. He lifted 3 1/2 cwt. and nine men on a board, with his feet, lying on his back.

The Apollos, William and his son Sandy Beatty (Young Apollo), were at Rosaire’s circus, Bridlington in 1954, exhibiting feats of strength. At Pinder’s circus in 1956. With Joe Gandey’s circus, Heysham Head, Morcambe, in 1957. His family, including daughter Jean, also appeared as the Four Almadas, balancers, as Victor and Partner, roller balancing, and with Mary Gandey as the Kusicks on the trapeze.

In October 1957 the ‘Mighty Apollos’ advertised, ‘unexpectedly vacant’, from an address at Blantyre, Glasgow.

Joined Mrs C. Pinder’s Royal No.1 circus for 1958, performing in Scottish national costume. The ‘Mighty Apollos’ presented feats of strength and arobatics on Tommy Pinder’s New International Circus in 1959, two men and a girl, attired in tartan kilts. Victor ‘Zane’, noted in 1959 with Winship’s circus, hand-balancing, was one of William Beatty’s sons.

The Three Mighty Apollos, strong act, were with Tommy Pinder’s circus, tenting in 1960, attired in kilts. Note that the Scottish Apollo’s surname was correctly spelled Beattie.

The Beattie family shared a house at 19 Hall Street with the family of Alex Balfour from 1949 until around the final days of Dixons’s Raws in the mid 1950’s. Sixteen people in a two-roomed house will have been very cramped indeed.  Robert Beattie who now lives in Australia and who provided some of this information added, “I remember my time in the raws with pride, great friends, and a great Community spirit, despite the hardships of the time,”

William Beattie died in 1968 when his youngest daughter, of 8 children he had, was only 18. He is buried in Blantyre. Even today, some of his grandchildren are known for their feats of strength travelling abroad and winning medals.

With credit to John Wood for words highlighted in blue.

Full extract from “Blantyre Explained” by Paul Veverka (c) 2017


On social media:

Marion Anderson Thanks Paul, ( Willie’s youngest daughter here) and The young Apollo Sandy turned 80 this week.. and still lifts weights
Julia William McGovern Remember the Beattie very well. Xx
James Stirling is that the same mr beattie that had the allotment up at auchintibber ?
The Blantyre Project where was that?
Peter Mcsorley Up round about where that old airplane was stored I think that plot of land is up for sale at the moment
Alan Shields Its going to auction
Peter Mcsorley When alan
Alan Shields I will get the details to yiu the morra. Future auctions hold them and should be on their website or rightmove. I can get you the sellers details
James Stirling paul the allotment is still there ,it is the one up from the market garden,and you are correct jean he bred rabbits in there ,mainly for the table
The Blantyre Project next to Browns Building, where Trustlers used to make concrete slabs?
James Stirling paul as you come out of auchintibber it is almost right in front of you, the allotment is still there it was owned by a mr dodds who was in partnership with mr beattie ,i heard mr dodds sold it
James Stirling paul i dont think it was the trustlers who made the slabs for the electricity board ,to my knowledge it was the owners who own it now that made the slabs, i do not no there name
Jean Maxwell Yes it is, he bred rabbits there.
Jean Maxwell Paul I don’t know where about it was he was friendly with a farmer up there
Marion Anderson Stuart Maxwell took us up there to see it in 2004 I think
Stuart Maxwell It’s not there anymore, the last I saw it was just waste ground, quite possibly built on now. It’s just down from the new crematorium.
James Stirling stuart what is not there anymore ?
Megan Anderson Wow mum, Marion Anderson I love this … so well written .. can’t believe your dad juggled those weights I don’t remember you telling me that one
Billie Boyd Alyssa Iannucci my fam is in the circus 😻
Marion Anderson your great, great grandfather, uncles and aunt. Good to see the younger ones taking an interest Billie.
Jean Maxwell Are they we are all too old now but talk to my brother Robert Beattie he is quite an expert on circuses, he may know your family
Jill Beattie What a fantastic article. Its well known amongst the family these stories. But we have been searching for circus posters and or any other posters or memorabilia relating to this time. We would appreciate any links anyone may have to these. Thanking you in advance .please contact myself daughterinlaw of robert . Jill Beattie or Robert Beattie.
Marion Anderson And on the subject of Jessie Ewart Balfour Beattie from Burnbank, his wife and our mother, any Balfour’s or family friends out there have photos of her or her family… I would love to hear from you as we have precious few ….thanks a million!
Marion Anderson thanks to Paul and the The Blantyre Project this article is being shared far and wide by many of Wull’s descendants. Thanks again Paul, you do a terrific job.
Susan Powell Blimey!
James Stirling i got my first rabbit of mr beattie


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  1. That’s ma great uncle I’m so proud xxx

  2. William Beattie’s parents were Robert Blair and Jean Bell Beattie. When did he take his mother’s maiden name. His father was my 2nd great uncle Robert Blair.

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