BADDEST MOFOS EVER: DONALD DINNIE
Well the man looks awesome for a 45-year-old in swim trunks. Donald Dinnie doesn’t exactly appear to be sweating raw power.
In a time where men ate steak and potatoes. Lifted heavy things to prove their mettle against their friends and neighbors. One man stood head and shoulders above the rest- Donald Dinnie. Dinnie was basically what a sexual union between Mariusz Pudzianowski and Jim Thorpe’s corpse might have produced. If fed a bunch of beer and thrown into a plaid skirt, and as such competed in every possible professional sporting event he could, winning damn near all of them. So profound was his effect on the opposition that during the World War I heavy artillery shells were nicknamed ‘Donald Dinnies’ because he obliterated his opposition.
At 6’1″, 218 lbs, Dinnie was hardly the most jacked mofo to walk the Earth. Instead, he was basically the same size as former light heavyweight UFC champ Randy Couture at Randy’s walking around weight. As such, it’s even more surprising that the relatively slight Dinnie performed the feats he did and was so unbelievably dominant in strength sports as he was. In short, the man was a freak of goddamned nature.
If you’ve never heard of Donald Dinnie, it should hardly come as a surprise. He was incredibly famous in sports about which no one really cares anymore and in those about which we care, but prior to the Olympic Games, so again we’re back to not caring. He was born in 1837. Competed professionally from the age of 16 to the age of 63, a perhaps unique record of sustained athletic ability. During his long career as a highland game’s athlete and as a touring professional wrestler he was the recipient of over 100 medals. He won no fewer than 7,500 cash prizes totaling over $100,000 [ed: using 1875 as a benchmark, that’s roughly $2M in today’s dollars]! He was also the winner in more than 200 weightlifting contests” (Willoughby 541).
Some of his most famous feats include:
- jerk pressed a pair of 56 lb. dumbbells for 52 reps
- carried the Dinnie stones (one was 445 lbs. and the other 340 lbs.) 10 yards
- put a 22lb stone 42’3″, and 18lb stone 44’8″ and a 14 lb. stone 52′
- running high jump (scissors style) of 5’11”
- did a running broad jump of 20’1″
- did a hop, step and jump of 44′ (making him an extremely elite triple jumper among 2017 NCAA prospects)
- ran the hundred in 10.4 (making him faster than Reggie Bush, Bo Jackson, and Adrian Peterson, among many others)
- 168 lb one arm snatch
- 252 lb two hands anyhow
According to the inscriptions on a Championship Belt given to Dinnie for being the single greatest athlete ever to walk the Earth by “the Colonies”, which I assume was a colonial authority ruling Scotland, Dinnie was:
- Was the “Winner of over 2,000 wrestling contests. In 1882 won the champion medal for mixed wrestling in New Jersey, USA. Won the all-round wrestling championship of the world as Melbourne Wrestling Tournament in 1885 and was champion of Scotland over a quarter of a century.” (Greatest)
- “Won over 2,000 contests for hammer-throwing. Best records on level, fair stand- By 4 feet, 2 inch still handle, 16 lbs., 132 feet. By 4 feet, 8-inch handle, 16 lbs., 138 feet, 8 inches. 4 feet, 2-inch stiff handle, 22 lbs., 104.5 feet. By 4 feet, 2-inch stiff handle, 44 lbs., 46.5 feet.” (Greatest)
- “Won 300 contests for throwing 56 lb. weight. Fair stand- length of weight, including ring, 14 inches- distance 28 feet, 4 inches. By chain, fair stand, 40 feet, 6 inches. For height over bar, 13 feet, 11 inches.” (Greatest)
- “Won over 1,400 contests for tossing the caber. Unbeaten for over 40 years! Won championship of Australia at caber and wrestling at Goulburn, N.S.W., in 1891.Beat all comers in South Africa in 1898.” (Greatest)
Much of Dinnie’s strength, it can be surmised, likely stemmed from his background as a stone mason, and the fact that his father before him was one as well, in addition to a strongman. Dinnie had strong hands, a broad back, and the ability to endure a buttload of heavy manual labor. While being berated by a drunken Scotsman yielding a hammer. Certainly, this was the ideal background for a man involved in strength sports and Scottish crossdressing.
Dinnie allegedly spent all his free time training for the Highland Games. Which is even more impressive. Considering that he went from a drunken odd-lift profession into a drunken odd-lift leisure activity in the same day. From what I can see, the man’s life consisted of naught but drinking and throwing oddly shaped objects hither and yon while everyone around him screamed unintelligible epithets at gophers and maintained golf courses.
The Dinnie Stones looks awkward enough to have been one of the scenes in Meet the Parents
Dinnie’s main claim to fame was his lift and carry of the Dinnie Stones, two stones named after Dinnie after he moved them with an iron will and the grip strength of a chimp with a pronounced masturbation problem. Dinnie carried two John Goodman and Rosanne Barr sized boulders across the Potarch Bridge (located somewhere in Scotland). From what I could find, the bridge is 6 meters at its widest.
So Dinnie likely carried the stones about 15 feet. Who cares, right? Well, you should, because those things have a combined weight of 775-lbs. He carried them both at once. Grabbing them by the giant iron rings fitted to them in the 1830s. According to Steve Jeck in Of Stones and Strength, the method used was “to straddle both stones at the point where he had brought them in close together. He then took hold of the rings, one stone in front of him and the other behind. Not only did he lift both stones together, but he also carried them across the width of the bridge.”(Jeck 29)
Dinnie didn’t restrict himself simply to the events popular in the land famous for getting its ass kicked in by the British, however- he is considered one of the greatest athletes of the 19th Century because he excelled at three entirely different sports- track and field, wrestling, and weightlifting. As such, he’s sort of like Michael Jordan, if Michael Jordan hadn’t sucked at baseball and was also a track star. I suppose they’re nothing alike, as wrestling in the 19th Century resembled MMA far more than it does modern wrestling.
From what I’ve found, Scottish Backhold wrestling (very similar to Cornwall wrestling) wasn’t quite as violent as American catch wrestling (which evolved out of Lancashire Wrestling), but given Donald Dinnie’s constant search for large purses, it seems highly likely that he, unlike his countrymen, would have engaged in combat with the more violent wrestlers of the day. In case you’re curious about the distinction, check this out (which I find to be a fascinating aside, and if you don’t, screw you):
“TRADITIONALLY WRESTLING HAS TWO MAIN CENTERS IN ENGLAND: IN THE WEST COUNTRY, WHERE THE DEVONSHIRE AND CORNWALL STYLES WERE DEVELOPED, AND IN THE NORTHERN COUNTIES, THE HOME OF THE CUMBERLAND AND WESTMORLAND STYLES. ABRAHAM CANN IN THE EARLY 19TH CENTURY WAS BACKED AGAINST ANY MAN IN ENGLAND FOR £500. CANN WAS A WRESTLER OF THE DEVONSHIRE STYLE. HE AND OTHERS FROM HIS COUNTY, SUCH AS JORDAN, WERE OFTEN OBJECTED TO FOR ‘SHOWING THE TOE’ – KICKING. THIS WAS AN ACKNOWLEDGED METHOD, QUITE WITHIN THE RULES, IN DEVON BUT NOT IN CORNWALL, AND THERE WERE MANY CORNISHMEN WHO WOULD NOT ‘GO IN’ AGAINST A DEVON OPPONENT. THE DEVONSHIRE STYLE EXPONENTS JUSTIFIED THEIR SOMEWHAT BRUTAL METHODS BY EXPLAINING THAT THEIR STYLE WAS MORE CLASSIC AND THAT THE GREEKS THEMSELVES USED TO KICK IN THEIR BOUTS.”
- “CORNISH STYLE ORIGINATES FROM THE CELTS AND IS ALWAYS HELD IN THE OPEN AIR, AND IN A RING. THE UMPIRES ARE KNOWN AS STICKLERS AND USUALLY FOUR OR SIX OF THESE OFFICIALS ARE APPOINTED.
- THE LEGS OF THE WRESTLERS ARE BARE FROM THE KNEES AND THEY WEAR CANVAS JACKETS THAT MAY BE USED IN THE HOLDS.
- TRADITIONALLY THE CHALLENGE TAKES A FORM OF THROWING A CAP IN THE AIR, AND WHOEVER WANTS MAY PICK IT UP.
- THE OBJECT IS TO THROW ONE’S OPPONENT SO THAT HE LANDS WITH BOTH HIPS AND ONE SHOULDER, OR TWO SHOULDERS AND ONE HIP, SQUARELY ON THE GROUND.
- ILLUSTRATING CORNWALL’S CLOSE CONNECTION WITH WRESTLING WAS THE BANNER OF THE CORNISH TROOPS IN THE HUNDRED YEARS WAR, WHICH SHOWED TWO WRESTLERS IN ACTION.
The other main division of traditional English wrestling is known as Cumberland and Westmorland style, a form of contest said to have been introduced by the Vikings.
“KICKING WAS A PART OF WRESTLING EVERYWHERE EXCEPT IN CORNWALL. SHINNING OR CUTLEGS WAS A RECOGNIZED SPORT AND EVEN TODAY SCHOOLBOYS PLAY A VARIATION WHICH IS CALLED STAMPERS – AS ITS NAME IMPLIES, IT CALLS FOR STAMPING ON EACH OTHER’S TOES.
LANCASHIRE STYLE WRESTLING IS A FORM OF CATCH AS CATCH CAN, WHICH ALLOWS CONSIDERABLE FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT AND IS SIMILAR TO THE FREE STYLE SEEN AT THE MODERN OLYMPICS. IT HAS A REPUTATION OF BEING PARTICULARLY BARBAROUS, ALTHOUGH THE RULES SPECIFICALLY BAR THROTTLING OR THE BREAKING OF LIMBS. THERE ARE FEW RESTRICTIONS AND WRESTLING CONTINUES WHEN THE CONTESTANTS HIT THE GROUND.
THE BADMINTON LIBRARY HAS A QUOTE ON THE LANCASHIRE STYLE OF WRESTLING WHICH STATES:
A LANCASHIRE WRESTLING MATCH IS AN UGLY SIGHT: THE FIERCE ANIMAL PASSIONS OF THE MEN WHICH MARK THE STRUGGLES OF MADDENED BULLS, OR WILD BEASTS, THE SAVAGE YELLING OF THEIR PARTISANS, THE WRANGLING, AND FINALLY THE CLOG BUSINESS WHICH SETTLES ALL DISPUTES AND KNOTTY POINTS, ARE SIMPLY APPALLING” (BRIEF HISTORY).
According to one wrestling source, “Squabbling over rules (Greco-Roman versus collar-and-elbow versus Cumberland versus Lancashire, etc.) was often a pre-match hype.” Dinnie did compete in mixed rules matches, according to Zarnowski, but Cornish/Scottish wrestling definitely seems to have been his forte, as I’d imagine he was able to use his upper body strength to his advantage. It seems that rules in combat sports were only tightened in the late 19th-early 20th Century, so it’s possible that backhold wrestling forms like Glima, Scottish Backhold, and Cornish Wrestling were a bit more violent in Dinnie’s day, and the evidence seems to bear that out. Additionally, given his travels throughout the world and the US, it seems likely that Dinnie would have had to compete with catch wrestlers, as catch/Lancashire wrestling was insanely popular in the US and in England during Dinnie’s life.
It’s fair to say that Dinnie was likely a hard mofo in addition to being strong and fast. Adding to the evidence that Dinnie was tough as hell, he is reputed to have competed in (and won) 16 Highland Games events in a single day and won 58 of 77 events over 15 competitions in the US with his left arm in a sling due to a bad shoulder injury incurred during a vault (Zarnowski).
At this point, Dinnie’s clearly starting to sound a hell of a lot like Paul Bunyan, but it gets crazier- Dinnie didn’t just win when he competed- he absolutely embarrassed his competition. According to Zarnowski, “the margins of Dinnie’s victories were gaudy. He dominated his competition normally winning hammer competitions by twenty feet or more, and stone tosses by five feet. And margins could have been more.
Unconcerned about “records,” Dinnie would take one toss or put which was good enough to win the other competitors would throw as often as the rules permitted while he went away to compete at some other event.” Very few competitors in any sport are content with leaving records on the field, but Dinnie was so goddamned good, he just didn’t give a crap. In spite of the fact that no craps were given in regard to setting records, Dinnie’s “sixteen-pound shot put (stone toss) record was not surpassed for thirty-nine years” and it “took eight seasons to better his hammer mark and eight years to top his high jump best” (Zarnowski).
Like Paul Bunyan, Donald Dinnie’s likeness is now found all over the place. Dinnie competed in the Caledonia Games in Lucknow in 1882 and been an icon for the community since. They’ve erected a statue in his honor, and his likeness can be seen on signage for the village. While alive, Dinnie was used as the body model for a statue of William Wallace, and he’s still used to sell the Irn Bru he endorsed while alive. For this reason, Dinnie is considered to be “the original superstar celebrity and Scotland’s first true professional sportsman” (Mair) and is often compared with the likes of David Beckham in terms of pop culture status and Jim Thorpe in terms of sports prowess.
Regarding the latter, most sports historians are of the opinion that Dinnie would have knocked the inimitable Thorpe to the ground and peed on his prone body. For those of you who are unaware of Jim Thorpe, he’s considered as much superhero as he is athlete, and was even described by the Associated Press as “the greatest American football player” and the “greatest overall male athlete” ever.(Thorpe) Despite those titles, author Frank Zarnowski compared the two athletes in the five events they had in common and found that Dinnie would win the contest 3-2 based on their best performances. Thus, if Jim Thorpe is Superman, Donald Dinnie is Doomsday.
The next time you tell yourself you can’t do something, or something’s not possible, or that you’re competing too much and need a break, slap yourself in your whorish mouth and do a shot in honor of Donald Dinnie- a man’s man in a time when a metrosexual looked like John Wayne compared to the lot of us.
A Brief History of Wrestling in England. The Exiles – Company of Medieval Martial Artists. http://www.the-exiles.org/Article%20Brief%20His%20of%20Eng%20Wrestling.htm
Dinnie, Gordon. Donald Dinnie. BBC. http://www.bbc.co.uk/scotland/sportscotland/asportingnation/article/0015/print.shtml
Jeck, Steve and Peter Martin. Of Stones and Strength. Nevada City: Ironmind Enterprises, 1996.
Jim Thorpe: The World’s Greatest Athlete. http://www.cmgww.com/sports/thorpe/bio/bio.html
Mair, George. Beck to the future. The Sun. 15 Mar 2012. http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/showbiz/bizarre/celebs/davidbeckham/4168957/Donald-Dinnie-was-the-David-Beckham-of-the-19th-century.html
Russell, Rob. Pinch grip training. Medieval Strength, Fitness, Athletics, and Heavy Training. http://kettlebell-training-for-sport.blogspot.com/2011/08/pinch-grip-training.html
Willoughby, David. The Super Athletes.
Van Vleck, Thom. Donald Dinnie: Scotland’s Jim Thorpe. USAWA. http://www.usawa.com/donald-dinnie-scotlands-jim-thorpe/
Zarnowski, Frank. The Amazing Donald Dinnie: The Nineteenth Century’s Greatest Athlete. Iron Game History. http://www.la84foundation.org/SportsLibrary/IGH/IGH0501/IGH0501c.pdf
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