Andy Robin – Wrestler
Born August 31, 1935; died December 4, 2019
Andy Robin, who has died aged 84, may have been best known for Hercules, the wrestling bear who he and his former show-jumping champion wife Maggie effectively adopted as a member of the family. Robin was nevertheless a powerful and popular wrestler in his own right, whose trademark power lock became a winning move to be feared. Entering the ring to the sound of Scotland the Brave, sometimes wielding a full size tractor tyre while sporting a kilt, Robin became a local hero, whose pre-Hercules success chimed with the grappling game’s boom years. He made frequent TV appearances on World of Sport’s Saturday afternoon broadcasts that attracted millions of viewers.
Things changed, however, ehen Robin bought Hercules for £50 from the Highland Wildlife Park in Kingussie when the bear was nine months old. Robin had hit upon the idea after wrestling another bear, Terrible Ted, while appearing at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto while on a tour of Canada. Once he trained Hercules, the pair became a formidable team that captured the public’s imagination, and the pair’s appearances in outdoor venues became the stuff of legend.
Hercules dined and drank with Robin and Maggie as part of the family, and went on to appear in films and on television as a star in his own right. He met then UK prime minister Margaret Thatcher, appeared on the cover of Time magazine, and caddied for Bob Hope on the golf course at Gleneagles. Hercules was even named by the Scottish Tourist Board as personality of the year.
He became something of an international celebrity after disappearing in the woods while filming a Kleenex TV ad on Benbecula in the Outer Hebrides, and wasn’t found for twenty-four days. No harm was done, however, and Hercules rejoined his family, continuing to be feted by the cameras, appearing in James Bond film, Octopussy. In 1997, Hercules slipped a disc following a fall, and Robin and Maggie tirelessly nursed him back to health. The partnership ended following Hercules’ death in 2001 aged twenty-five. His presence remains etched on the memory of anyone who ever witnessed Robin and Hercules’ larger than life double act.
Andy Robin was brought up in Raploch, Stirling, the son of a miner and a hotel cook, and developed an interest in the outdoors and the animal world from an early age. Leaving school aged fifteen, he became a woodsman, and initially took up boxing before moving on to Highland Games wrestling. He began to work professionally, with opponents including tough guy funny man, Les Kellett. Robin made his TV debut in 1963 and the following year went on his first international tour to Canada. It was here he was pitted against Terrible Ted, though the idea of wrestling a bear back home would lay dormant for several years yet.
Robin was named Commonwealth mid-heavyweight champion, and became a bill-topper on Scotland’s wrestling circuit. He also kept up with Highland Games activities, putting the shot and hammer throwing, while he also took up water skiing. In 1975 he and Maggie, who he’d met three years earlier, moved from Auchterader to just north of Dunblane, where they ran the historical Sheriffmuir Inn. The first pint Robin pulled was for Sir Hugh Fraser.
Hercules made his ring debut with Robin in 1977 at Perth Ice Rink, where a phenomenon was born. Robin bank-rolled a 1980 film, Hercules the Wrestling Bear, which gave his new ring partner a wider audience, with Maggie Robin going on to write a book on the couple’s experience living with Hercules. Maggie spoke recently of her husband’s big heart, and how he once lifted and carried a group of disabled children one by one to meet Hercules. The film was the first of several documentaries made about Hercules. It was while being filmed by the BBC for an edition of Eyewitness that the bear fell and injured himself.
In later years, the Robins found company with their Jack Russell terrier, Robbie, and remained devoted to each other. Robin suffered a stroke six years ago, the same year a life-size statue of Hercules was unveiled on North Uist. In 2014, another film, Hercules the Human Bear, was screened on Channel 5. In 2016, Robin was inducted into Scotland’s professional wrestling hall of fame, and in 2017, he was named as the chieftain of the Blackford Highland Games in Perthshire.
Robin’s last wish was to be buried beside Hercules in Langass Woods, North Uist, where the Robins moved him after moving from their former ranch where he was originally buried. It is now the site of two gentle giants laid to rest.
Robin is survived by his wife, Maggie.
The Herald, January 25th 2020