A few words today on a Scottish strongman born in Banff as William Bankier (1870-1949).
Bankier’s father was, of all things, a hand loom weaver, an occupation that can hardly have been remunerative a full century after the start after the industrial revolution. The younger Bankier wanted out, and ran away with a circus as young as age 12. Caught and returned home, he then ran away to sea, and ended up in Canada where he joined Porgie O’Brien’s Road Show. Originally a laborer, by the age of 15 he replaced the circus’s strong man, an unreliable drunk. In addition to weight lifting and other feats of strength, Bankier learned to wrestle and box in exhibitions. During this period he became known as “Carl Clyndon, the Canadian Strong Boy”. He performed with William Muldoon, Jack Kilrain, Buffalo Bill’s Wild West, the Ginnet Circus, and Bostock’s — where he harness lifted an elephant. In his 20s he moved back to Britain and began to bill himself as “Apollo, the Scottish Hercules” (which I find a hilarious name, because didn’t anyone notice it was TWO names? I mean, you can be Apollo or you can be Hercules, but you can’t be Apollo the Hercules). In the early years of the 20th century he became a Scottish rival to Sandow. And should it suprise? Think of the the weight throwing events in the Highland Games. These people regard bruisers throwing large rocks as entertainment! (I’m Scottish, btw). In 1900 Apollo wrote the book Ideal Physical Culture:
In later years Apollo partnered with Monte Saldo of the Montague Brothers to found the Apollo-Saldo Academy, which trained new generations of strong men. He was 79 years old at the time of his death.
To learn about the roots of variety entertainment, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous