When Donald Archie,
or as he was known in the streets of Glasgow, Bonnie Archie,
was chosen to pipe the Queen ashore from the Royal Yacht at Kyleakin
in 1956 it was not because he was the best piper on the island of
Skye. Though he was
piper to Lord MacDonald of Sleat he wasn’t the
best piper on the island, but he was the best wrestler.
The big Skyeman who was the scourge of Glasgow’s razor gangs
in the 1930s was not only the best wrestler on Skye or Britain but
he was in his time world famous.
||His nickname came from the magnificent picture he made
when he strutted through the streets of Glasgow in highland dress
on his way to a highland games or a wedding.
Everybody called him Bonnie Archie be they
street urchin or his colleagues in the polis and they had good reason
to. He was a magnificent
figure of a man and he knew it well, so did some of the biggest and
toughest men in the world in his day, you see Archie
is the only Scots wrestler in any of the Olympic styles, Greco Roman,
Free style or Judo to have won an Olympic medal.
MacDonald a Sergeant in the Glasgow Police won his heavyweight
bronze medal in 1924 when Catch-as-catch-can wrestling was at the
peak of its popularity in Scotland.
Only twenty years before on a cold and wet October evening
20,000 spectators had filed into Ibrox Stadium to watch another highland
Glasgow policeman, Alex
Munro of Brora wrestle the world Greco-Roman style champion,
Hackenschmidt of Estonia. The Daily Record and Mail said at the time that if the weather
had not been so bad double that number would have attended.
|Archie was unlucky in Paris, he failed
to reach the final by that narrowest of margins, a judges opinion.
Olympic wrestling rules on points scoring were still very rudimentary
(they were not printed until 1936) and at the end of the semi-final
bout it was declared a draw.
The judges were then asked to vote on the winner, the vote
was 1-1 and the mat chairman gave his casting vote to Archie’s
opponent Harry Steele of the USA who went on to win the gold
Archie then had to wrestle off for the bronze medal and won
his bout with ease.
||During the First World War he had served in the Royal
Navy, which he joined in 1915 and was able to do some training, but
he would have learned Catch-as-catch-can, wrestling initially in one
of Glasgow’s police gyms. Bonnie Archie was one of the many athletes
who benefited from Captain Cameron’s enlightened
policy in Partick. After
the war he quickly became Scottish then British champion and was selected
to compete in the 1920 Olympic Games in Antwerp.
|He won no medals as he was beaten by a 22st Finn (in
those days a heavyweight was anyone over 13st 9lbs or 87kgs) and Archie
only weighed about 14st 6lbs (92kgs) but the experience was to stand
him in good stead, in the future.
|After winning an Olympic medal (which his family in
Canada has to this day) Archie turned to boxing and
became Scottish Police Heavyweight Champion in 1928.
Sir Percy Sillitoe the future head of M15
became Chief Constable of Glasgow in 1931 and quickly recognised the
Big Man’s talents. He
recruited Archie and another equally powerful and
fearless big Hebridean Donald Campbell of Lewis into
his ‘Untouchables’. This
crack force soon became feared throughout Glasgow’s underworld and
central to its success were the two big Hebrideans.
|Shortly before the Second World War Donald Archie
retired from the police and returned to the highlands where he became
the Customs Officer at Kyle of Lochalsh.
Soon Archie became a well kent figure as a
wrestling and throwing judge at highland games all over the area.
When he eventually retired from this job in 1960 he returned
to his family croft at Saasaig in Sleat and at some point placed his
two Olympic certificates on the wall. After his death the croft was sold and the new owner found
the two priceless Olympic certificates still on the wall and donated
them to the Clan Donald Museum in Armadale Castle.