The Scottish Wrestler

of the Century 2

Archie MacDonald 

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.
Archie 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, George 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 medal.  Bonnie 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.


© Copyright 2000 - 2009 Scottish Wrestling Bond ©
Website Designed & Maintained By: Davie McGinn