Angus Mor MacAskill

(Aonghas Mor MacAsgaill)

1825 - 1863

The Cape Breton Giant. Born on the island of Berneray in the Outer Hebrides, MacAskill emigrated for Canada with his parents c.1831. The family settled in St Ann's (Cape Breton), the community established by ultra-orthodox preacher Norman MacLeod (1780 - 1886).

Although not large as a child, by the time he was a teenager he was known as St. Ann's Big Boy and he eventually grew to 2.36m (7 feet 9 inches) and a weight of 193 kg (425 lbs). The Guinness Book of Records lists MacAskill as "the tallest true (non-pathological) giant", that is without suffering abnormalities which had given rise to his growth. He was also immensely strong, with reports that he jogged down the street with 300 lb (136 kg) barrels of pork under each arm and was said to have been able to lift 110 lbs (50 kg) with two fingers of one hand and hold this weight at arms length for 10 minutes.

From 1849, he toured Canada and the United States. He was 'exhibited' with the midget Tom Thumb, who is said to have danced on his outstretched hand. MacAskill came to Britain and was presented to Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle.

In Cape Breton, he was known as a generous man, contributing to the church and providing his neighbours with essential supplies from his shop even if they could not pay.

MacAskill suddenly became ill with 'brain fever' and died at the age of only 38. He is buried in Englishtown cemetery (Cape Breton), where his tombstone can still be seen. There is a monument at his birthplace on Berneray and three museums describe his life; namely the Giant MacAskill Museum in Englishtown, the MacAskill and Highland Pioneers' Museum at the Gaelic College of Celtic Arts & Crafts at St. Ann's (Cape Breton) and the Giant MacAskill Museum at Dunvegan on the Isle of Skye.

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