Apollo – The Supreme Strength Athlete by Ron Tyrrell, HOPC Historian
William Bankier, known to the World as APOLLO, THE SCOTTISH HERCULES, was still quite a young man when he wrote his classic book, “Ideal Physical Culture”. His book although first published in 1900 is first a great Boys Own adventure story of his early life, and secondly contains advice on exercises to improve one’s strength, muscular development and athletic ability; advice that was first class in 1900 and will still produce excellent results today, using the minimum of equipment.
Bankier’s career embraced many physical disciplines, acrobatics, boxing, wrestling, stage and circus strongman. While working for Bostock’s Circus, Banker harness lifted their biggest elephant weighing 32 CWT.
At left – William Bankier (digital image) (date: unknown) (photographer-unknown) (source: Apollo – The Supreme Strength Athlete by Ron Tyrrell)
Others tried to emulate this feat by trickery, but his lift was genuine, no hidden lifting devices, all his feats were one hundred percent genuine. He was the first strongman to let a motor car full of passengers run over him. Whilst his was a genuine feat, others who later impersonated him would use sloping ramps to lessen the impact on their bodies by the striking wheels.
Bankier was so confident in his ability that he publicly challenged Sandow to an all round athletic contest consisting of weightlifting, wrestling, running a one mile race, and jumping while holding a 56 lb. weight in each hand. Sandow (wisely in the view of many people) declined to take up the challenge.
With the popularity of stage and circus strongmen waning, Bankier went into the professional wrestling business and achieved financial security for the rest of his life.
Back in 1899, the variety “Artists Federation” formed a charitable organization known as the “Grand Order of the Water Rats” and some of the biggest stars of Hollywood and Britain have been members. The highest honour that a water rat can obtain is to be appointed King Rat for the year and the honour was bestowed upon William Bankier for his charitable works in 1915 and again in 1919.
Bankier went into partnership with Monte Saldo and formed the “Apollo/Saldo Academy”, and all the best wrestlers and strongmen trained there while in London. It was there, in 1909, that Maxick made his sensational British debut.
Bankier stayed in excellent shape and when he was over 40 years of age, won the Heavy Weight Boxing Championship of the music hall profession with a second round knockout. He remained active in wrestling promotion until his death in his eightieth year.
Apollo – one of the first, if not actually the first, to perform the feat illustrated in one of his circus posters, as shown.
It became standard for other professional strongmen, performed in a variety of ways.
W.A. Pullum who regarded Bankier as one of the strongest men he has ever seen, on hearing of his long-time friend’s passing wrote:
“William Bankier I would say, was quite an athlete equal to the ideals of Ancient Rome or Legendary Greece.” ©Apollo – The Supreme Strength Athlete by Ron Tyrrell After William Bankier died in 1949, W.A. Pullum wrote the following:
“Apollo, I am sorry to say, is no longer with us, for he was a very close personal friend of mine and I admired him greatly. Born at Banff, Scotland, on December 10, 1870, he was 80 when he died, having lived every moment of his life energetically, usefully, and excitingly. When he had finished with weightlifting and the strongman business, he then turned his attention to wrestling and jiu-jitsu, both as a performed and a promoter.
He was over 40 when he showed also that he still was a very useful man inside the boxing ring as well, winning the Heavyweight Championship of the music hall profession, knocking out the celebrated Carlton at the National Sporting Club in the second round.”