And there were none greater.
Bob (Bill) MacDonald
The Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides is a remote place by anyone's standards. It would be quite unimaginable to a boy growing up in the island's largest town, Stornoway, that one day he would become one of Britain's top professional wrestlers.
That was the journey made by the rugged Bob (Bill) McDonald, a man who could arouse angry emotions amongst fans as he stormed his way to victory, or disqualification. If any fan was undecided whose side they were on the matter could quickly be settled by Bob threatening his opponent with a clenched fist and urging him to come and fight.
But then this is wrestling, and boo and shout as they may the fans enjoyed every moment of Bob's appearances and his place as one of the top heavyweights of the 1950s and early 1960s.
He was known as "The Scissors King," the body scissors being a move that he used to great effect against the best in the business, including the great Bert Assirati. The body scissors speciality allowed him to take the lead against Assirati in one of their championship matches.
We have to go back to the early years of the war, 1941, to find Bob McDonald wrestling professionally. With George Gregory, Dave Armstrong, Bert Mansfield and Jack Pye as early opponents we can see that Bob was a powerful man even in those days, though at the time weighing under 14 stones.
During the war Bob established himself as one of the country's best light heavyweights. In March, 1945, he was pitted against British Heavyweight champion Bert Assirati in Dundee with Bert's British heavyweight belt up for grabs.
Unsurprisingly Bert won the contest, but reports state that Bob gave the champion a run for his money, punishing him with his speciality body scissors: “Assirati was in difficulties during the early stages, the Scotsman gaining a fall in the second round, but the champion fought back to equalise in the third with the Boston Crab, and went off to finish his opponent with the same hold in the next round.”
With the cessation of hostilities and based in Manchester Bob was well placed to take advantage of the resurgence of British wrestling. He could hold his own with any heavyweight, Assirati was a frequent opponent, but his weight made Bill more at home with the light heavies. Gradually he put on a few pounds and became a fully fledged heavyweight. Another heavyweight championship clash against Assirati arose at Hull an January, 1947, and in November, 1951, came yet another British heavyweight championship tilt, this time losing to Ernie Baldwin at Nottingham.
Bob's style was more textbook in the early days, billed as one of the most scientific wrestlers in the country. he soon learned the benefits of a more professional style and the skill of working an audience through a repertoire of facial expressions and gestures. Ventures down south were infrequent with most of Bob's work being in northern England and Scotland, with national exposure on television. By 1960 Bob was a regular main eventer and faced just about every other top heavyweight in the country. With the return of Ian Campbell from America in 1960 the pair made a natural tag team. He was a man at the top of his profession, a popular villain, and the future looked good.
In the early 1960s Bob championed the cause of team wrestling, seeing it as a natural way for wrestling to evolve and create new interests for fans. He was often a member of a Scottish Team that would take on all comers, but mostly Sassenach teams, in the 1950s and 1960s. Lining up alongside Bob would be Chic Purvey, Ian Campbell, Ted Hannon and Clay Thompson. The concept was not new, in December 1946 in Edinburgh Bob had been part of a four man "home" team alongside Bert Assirati, Cab Cashford and Harry Fields against the overseas team of Bert Van Der Auwera, Tony Van Hall, Jozef Walbach, and Franz Mortier.
Early in 1963 Bob suddenly disappeared from the wrestling rings. In June The Wrestler magazine reported that Bob was suffering from pneumonia and complications had set in. In August we were reassured that Bob was out of hospital and slowly recovering.
Further reports told us that Bob was back in training and at the beginning of August, 1963, he returned to the ring. He had lost a bit of weight but none of his spirit as he climbed into the ring at Belle Vue, Manchester to fave The Mask; obviously promoters had no intention of giving him an easy comeback! Fans were pleased and relieved to see Bob recovered and back in the ring. But a greater shock was forthcoming in February of the following year when Bob announced that doctors had advised him to quit the ring and he was going to retire and run his antique business full time. A match at Belle Vue the following April reassured fans once again that Bob was battling back.
It was Eddie Caldwell (Eddie Rose) that had the sad task of announcing to the wrestling world in the September, 1964, edition of The Wrestler magazine that Bob McDonald had died on July 27th. "As a wrestler he was always held in high regard by his colleagues, recognised as a man of intelligence, of character, and the possessor of a fine sense of humour....A fine man, a man we can ill-afford to lose."
Eddie and Bob had been good friends for some years. In "Send In The Clowns" Eddie tells of how he had the audacity to go around to Bob's house in Manchester and tell him he wanted to learn how to wrestle. Bob mentored Eddie, teaching him the mannerisms to work an audience, "Bill was the star with a repertoire of facial expressions and physical gestures that quickly enraged audiences."
Bob's daughter Jenny and son, Kenneth, kept the McDonald name in the limelight. Jenny dances her way around the world as a member of the Royal Ballet Company and son, Kenneth, found fame on television and in the theatre, playing the part of Mike the barman in “Only Fools and Horses,”
Daughter Jenny summed up the thoughts we have heard from many, "My father loved wrestling. He was up with the greats! A lovely man. Always ready to help anyone."