Look up... Way Up... crane your neck a little bit... ahhh there you go! Now picture yourself looking up at a giant, and no... not the kind that lives at the top of beanstalk but rather one that lived in Cape Breton!
The Giant Angus MacAskill also known as Black Angus or Gille Mòr (translated from gaelic as “Big” Boy”), was a Scottish-born Canadian whose family settled here in Cape Breton in the early 1800’s. Giant MacAskill was in The Guinness World Book of Records in 1981 as the tallest natural giant (we didn’t understand the term “natural” and thought it was odd, It actually means of normal proportions and not suffering from any growth abnormalities such as an over-sized pituitary gland) as well as having the largest chest measurements of any non obese man. Giant MacAskill stood at 7’9 feet tall, his chest measured 80 inches and he weighed 425lbs. He would definitely be our school yard pick in a game of basketball!
Giant MacAskill was well known for his strength, there is a story of him being able to lift a ship’s anchor to his chest that weighed close to 2800lbs! When Queen Victoria heard of him she invited him to Windsor Castle in Berkshire, England. He performed a demonstration of his great strength and the Queen declared him "the tallest, stoutest and strongest man to ever enter the palace” and gave him two gold rings in appreciation. In 1849, he went to work at P.T Barnum’s circus where he performed alongside General Tom Thumb (a little person who performed imitations).
Sadly, in 1863, at the age of 39 Giant MacAskill passed away in his family’s home in St. Ann’s Cape Breton. He had been traveling to Halifax when he took ill and had to return home. The doctor diagnosis him as having “brain fever”, which is described as part of the brain becoming inflamed and mocking symptoms of a fever. He died a week later.
To find out more about the Giant MacAskill there is a museum in his honour. There are personal items belonging to the giant on display such as clothing, his bed, and walking stick. The museum is open between mid June until September located on Route 31 about 2.5 km off of highway 105. Do you have any “Giants” in your family?