When Angus MacAskill was born in 1825 on the Isle of Berneray, Scotland, he was a normal-sized baby. His family lived for several years in Stornoway before emigrating to Nova Scotia in Canada. It was here during his adolescence that he began to grow quickly, eventually reaching a height of 7 feet 9 inches. Unlike other well-known giants, Angus’ size was non-pathological; he did not suffer from gigantism or an excess of growth hormone. Instead, he was entirely proportional, making him the Guinness World Record holder for the tallest “true giant” in history.
The gentle giant called Gille Mór (Big Boy) was known for his feats of strength as well as his big heart. According to legend, a friend of Angus’ was short of cash and refused credit to buy flour for his family. The merchant joked that the man could have all the flour he could toss from the hold of the ship onto the deck, some 12 feet above. Upon learning of this, Angus boarded the ship and began tossing heavy wooden barrels full of flour out of the hold and into the sea. He flung 6 barrels out before retrieving them from the water and loading them onto his friend’s cart.
Eventually, word of Angus’ size and strength reached PT Barnum, who hired Angus at age 24 for his show. Angus traveled the world,appearing next to General Tom Thumb. He even received an audience from Queen Victoria who called him “The strongest, stoutest and tallest man to ever enter the palace” where she presented him with two gold rings.
Angus later retired back to Englishtown, Nova Scotia, where he used his show business earnings to purchase a grist mill, general store, and other properties. He was traveling to Halifax to stock up on supplies in 1863 when he fell ill. He was taken to his family home, where his childhood bed was quickly expanded to accommodate him, and he died soon after at the age of 38 from what doctors at the time called “brain fever.”
So what does all this have to do with the Isle of Skye? Despite the fact that Angus likely never set foot there, the MacAskills have had a presence on the island since settling there in the 11th century, and in 1989 the MacAskills of Dunvegan decided to honor their biggest star.
A thatched whitewashed croft house was restored, and now the one-room museum, managed by Peter MacAskill, contains artifacts from the time period Angus lived along with some of his belongings including a giant sweater, pair of socks, and chair. A replica of his enormous coffin is also wedged inside.