James Splaine: Lightest to ever Lift the Dinnie Stones?
by Thom Van Vleck
In 2006 I got a chance to lift the Inver Stone. I’m a descent stone lifter and just took it for granted that as long as I was injury free, I could lift the Inver Stone, which I did. After that (and a beer and a shot of scotch at the Inver Inn) we headed to the Potarch Inn, home of the Dinnie Stones just a few miles down the road near Kincardine O’Neil.
Recently, there was a story in the USAWA Daily News on Steve Angell lifting those stones 20 reps in one day. An amazing feat. I am not a grip master, but I have a good grip, and the Dinnie Stones were not within my capabilities. Partly due to the fact that I’m a “palm” gripper. Which means I grip things like that, such as the Highland Games implements in my palm. To be able to get your hands in the round rings, especially the smaller ring, you have to be a good “finger” gripper, or have the ability to get that ring down in your fingers and hang on. I simply could not do it. Even with straps, they felt like a real load!!!
Recently, I was reading through an old Iron Man magazine (back when Peary Rader published it and it was the best magazine out there for strength training and news….even if he did have a lot of bodybuilders on the covers…at least back then they were strong!). I have tons of them and even though I’ve read through them many times, you will find things that catch your eye that you didn’t notice before. It was issue # and I came across a David Willoughby article. I really enjoy the old Willoughby articles on old time strongman feats. I had recalled reading this one before as it talked about lifting block scale weights (a favorite of my granddad Dalton Jackson). It was all about different types of grip strength and while it was ALL great reading, the Dinnie Stones were fresh on my mind after Angell’s fantastic feat. It was then I noticed a picture of a small man lifting the Dinnie Stones.
I have to admit, there’s probably a reason I don’t remember this picture. The guy in it was listed at 144lbs and he looked like it! His name was James Splaine and he was listed as being from Aberdeen and it’s his son, Jim, on his shoulders. Being a big guy, I have a bad habit of ignoring anyone that’s not a heavy weight. But this guy was doing a “heavy weight” feat of strength and it was only after I had lifted these stones did I now appreciate the feat of strength in the picture.
Now, I need to mention a couple things. I have seen claims of lifting the Dinnie Stones….with STRAPS! Inside the Potarch Inn, where the stones reside, is a hallway with photos of Donald Dinnie and stories on the stones. There’s a photo of a local guy lifting them with scale weights strapped on for a combined with, I think, over 900lbs. But if you look at the photo, the guy is using straps! I use straps a lot in my training, but I never compare a strapped lift to one that is just grip. They are two different things. Another thing, you will notice in the photo of James Splaine, how he’s got the rings down in his fingers.
Willoughby claims in the caption that Splaine was the lightest man ever to lift the Dinnie Stones. I’m not sure if anyone lighter has done it since (let alone with his son on his shoulders!).