I dinnie mean to do it, says man who has confessed to vandalising stones

A 40-YEAR-OLD mystery surrounding one of Scotland's most historic sporting artefacts has finally been solved.

Four decades after the historic Dinnie Stones were found abandoned and damaged in a roadway, the culprit has come forward to confess.

Brian Chambers, 56, has admitted he tried to drive off with the huge boulders during a drunken teenage prank, then damaged one while attempting to imitate the legendary feat performed by the strongman Donald Dinnie 150 years ago.

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He said yesterday: "It is time to own up after all these years, and I just hope people will forgive me for my stupidity."

Dinnie was Scotland's first sporting superstar and in 1860, at the age of 23, achieved cult status by carrying the two boulders – with a combined weight of 775lb – the width of a road bridge and back again.

The stones had two iron rings fitted in them to which ropes were fixed to hold scaffolding while workmen repaired the Potarch bridge over the River Dee near Kincardine O'Neil in Aberdeenshire.

Strongmen from all over the world have travelled to Deeside and tried to lift the stones, which sit outside the front door of the Potarch Hotel. But none have succeeded.

It was as a 16-year-old gardener from the nearby village of Tarland that Brian Chambers had gone to the hotel for a night out in 1970 with a colleague, Charlie Smith.

They left under a cloud after Mr Smith claimed he had been cheated by the barman in a pub challenge, and outside the plan to steal the stones and hold them to ransom was hatched.

Emboldened through drink, the young Mr Chambers managed to lift the granite boulders into the boot of his friend's tiny blue Austin A30. But as the pair tried to make their getaway, the weight of the stones made the car impossible to steer, and they came to a stop on the bridge.

Said Mr Chambers: "I put them on the wall of the bridge and, full of drink, I offered to push them off into the River Dee, But Charlie told me not to, but leave them on the wall.

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"I had the crazy idea after carrying them a fair distance that I could carry them across the bridge and do what Donald Dinnie did.

"Unfortunately, halfway across I got a huge pain in my back and had to stop and drop the stones. All I could do was leave them there – it took me all my strength to get back to the car, to be honest."

In the sober light of day, the pair realised the impact of their actions when they discovered one stone had been badly cracked.

"I read in the papers a few weeks later that they had been damaged," said Mr Chambers. "I never owned up, I was too scared that I would end up in jail. I was just a young lad. I felt hellish about what I had done; they are a part of Scottish history. But I just kept quiet about it. Charlie was scared he would get a thrashing from his brother.

"It has tugged away at me for years , and now I felt it was time to own up and let folk know what actually happened. I am pleased and relieved to get it off my chest."

Donald Dinnie was born in 1837 near Aboyne, Aberdeenshire, the son of a stone mason. He won his first competition at the age of 16, setting in motion a career spanning more than 50 years and winning over 11,000 track and field contests around the world.

Dinnie was regarded as the greatest all-round athlete of the 19th century and his winnings would be the equivalent of more than 1 million in today's money.

He struggled financially in later years, owning a fish and chip shop in Govan, Glasgow, before settling in London, where he died in 1916 at the age of 78.