The wife of Perthshire legend Andy Robin said she feels like her “heart has been ripped out” following the death of her husband.
The Commonwealth wrestling champion, best known as the adopted father of Hercules the Bear, died this week, aged 84.
His wife of almost 40 years, Maggie Robin, has paid tribute to the gentle giant she raised the 9ft grizzly with for 25 years.
Video of Hercules, broadcast on YouTube by Connor PR, is above this article.
Andy and Maggie met 46 years ago and they set up home on a ranch in Sheriffmuir, near Dunblane, and devoted their lives to raising their unusual companion, agreeing not to have children to give Hercules their undivided attention.
The couple were heartbroken when Hercules died in 2000 but continued a happy life, moving to Auchterarder where Maggie owns the Bear Necessities boutique. Andy suffered a stroke six years ago and his health deteriorated in the last few weeks, leading to his death on Wednesday evening at St Margaret’s Community Hospital.
Maggie said: “We were joined at the hip and were very happy.
“When Hercules was here we were like the three musketeers, we were so happy in our own wee bubble.
“I can’t believe he is gone, he was such a vibrant guy with so much life in him. I feel like my heart has been ripped out.
“We were together 24/7 so I feel quite lost, I have never known a pain like it.”
When the pair met she was a showjumper and he was a wrestler. It was love at first sight and the unusual family of three soon attracted worldwide fame.
Hercules met Margaret Thatcher, dined in pubs on London’s Fleet Street, was named “personality of the year” by the Scottish Tourist Board and drank a lot of beer.
Families turned out in their hundreds to meet him at public events and he became the stuff of international folklore when he went missing for 24 days on the island of Benbecula in the Outer Hebrides in 1980 before being recaptured.
It was Andy’s final wish to be buried in the Hebrides, next to his beloved bear.
In recent years Andy, the son of a Stirling miner, found animal companionship in his Jack Russell, Robbie, who, along with Maggie, comforted him in his final hours.
Despite his ill health, Maggie said her husband kept his legendary charm and kindness until the very end.
“He used to sit outside the shop and people would gravitate to him,” she said.
“He would sit and chat for hours, he just loved talking to people. Even in the hospital there would be six nurses round his bed, he never lost his charm.
“I have never known anyone so kind and thoughtful.
“The story that epitomises him is when we had a fundraiser for a children’s charity and we agreed to do it as long as access was set up for children in wheelchairs to go up and see Hercules. That didn’t happen so Andy lifted each one of them out of their wheelchairs so they could all see him. He had such a soft heart and he always wanted to help people.
“Every Christmas we had waifs and strays because he wouldn’t have anyone spending the day alone. He would invite everyone round and we always ended up with more strangers than family around the table.”
A headstone marks the final resting place of Hercules, the 9ft, 70 stone grizzly bear who became world famous after escaping in the Outer Hebrides.
Hercules was on the loose for 24 days in the summer of 1980 after he went on the run during filming for an advert.
He was recaptured and returned to his owners Andy and Maggie Robin of Auchterarder.
After his death at the age of 25 in 2000, Hercules was buried at the Robins’ home in Dollar but his remains were later moved to North Uist, closer to where he escaped.
The Robins decided to re-inter the bear’s body – with the help of a JCB – because they were selling up and wanted Hercules to be where he would be remembered.
A specially-made headstone reads: “Hercules the bear lies sleeping here, watching over his beloved islands resting in peace.”
The words were carved into a 450lb slab of granite next to a carved image of the bear himself.