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An Interview with Ronnie Tait

Conducted by David Horne on 24/03/2001

Featured in the two volumes of Sons of Samson, with a career spanning from the 1940s to the 1980s, Ronnie Tait is noted for his bar bending and nail breaking. His brick lever lift has defied all challengers, including myself, and will most probably continue to do so. We became friends after he sent me a nail to break behind my back, and I returned this to him, feat accomplished. Since this time we have maintained contact. Ronnie was born 18th April 1916, and is now 85 years of age.

D.H. When did you start your nail breaking?

R.T. I sent away for the Mighty Apollon Course back in about 1939. Later I sent off a photo of my progress and a nail I broke, receiving a silver medal in return. I also did Harold Laurence, Charles Atlas and Broom’s course, but the Apollon course was the best. I later cut a bar that I could open and close a bit rather than the Apollon bar, which you couldn’t move. I still am doing my version of the course now.

D.H. How many nail breaking sessions would you do weekly?

R.T. I would usually break 2-3 nails every night. This strengthened my hands and shoulders. I’m still breaking them now every couple of nights.

D.H. What do you think is your best grip feat?

R.T. My brick lever lift was my best as no one could lift it off the floor. I took it to all the Nabba shows and offered cash prize and silver cup. Nobody ever wanted to have a go at the bending of bars that I did across the knives, too dangerous.

D.H. Have you done any barbell training?

R.T. I’ve tried them all, barbells, dumbbells, and chest expanders. I used to offer £5 to anyone who could duplicate my straight-arm pullover with an 80lb dumbbell. It had a very short handle, so you had to hold it in your fingertips. The pull-ups that I did by holding onto the bar by my bent wrists only were one of my hardest feats. I did 15 consecutive repetitions.

D.H. You mentioned earlier about bending a bar over the handle of a knife pointed against your bare stomach. One day this wet terribly wrong, tell the readers about this life-threatening situation?

R.T. This happened at the Penicuik Athletic Club on January 25, 1976. I had a bout of flu and was not feeling very well, and was not at full strength. I was forced then to apply too much pressure to the bar to bend it. The knife that was being used as the fulcrum, slipped and went 4 ½” into me, going between two of the arteries in my liver. I managed to finish the stunt and then passed out, a policeman who was in the audience took me to the hospital. If the knife had a gone either side the doctors couldn’t have saved me. I had 40 stitches and was in hospital for 2 weeks. I wouldn’t encourage anybody to do a similar stunt. But I think that the most dangerous feat that I did was the breaking of a nail whilst in the wrestlers bridge position, with my head on a beer can and a knife pointing upwards into my back. When you snapped the nail there was a certain way you had to roll out of the bridge, so that your head didn’t slip off the can. Also once whilst bending the bar over the knife between my eyes at Stirling Albert Hall, the knife slipped. I luckily turned my head quickly and got away with just a nick to the skin.

D.H. The list of failures with your 90lb Lever Lift is a who’s who (including myself). Who’s attempt have been the best?

R.T. No one ever got it off the floor. Though one man (Graham Brown) did manage to move it a little when the weight was down to 60lb. But it just fell to the side.

D.H. What weight did you start the Lever Lift off at?

R.T. I started with 3 bricks (one brick, with two bricks crossways), and then I fitted a bar through the bricks to add extra weight.

D.H. How long did it take you to achieve the 90lb on the Lever Lift?

R.T. I made it in the 1960’s. It took me a couple of years to do 90lb.

D.H. When was the last time you lifted the 90lb Lever Lift?

R.T. This was in 1988 [aged 72] at the Bonnyrigg Rose Social Club charity do.

D.H. The 90lb Lever Lift now resides in David Webster’s collection?

R.T. Yes, I gave it to David. A letter from David states that no one has lifted it yet.

D.H. What is your current training, bearing in mind that you are nearly 85 years of age?

R.T. It’s short and sweet. Not too much weightlifting. I do curls, the Apollon course, free exercises and yoga. If I don’t feel too good I skip a nights training.

D.H. Who do you think has/had the strongest hands?

R.T. I’m talking to him. The feat that you did with those stones [Dinnies] is colossal. I couldn’t do that and I don’t think anyone else will.

D.H. What do you consider to be the greatest grip feat of strength of all time?

R.T. The Dinnie Stones definitely. In Malta I met Joe Falzon who was a circus strongman. He did some great feats of strength, but he wouldn’t try any of my feats with the knife.

D.H. Finally, what would you like to tell the readers of Iron Grip?

R.T. I’d advise that they read your grip courses.

Copyright David Horne