MOURNERS gathered in the woods on the island of North Uist for the funeral of Hercules the bear today.
A headstone was laid on the place where the 9ft grizzly was reburied in the Western Isles – 15 years after his death.
Local pipers led the memorial service in Langass Woods which was attended by around 30 well wishers.
Hercules became a global superstar after he went on the run on Uist while filming a television advert in 1980. Many islanders still remember the dramatic efforts to re-capture him.
It was 24 days before he was eventually spotted swimming by local crofters and shot with a tranquilliser dart from a helicopter.
In a touching speech Hercules was described as a “gentle giant” by his owner and former wrestling partner Andy Robin who bought him as a cub and lived with him for 25 years.
When Hercules died in 2000 he was originally buried in a garden in Clackmannanshire next to the home he shared with Andy and his wife Maggie.
But when the house was put up for sale the decision was taken to rebury him in North Uist next to a wooden statue already erected in his honour.
Hercules’ remains had already been taken to the island but this was a chance to say a final farewell to the bear who once caddied for Bob Hope and starred in the James Bond Film Octopussy.
In a tearful speech beside the new headstone Andy said: “This is where he belongs, the only place for him.
“He never let you down. He was a wild grizzly bear, and he never touched a hair on anyone’s head, he was a big baby, a gentle giant.
“Being here it feels as if he hasn’t passed away, he’s still here with all you nice people.”
His wife Maggie continued: “It’s the completion of a circle for Herc, the end of a journey.
“It feels right that he should be here. His fame is stamped on the island and his folklore will last, grow arms and legs, and children will sit on the stone and hear all about him.
“It’s like a peace now for all of us.”
Hercules was rescued as a cub in 1976 from a wildlife park which had planned to put him down.
He was bought Andy for £50 who trained him to be part of his wrestling act.
After his escape on the island Hercules went on to star alongside Roger Moore in the James Bond film Octopussy, featured on the cover of Time magazine, meet Margaret Thatcher and even caddied for Bob Hope at Gleneagles.