The Hunterian Museum in the United Kingdom houses over 3,500 bizarre and unusual anatomical specimens which 18th-century surgeon John Hunter gathered in his lifetime. One of the most valuable pieces of this collection is the impressive, 235-year old skeleton of Charles Byrne, also nicknamed the Irish Giant. Its story is very interesting because apparently, Byrne did not want to have his earthly remains exposed in a museum. In fact, he specifically instructed his friends to bury him at sea when he died. Unfortunately, that never happened. But it may happen soon.
According to some reports, the museum’s board of trustees has promised to meet and discuss the fate of the bones, so many years after Byrne’s passing. As for the giant himself, his story is fascinating and very sad. He was born in 1761 in the region that is now Northern Ireland. Unfortunately, he suffered from acromegalic gigantism, the same condition that also affected Andre the Giant. It caused abnormal growth and by the age of 22, he suffered a tuberculosis flare up which heavily affected his health. During his teenage years, Byrne became a celebrity thanks to his enormous size. He was going on tours and getting money from the people who wanted to see him.
The Irish Giant’s remains might be buried at sea, as he wanted
At the time, John Hunter was one of the most famous surgeons in England. So, when Byrne’s health began to fail, he said that he would pay to own the giant’s corpse after he died, for scientific reasons. In fact, a lot of people wanted Byrne’s corpse to study it. And even if his friends tried to carry out his final wish, they were tricked by Hunter who paid the undertaker to replace the corpse in the casket with stones.
He then boiled the corpse, finally getting his wish granted. He now had the skeleton of the Irish Giant. A few years later, he revealed that he had them. In 1799, the Royal College of Surgeons bought Hunter’s entire collection of anatomical specimens. Now, after so many years, the remains of the Irish Giant might finally find their eternal rest, at sea.
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