Last Summer I was deeply troubled visiting Jamestown. Don’t get me wrong I love history and all.Jamestown is a great place to visit if you are in the area. But the museum made me all nervous.
A skeleton is displayed from a young man who probably died from an accidental gun shot or that is what the display set said. Instructions were given where to look for the bullet entry in his leg. The guy probably bled to death.
Either way on my way home I told my husband that this must be terrible for the guy being starred on for centuries to come. Whatever happened to the phrase REST IN PEACE? My husband said: “He will be alright.” Well, yeah since he is dead anyway…
Fast forward I recently heard a story on K- love. A young woman who died of an illness decided to donate her body to science after her death. Now her sister suffers from the same fatal disease. I was instantly remembered of the Jamestown skeleton for some reason.
Yesterday I read a story about the Irish Giant Charles Byrne who was born in 1761 and died in 1783. Byrne’s was only twenty two years old. With 7 food 7 the giant is considered one of the tallest people the world has ever known. The story has it that Byrne was conceived on a hey stack. He was normally size but started to grow in his early teens and never stopped. Due to the attention he received he left his hometown to seek fame in London. He was displayed in circuses and people paid two schillings to see him. Byrne’s was very polite and considered a gentle giant. He put his life savings in his pocket and carried it around with him . Byrnes was known to drink heavily and one night all of his savings were stolen out of his pocket. Byrnes was very upset and his life spiraled down from there. He had respiratory problems along with his alcohol problems and knew he was going to die. Byrnes was aware of the interest surrounding his body upon his demise. Hunter, a Scientist was in the area waiting for him to die so he can research the cause of Byrne’s gigantism. Byrne’s feared that he wouldn’t be able to go to heaven if his body gets dismantled by scientists so he paid his friends before he died to watch his body and to take his body to sea. Unfortunately his wishes weren’t granted. Hunter paid the friends 500 pounds after Byrne’s died, burned the flesh of the bones with acid and upon this day we can see Charles Byrne skeleton in the museum.
The story doesn’t stop here. Twenty miles from the place Charles Byrne’s grow up lives a real life giant right now. His name is Brendan Holland. Brendan stands 6 feet 9 inches tall. The fifty nine year old real life giant didn’t stop growing during his teen years. With 19 it was determined that Holland’s condition was caused by a tumor in the pituitary gland. Gigantism comes with extreme headaches. Holland had his tumor destroyed with radiation. And he is glad they did or he would have been taller then Charles Byrne’s. Either way they found out that in the area Charles Byrne and now Brendan Holland lives were many giants. Even at the time of Charles Byrne’s he was pictured with twin brothers on several paintings.
Charles Byrne’s skull was recently opened and they discovered that he also had a tumor in his skull what caused his condition. Dr Martha Korbonits found a genetic link from Brendan Holland to Charles Byrnes after DNA was extracted from Byrne’s teeth. They are related and have common ancestry.
In the end Charles Byrne’s skeletons offered valuable clues to Brendan Holland and science. They determined that gigantism is a rare but genetic disorder and it can be treated and recognized early in childhood. Holland is confident that Byrne’s would be pleased with what science has discovered in order to help people with similar conditions.
My question is still there. Is it fair to Charles Byrne’s to look at his skeleton in the museum or post a picture of his bones against his will even with this article? Would I donate my body to science if they were interested?
I feel a little sad for this Irish Giant. The picture of resting in peace doesn’t come to mind seeing his bones aka skeleton hanging in a museum so people can compare their heights with his height while munching on chips or sipping on apple juice.
Shouldn’t we have respected the wishes of Charles Byrne’s or at least should we do it now since we know for sure that he got cheated of his will?
I don’t have all the answers.
All I know is that I feel a bit discontent looking at a skeletons from anyone knowing that may have not been their wish. I applaud that young women who had the courage to donate her body to science after her untimely death.
http://www.thetallestman.com/pdf/charlesbyrne.pdf (This article has Newspaper quotes out of the time of the Irish Giant)