A Grave Situation: An Examination of the Legal Issues raised by the Life and Death of Charles Byrne, the “Irish Giant”’

Thomas Muinzer* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Charles Byrne was an eighteenth-century celebrity “Irish giant” who
requested burial upon nearing death, but whose corpse was procured against his wishes by the surgeon John Hunter. Hunter reduced Byrne’s corpse to its
skeleton and exhibited it as the centerpiece of his vast anatomical collection. It has since remained on display in the Hunterian Museum, London. In 2011 it was announced that research conducted on the skeleton’s DNA has revealed
that several Northern Irish families share a common ancestry with Byrne. This article considers the legal issues raised by Byrne’s story. The results of fieldwork undertaken by the author in Byrne’s native townland are also discussed, where
folk tradition suggests that Byrne wished to be buried foremost at a local site remembered today as “the Giant’s Grave.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-48
Number of pages26
JournalInternational Journal of Cultural Property
Volume20
Issue number1
Early online date26 Apr 2013
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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