Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 17 April 2014

Irish Giant's wishes should at last be respected

I read with interest your coverage of confirmation that remains found in a Leicester car park were those of Richard III. After 528 years in an unmarked grave he will finally be reinterred in a royal tomb.

Turning the page I was struck by the contrast to the story of Mid Ulster testing for the AIP gene.

Scientists are testing the public in Cookstown and Dungannon for the gene which 18th century Ulster-born Charles Byrne had and which caused him to grow to over 7ft tall, leading to him being known as the 'Irish Giant'.

A TV programme showed how scientists used his remains to learn more about the AIP gene and help those with it.

But it's generally accepted Byrne's remains are no longer needed for research.

After his 1783 death his corpse was bought by the scientist John Hunter and his skeleton displayed in London's Hunterian Museum where it still hangs.

The 18th century press tells us Byrne lived in terror of Hunter and gave specific wishes to be buried at sea to stop his remains being used by him.

Over 200 years later isn't it time the Ulsterman was granted a little of the respect being given to Richard III?

Even if scientists prove further need of his remains in AIP research does he have to hang on display in a museum named after John Hunter – the one man Byrne named as not wanting his remains to be given to?

AB MCKAY

Belfast

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