Byrne, Charles (DNB00)

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BYRNE, CHARLES (1761–1783), Irish giant, was born in Ireland in 1761. His father was an Irishman, and his mother a Scotchwoman, but neither of them was of extraordinary size. In August 1780 he ‘measured exactly eight feet; in 1782 he had gained two inches, and after he was dead he measured eight feet four inches’ (Gent. Mag. liv. pt. i. 541). He travelled about the country for exhibition; at Edinburgh he alarmed the watchmen on the North Bridge one morning by lighting his pipe at one of the lamps without standing even on tiptoe. In London he created such a sensation, that the pantomime at the Haymarket, produced on 18 Aug. 1782, was entitled, with reference to him, ‘Harlequin Teague, or the Giant's Causeway.’ He died (of, it is said, excessive drinking and vexation at losing a note for 700l.) at Cockspur Street, Charing Cross, on 1 June 1783, aged 22. His skeleton, which measures exactly 923/4 inches, is to be seen in the museum of the College of Surgeons in Lincoln's Inn Fields, where there is also a portrait of him. Two sketches of the giant by Kay will be found in the first volume of ‘Original Etchings,’ Nos. 4 and 164. Byrne has often been confused with Patrick Cotter, another Irish giant, who took the name of O'Brien, and died at Bristol in 1806.

[Kay's Original Portraits and Caricature Etchings (1877), i. 10–11, 417; Chambers's Book of Days (1864), ii. 326–7; Buckland's Curiosities of Natural History, 4th ser. pp. 19–21; Scots Mag. 1783, xlv. 335; Annual Register, 1783, app. pp. 209–10; Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. xi. 369, 396, 476, xii. 59; 5th ser. iv. 132–3.]

G. F. R. B.