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A man of considerable stature – 1821

The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser 24th March 1821 p2 (abridged)

The skeleton of the 7.5 feet (230 cm) tall Byrne displayed at the Royal College of Surgeons of England in London image by:StoneColdCrazy Wikimedia Commons
The skeleton of the 7.5 feet (230 cm) tall Byrne displayed at the Royal College of Surgeons of England in London
image by:StoneColdCrazy
Wikimedia Commons

That there exist men of a stature considerably above the ordinary standard, our own time has afforded ocular demonstration. In the year 1780 a gigantic youth named Byrne, was within two inches of eight feet at his death, and it is thought that the continuance of his growth proved fatal to him, as he had not then attained his twentieth year.

The most remarkable instance of extraordinary stature in the present age was O’Brien. He was born in the year 1761 in the county of Kinsale, Ireland, of parents of middling stature. He was brought up to the trade of a bricklayer but his growth was so rapid that when he had attained the age of eighteen years his uncommon size attracted the notice of a showman, who obtained permission of the youth to exhibit him three years in England, for which he was to pay him fifty pounds per annum. Not contented with his bargain, the showman agreed to underlet the liberty of showing him to another speculator. O’Brien resisted this intended transfer of his person and was saddled with a fictitious debt for which he was arrested at Bristol but was soon released.

He now commenced and continued a regular exhibition of his person. His stature increased till he arrived at the age of twenty-five, when his growth somewhat abated, but he continued growing after that period till he attained the height of eight feet seven inches.

At times he used to walk about the streets for air and exercise at two or three o’clock in the morning. Proceeding along the more level pavement his body appeared more erect and had he not paid attention to avoid the lamps his head would have struck against many of them.

The following anecdote is related on the authority of those with whom he was most familiar. Being on a journey in his own carriage he was one day stopped by a highwayman. He put his head forward to discover the cause that interrupted his progress. The highwayman, at the sigh of so prodigious a figure was struck with such a panic that he clapped spurs to his horse and made a precipitate retreat.

in 1801, having realised an independence sufficient to keep a carriage and to secure the conveniences of life, he declined the public exhibition of his person – which was always extremely irksome to his feelings. He died at Bristol in September, 1806 in the 46th year of his age.



B.A., M.A.(Archaeology); Regional Tour Guide; Dip. Radio Media Tech; H.Dip. Computer Science.

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