A man who has been campaigning for years for the last wishes of a long-deceased Ulsterman to be respected has made a fresh call for his bones to be removed from display.
PhD student Thomas Muinzer has been pressing for years for the release of Charles Byrne’s skeleton from the Hunterian Museum in the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS), London.
The student of Queen’s Univeristy Belfast garnered national attention over the issue in 2011, and is now restating the call two years on – noting that with the recently-discovered remains of Richard III set to be reinterred, it seems “even more unjust” to display Byrne’s bones against his wishes.
The new call follows the discovery of the remains of the former English king, Richard III, beneath a car park in Leicester last year.
The long-dead royal’s bones are expected to be reinterred in the city’s cathedral.
This, claims Thomas, only adds weight to his own calls for Charles Byrne to be reburied.
“The continued display of his skeleton is unethical and unnecessary,” he said.
“And seems even more unjust given the recent news that Richard III’s remains, after 528 years in an unmarked grave, will finally receive a burial fit for a king. After more than 200 years of display it is now time for the Hunterian Museum to release his skeleton and finally give Charles Byrne a burial fit for a giant.”
Byrne was born in the 18th century in Co Londonderry. According to Queen’s, his skeleton suggests he was about seven feet seven inches tall.
This, the university adds, was due to a growth disorder called acromegalic gigantism which produced too much growth hormone in the body.
Due to the effects of his disorder, the unfortunate Goliath died aged just 22.
Thomas said: “Charles Byrne feared that the well-known surgeon and anatomist of the time, John Hunter, wanted his body for dissection and probable display after he died.”
Accordingly, he added, he wanted friends to weight his body down and bury it at sea – but Hunter intercepted his body en route and displayed it four years later.
He said research he had done shows that there are no legal powers in British statue which can compel someone’s burial wishes to be respected.
In December 2011, Thomas announced his campaign to free the Irish giant from the Hunterian Museum by co-writing an article in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).
The RCS said in a statement that research was still continuing on the remains to this day, adding: “RCS believes that the value of Charles Byrne’s remains, to living and future communities, currently outweighs the benefits of carrying out Byrne’s apparent request to dispose of his remains at sea.”