Saturday, 28 July 2018

The Great Causeway Giant: Part III

The Giant's Causeway (Alphonse Dousseau [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons)
Here it is – the final part of The Northern Whig’s lengthy report on the finding of the Causeway Giant.
Perhaps you would now like my own opinion of the stone representation of the huge human figure, which during the past week has caused so much excitement here. Well, I am not a geologist, and consequently am in complete ignorance of mineralogical distinctions. For the life of me I could not distinguish basalt from the ordinary trap; and, although I have an idea of what is meant by the columnar class, I could not tell the amorphous from the concretionary, nor either of them from the ferruginous. If I were asked what I, in my ignorance, thought the Giant consisted of, I should unhesitatingly express my belief that he was chiselled out of Whitehead limestone, and well coated for a time with soft red clay; that, after he had been duly pickled for a while in a mixture of that sort, he had been carefully brushed down, so as to leave a sufficient quantity of the clay in the crevices and marks with which his body is covered so profusely. 
With regard to the exhibitors of the Giant, there are three of them – a lady and two gentlemen – Mr. and Mrs. Dyer and Mr. Ford. They are all Americans, and have, it seems, been in this country for the past few months. Mr. Dyer is a shrewd, plausible gentleman, of about fifty years of age; his wife, a nice, lady-like person, takes a great interest in the discovery which her husband had made – and lifts the money; Mr. Ford, a sort of Franco-Yankee, aged about thirty-five, acts in the capacity of the business manager. 
Mr. Dyer told me that he intended taking the Giant over to the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, and in answer to my statement that I thought exhibits should have been there long since, he said that it would be quite time enough before the 15thof July. After keeping it there until the Centennial closes, he stated that he would bring it back to Ireland and show it in Dublin and some others of the large towns, concluding with Belfast, from whence he would proceed to Glasgow. 
No information can be obtained from him or any of the party as to the precise spot where the Giant was discovered. “County Antrim” is the stereotyped reply to all questions on the subject. It arrived at the Causeway Hotel late on Sunday night, or early on Monday morning, and it remained there until yesterday afternoon. During the first two days admission was free; the other two days a shilling was charged. While it lay in front of the hotel, Mr. Mack, photographer, of Coleraine, attended, and took a series of views of the figure and its surroundings, showing the hotel and the Causeway headlands in the background. Who after that would attempt to deny that it was found at the Causeway? 
This forenoon the following placard was posted profusely in and around Portrush:-- “Ireland Ahead! The greatest novelty of the age is the discovery of the fossil remains of the Causeway Giant, which will be on exhibition at Coleman’s Hotel, Portrush, on Friday and Saturday, 2ndand 3rdJune, from ten a.m. till ten p.m. Admission, one shilling. Children half price. Schools by agreement. No exhibition on Sunday.”
Is not the very fact that the far-sighted people of this town paid their shillings to see the Giant another strong proof that the discovery is bona-fide? None of the guides or boatmen at the Causeway today could throw any light upon the gigantic fossil, or where it was found, and they seemed greatly chagrined that, with all their ingenuity in the way of money making, and supplying “boxes of specimens,” they allowed the Yankees to box the most wondrous specimen ever heard of in the district.
And here I may be allowed to relate an incident at once interesting and affecting. Some few months ago there arrived, on the County Antrim side of Belfast Lough, three gentlemen from America. They came on a somewhat painful mission. A short time previously there had expired in the Far West a gentleman whose birth had taken place in this “dear ould country.” He had left it many years ago, but in the land of his adoption Providence had smiled on his honest and indefatigable labours, and his dying request was – indeed, if I mistake not, it was also embodied in his will – that over his remains there should be erected a huge cross of Irish limestone. 
In strict obedience to the request of this patriotic Irishman, the trio of Americans arrived at the locality mentioned some months since, and soon entered on their work upon a huge block of limestone from Whitehead. I understand that afterwards a second block was procured. I need not just now indicate the exact scene of their labours; but almost day and night they plied the mallet and chisel. No one was allowed to enter the temporary edifice which was used as a workshop, and in which they were so busily employed preparing this ancient national monument which was to adorn in a far distant land the grave of the true-hearted Irishman now no more. 
A short time since the work was announced to be completed, and the Americans took their departure, but no one, so far as I can discover, has yet witnessed the finished piece of workmanship. On last Friday a lorry, laden with a large wooden case, was seen going through Ballymena, and, if I mistake not, passed on Saturday night through Ballymoney. The mention of this incident shows the interest taken in this country by the Yankees. At the Causeway we have one batch bringing to light the petrified remains of a great, very great, man of other days, while here, close to Belfast, we have another batch preparing a gigantic tombstone for a departed Irishman in America!
A good deal of curiosity will now be manifested over the North of Ireland as to the exact spot where the “Great Causeway Giant” was found. Mr. Dyer will, no doubt, soon become less reticent, supply full particulars, and produce the workmen who assisted at the interesting excavation. Messrs. McCrea and McFarland, the well-known carriers, will also doubtless relate how far their vehicle carried the huge coffin. Our scientific friends, the Belfast Naturalists’ Field Club amongst the number, are certain to have an excursion down to see both the Giant and Mr. Dyer, and in a few days the public will likely have full details of this wonderful discovery.
Source:
 - The Northern Whig, 3 June 1876

Saturday, 21 July 2018

The Great Causeway Giant: Part II

In this second part of "The Causeway Giant," the Whig’s correspondent gets a closer look at the giant and has a word with Mr Dyer.
The body is evidently composed of limestone. A little below the knee both legs are broken across, and this injury it was first stated was inflicted in the disinterment, while afterwards the explanation was that the accident took place during the carriage of the body up to the Causeway Hotel.
Ross-shire Journal, 11 September 1903
At the sides of both legs there is a quantity of plaster of Paris, &c., placed there by a workman shortly before the body started from the Causeway yesterday. 
A resident of Portrush having feasted his eyes on the strange spectacle last night thought he would make a more minute investigation, and having seen that Mr. Dyer was engaged in another part of the yard, he pulled out a knife and commenced to scrape the Giant’s brow. In an instant Mr. Dyer was on the scene and demanded to know what the gentleman was doing. “Are you,” says he, “a scientific man; if so get your proper appliances and make a proper examination, but I cannot allow any person to be scratching and scraping at the figure in such a manner.” The snow-white mark caused by the knife in the Giant’s forehead was soon afterwards rubber over with red clay, and rendered almost imperceptible. 
After gazing for some time at the novel spectacle I asked Mr. Dyer where he had made the interesting discovery, and his reply was that that was a thing he never told to any person; that he was boring for iron, and found the Giant about four feet from the surface. In reply to my question if he had explored much of the country in search of minerals, he said that he had been over the greater portion of Ireland north of Dublin. “How long is it since you found the Giant?” I asked, and he replied that it was in December last; that many anxious hour he passed from that time until the Giant was safely under lock and key; that at length, on the 20thJanuary, 1876 – note the date, ye Lilliputians of the present age – he managed to get him housed, but even then, horrible to relate, his anxiety did not cease nor his troubles end, for on a Sunday afternoon soon afterwards he caught no less than five youths try to effect an entrance through the roof of the edifice in which the Giant slumbered. “Were they going to steal him?” innocently asked the Portrush gentleman who had been using the penknife. “Well I don’t know what they were going to do,” replied the artless Mr. Dyer; “but I pointed at them a little two-eyed machine, and I guess they soon disappeared.” 
Mr Dyer went on to say that altogether the Giant as he lay before them had cost him £87; but how that amount was expended he gave no explanation whatever. It was now close upon ten o’clock, and, after some further explanations of an unimportant character, the company separated in twos and threes, shaking their heads knowingly. Soon the Giant was swathed in horse-rugs to protect him from the midnight air, and the séance concluded. 
Source:
  • The Northern Whig, 3 June 1876

Saturday, 14 July 2018

The Great Causeway Giant: Part I


The Giant's Causeway
(Thomas Rowlandson [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)
In June 1876, some American gentlemen “found” a “giant” near the Giant’s Causeway, Antrim’s premiere tourist attraction until Game of Thrones made weird, bendy trees a thing. Anyway, it was all a delightful hoax [1], of course, but it still made a great story, one that The Northern Whig devoted quite a lot of space to.
Given the length of the story, I’m going to run it over the next couple of posts.  
THE GREAT CAUSEWAY GIANT
[FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT]
PORTRUSH, FRIDAY
When in hot haste I wired you the few lines yesterday evening, the Giant had just arrived from the Causeway, and was being removed from a four-wheel lurry (belonging to Messrs. McCrea & McFarland, Belfast), on to a sort of rude erection in the spacious yard attached to Coleman’s Hotel. There was a good deal of excitement in connection with the arrival, even though the visitors to Portrush are as yet remarkably few in number. The weather during the past couple of days has been delightful, and the 1stof June has brought with it some little activity, but still the Brighton of Ulster has not assumed anything like its summer aspect. 
In the hotel yard a great many persons had effected an entrance along with the vehicle, while outside a numerous crowd had collected trying to get a glimpse of that mighty Giant who had performed such achievements in days gone by, and whose name is linked with so many of the wondrous sights in the district. About half-past eight o’clock a ‘bus arrived from Portstewart heavily laden with persons anxious to witness the strange spectacle. 
The evident intention of the owner of the exhibition was not to open it until this morning, but as the Portstewart visitors were importunate it was at length decided to gratify them and to uncover the colossal remains. Armed with crowbars and wrenches Mr. Dyer, of whom more will be said by-and-by, ascended the lid of the case, and commenced the work of unscrewing the large number of bolts which bind together the capacious box. 
It may here be stated that the case, which in shape resembles a shell coffin, is composed of thick deal planks. To the bottom of this enclosure the Giant is evidently fastened. Iron bolts pass from the lid down through the sides of the coffin, and are secured with large nuts underneath. The unscrewing of these bolts disintegrates the entire case, and the lid having been lifted off, the planks which compose the sides are removed, and the Giant is at once exposed to view in a complete state of nudity. 
Shortly after the case was opened, the yard having been in the meantime entirely cleared, visitors were admitted on payment of a shilling. Those who were stopping at the hotel were allowed to pass through by a back entrance, the general public being admitted by the gateway, but all having to submit to the inexorable fee. Soon the huge figure was surrounded by a goodly array of sightseers, who were provided with elevated positions on boxes, planks, &c., in order that they might have a proper opportunity of inspecting it. 
With regards to its dimensions, I may state that it is 13 feet in length and 6 feet 7 ½ inches around the chest; the circumference of the head is about 4 feet, and of the neck 3 feet; the arms are 6 feet in length and 29 inches thick, and the feet are 21 ½ inches long. On the right foot there are six toes, the other foot having five. The arms lie, in not at all a graceful attitude, across the breast, the left being uppermost, and the head hangs over on the right shoulder. 
In several respects the Giant is not at all well proportioned, but apparently he has been in the best of health up to immediately before his demise. He had evidently possessed a most robust constitution, and, judging by his corporeal appearance as he now lies, it is quite manifest that he was in no way emaciated by disease when the fatal hour arrived. 
The figure is very complete, the only parts injured to any extent being the base of the skull and the right loin. But, perhaps, these very injuries were the cause of death. Who knows but the venerable old gentleman, as he wandered around the Causeway headlands, gazing down with a pardonable pride on all the works of his hand, missed his step, and fell head over heels from either the Plaiskin or the “Stookins.” 
Over the entire body there is a sort of pock-pitting. Indeed, had it not been for the injuries just mentioned I should say he died of smallpox. These marks are filled up with a sort of red clay, and altogether at first sight the figure seems to have been for a length of time buried in the earth.
Notes:
1: See "The Petrified Giant" in Fortean Times, February 2016 (FT337:73) 
Source:
 - The Northern Whig, 3 June 1876