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 

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