Eight facts about Patrick Cotter O’Brien, the eight foot tall Irishman who died in 1806
Life & Style

Eight facts about Patrick Cotter O’Brien, the eight foot tall Irishman who died in 1806

AN IRISHMAN was the first person in medical history to surpass eight feet.

Patrick Cotter O’Brien of Co. Cork stood at eight feet and one inch tall, or 2.46m, a record that was only surpassed a century or so later by John Rogan, an African-American man who measured 8 feet 9 inches.

Here are eight facts about the eight-foot Irishman:

1. He was born in Kinsale, Co. Cork in 1760

Patrick Cotter was born 19 January 1760 in the small seaside town of Kinsale, County Cork. A life-size replica of Cotter ‘the Giant of Kinsale’ is on display at Kinsale Museum, along with his giant boots and a memorial to his life.

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2. He was quite possibly Ireland's most useful bricklayer

Cotter O'Brien was spotted working as a brickie, aged 18, by a travelling showman who enticed him towards the ‘freak show’—which promised far more money. Being eight feet tall with a reach far higher, Cotter didn’t need a ladder to reach the roofs of the cottages he worked on.

3. He was the first of only 13 people known to surpass eight feet

Only thirteen people in medical history have been known to stand above eight feet, or 2.44m tall. Cotter O’Brien was the first of them. In 1972, his remains were examined and his living height was verified to be exactly 246cm, an inch over eight feet.

4. He made his fortune touring England as a ‘freak’

Once in England, Patrick Cotter O'Brien adopted the stage-name O’Brien, in keeping with the legendary folkloric family of giant Irish kings. It was on the English side of the Irish Sea that he earned himself the nickname ‘the Bristol Giant’ and more money than he could ever have earned as a brickie.

5. A particularly unlucky highwayman tried to rob him

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The floor of Cotter O’Brien’s stagecoach had to be modified specifically to fit his height. One particularly unlucky highwayman had the shock of his life when he stopped the wrong stagecoach. The outlaw fled at the sight of the eight-foot Irishman inside.

6. He died directly from the effects of gigantism

On September 8, 1806, Cotter O’Brien passed away at the age of 46. As with many of the world’s tallest people, Cotter O’Brien death came at a relatively young age and directly from the strains of having such a large body.

7. No hearse big enough could be found for his funeral

No hearse long enough to accommodate Cotter O’Brien’s 284cm casket could be found upon his death. Instead, fourteen men were called upon to carry him to his grave. Cotter O’Brien left £2,000 to his mother and requested his body be entombed behind 12 feet of rock to prevent exhumation.

8. His last request was betrayed

Despite his wishes, Cotter O’Brien’s body was exhumed three times in 1906, 1972 and finally in 1986. Due to the redevelopment of his gravesite in 1986, the Giant of Kildare was finally cremated after a church service in his honour.

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