How the Cruit Island giant was examined by headlight

Cruit island 2011 (John Rafferty Photography 0868320007)

Cruit island 2011 (John Rafferty Photography 0868320007)

  • by Diarmaid Doherty

More details have emerged on the circumstances surrounding the Cruit Island giant, the story of which featured in last week’s paper.

A Donegal man - now living in England - has contacted the Donegal Democrat to reveal how the first examination of the skeleton was carried out shortly after its discovery, under the beam of headlights from his car which were shone on the remains.

Lackenagh native, Donal O’Donnell, who now lives in Wiltshire in England, says he’s astounded that it’s 60 years since the Cruit Island giant was found.

“I was involved in the discovery in a strange way,” he said. “I was asked by the late DJ Bonar, dental surgeon in Dungloe, if I would drive him and the late Dr O’Callaghan to the graveside as they wanted to make some investigations before the remains were exhumed.

“It was late in the evening and it was dark. I drove the car, a Standard Vanguard, up the slope as far as possible and had to stop about 20 yards from the grave because of wheel spin in the soft sand. The remains lay in a shallow sandy grave, covered with some hessian sacking, which was peeled back revealing the giant skeleton.”

Mr. O’Donnell recalls the dentist examining the teeth. “He remarked on the even wear and lack of any decay, indicating the nature of the coarse diet of the period before death.

“He also remarked that the wisdom teeth had not been cut giving a clue to the age of the deceased. Dr O’Callaghan then made his observations and remarked on the enormous size of the collar bone. All this was done by the headlights of the car with the engine running.”

It’s thought that in February 1954 the giant skeleton was found by workmen who were digging gravel from the ground for road repairs.

His identity has never been adequately explained. What is known is that he more than likely suffered from Pituitary Gigantism - a condition that results in sufferers dying in their late teens or early twenties.

A research team who have been studying how the condition occurs and what causes it, are taking steps which may lead to the exhuming of the skeleton. The remains are buried on the island in Cill Bhride cemetery, a short distance form where the skeleton was found.

Donal O’Donnell says there were various stories floating around as to why the remains were buried where they were. One theory was that the giant was buried by local women who discovered the body washed ashore.

“The theory was that they were scared to inform the authorities as they could be accused of killing him,” Donal said.

“It was handed down through generations that a giant was buried on the island but the story was taken lightly. Alas it turned out to be true.”

Cruit Island - the scene of a mystery that is 60 years old this month.




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