For many years Patrick Cotter O’Brien (born Patrick Cotter), was believed to be the first of only 16 people in medical history to stand at a verified height of eight feet (244 cm) or more. Only Anton de Franckenpoint reached this height before him. Patrick Cotter O’Brien was born in Kinsale, Co Cork. His real name was Patrick Cotter and he adopted O’Brien as his stage name in the sideshow circuit, claiming descent from the legendarily gigantic Brian Boru. He was also known as the Bristol Giant and the Irish Giant.
It is believed he died from the effects of the disease gigantism. In 1972 his remains were examined and it was determined that, while alive, he stood approximately 8 feet 1 inches (246 cm) tall. This made him the tallest person ever at that time, a record that would be surpassed by the next ‘eight-footer’, John William Rogan, who died almost a century later.
His remains were exhumed three times: in 1906, 1972 and finally in 1986. His skeleton was examined in great detail in 1972 and described in a book: The Irish giant by G. Frankcom and J.H. Musgrave. Patrick Cotter was subsequently reburied but in 1986 during a redevelopment in the area his remains were again identified and then cremated after a church service.
No hearse could be found to accommodate his nine feet four-inch casket encased in lead, and his remains were borne to the grave by relays of fourteen men. In his will, Cotter left £2,000 to his mother and a request that his body be entombed within twelve feet of solid rock (to prevent exhumation for scientific or medical research). Patrick Cotter’s giant boots are on display in the Kinsale Museum. An arm of Cotter’s is currently preserved in the Medical Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons, London.