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Tuesday 21 November 2017

Trinity College row over 'Cornelius' - the skeleton in the closet

The skeleton of Cornelius Magrath in Trinity College Photo: Paul Sharp
The skeleton of Cornelius Magrath in Trinity College Photo: Paul Sharp

Chai Brady

It's the skeleton in Trinity's closet.

The Dublin university has no plans to release a skeleton of a 'giant' from Tipperary for burial because it continues to "inspire scholarship" in its students.

An engraving of Magrath
An engraving of Magrath

Cornelius Magrath was 7ft 3in when he died in 1760. Legend has it that Trinity students stole his body the day he died and it has been kept at the college ever since. His skeleton can be viewed by those doing research.

But now some Tipperary locals, and even a TCD professor, have called on Cornelius's skeleton to be released for burial.

Cornelius suffered from gigantism, and the university remains adamant he "has taught a great many students, scientists, professors and experts" about the disease.

However, Desmond O'Neil, professor in medical gerontology from Trinity College, believes it is "hard to justify the retention of his remains".

He told Joe Duffy's 'Liveline' he had raised the issue with the board of the university.

"I really cannot see any useful form of scholarship that can be maintained by effectively having this man maintained as a curiosity in a cabinet," he said.

Trinity College released a statement saying it had not been approached by anyone requesting his burial, and although it had put him on public display previously there were no plans for further displays. Cornelius can only be viewed by people or groups that are doing research - or as part of an educational activity.

"Today, in addition to anatomical variation and endocrinology, his story assists our medical students to understand how disease, stigma and curiosity may be linked to define the experiences of those who suffer illness," the university said.

Irish Independent

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