Local BBC Sites

Page last updated at 09:56 GMT, Friday, 18 December 2009
Arthur Caley: The story of the Manx Giant
By John Quirk
Author of 'The Manx Giant: the Amazing Story of Arthur Caley'

Arthur Caley 'The Manx Giant'
Caley was 7ft 11ins tall and weighed over 28 stone at his physical peak

Arthur Caley was born in Sulby on the Isle of Man in 1824 and was probably the tallest man in the world during his lifetime.

At his physical peak, Caley was a true 'man mountain', standing 7ft 11ins and weighing more than 28 stone.

The legend of the Manx Giant was an enigma for 150 years, known by many but a mystery to most.

Now, a new book attempts to reveal the truth behind one of the most colourful characters in Manx history.

The Manx Giant

Early in 2009, I gave a talk at the Henry Bloom Noble Library in Douglas about Arthur Caley, the Manx Giant.

Everyone at the talk - and it was standing room only - knew who Caley was, but they knew next to nothing about the man himself.

Therein lies the enigma that has been Arthur Caley for the last 150 years; well-known, but a total mystery.

Arthur Caley 'The Manx Giant'
Caley was most commonly known as Colonel Routh Goshen

It was this that led one of the Giant's descendents, Carlton Mealin, to research Caley's life and which eventually brought him to my door.

That was two years ago, and the book 'The Manx Giant: the Amazing Story of Arthur Caley' is the result of Carlton's dedication and my ability to string a few sentences together.

Arthur Caley was a phenomenon, a force of nature the likes of which the island will probably never see again. But he wasn't quite so phenomenal in his formative years.

Caley was born in 1824 at a place called The Well, a mile or so west of Sulby, and the shell of the cottage remains today.

It was long thought that Caley lived at the Sulby Glen Hotel, which has huge doorframes, but research proved this wasn't the case, as an ordnance survey map from 1870 - long after the Giant had left the Island, reveals the hotel hadn't been built at that point.

'Man mountain'

His father, Arthur senior, was a farmer and Caley learned the trade, but it wasn't until he reached his late teens that he started to really grow, and he kept going until he was in his late twenties.

Arthur Caley 'The Manx Giant'
Caley left the Island in 1851 to seek his fame and fortune

The remarkable thing about Caley is that he was a 'true giant'; most giants tend to be tall and thin, but Caley was a man mountain, his body developing in proportion to his height.

He left the island in 1851 to seek his fame and fortune in the UK, exhibiting in Manchester and London, before heading to Paris, where he became a regular fixture in the salons.

After just a year in the French capital, Caley's mother, Ann, received a letter informing her that her son was dead.

That, as far as the Isle of Man was concerned, was it - the Manx Giant was no more, just weeks after his life had reportedly been insured for £2000.

No one really knows what happened in Paris. Was his death an insurance fraud, and was it true that a giant tree trunk was buried in the coffin instead of him?

'The Arabian Giant'

Several years later, a character appeared on the streets of New York, and presented by the legendary showman P.T. Barnum as 'Colonel Routh Goshen, the Arabian Giant', with a colourful military history to match.

Arthur Caley 'The Manx Giant'
Caley was discovered in New York by the legendary showman P.T. Barnum

It was only on his deathbed, in 1889, that the world discovered that Goshen and Caley were one and the same, and that Caley had not perished in Paris, but had gone on to lead a long and successful life in New York, appearing in Barnum's Greatest Show on Earth and many other exhibitions and circuses.

Caley and his peers were watched by several thousand people each day, and in a day and age without movie stars and pop stars, it's fair to say that Caley and his co-stars were the celebrities of their time.

It would be interesting to see what Caley would make of today's world, and what we in turn would make of Caley.

One thing's for sure; it will be a long time, if ever, before we see his like again.

The Manx Giant: The Amazing Story of Arthur Caley, by John Quirk is published by the Manx Heritage Foundation




SEE ALSO
World's tallest man over 8ft high
17 Sep 09 |  World
Tall people lead 'better lives'
10 Sep 09 |  Health
New world's tallest man confirmed
09 Aug 07 |  World
Hand of Manx giant returns home
02 Jan 07 |  Isle of Man


BBC iD

Sign in

BBC navigation

Copyright © 2018 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific