When Colleen Snyder researched her family history during the Covid-19 pandemic, she did not expect to discover a connection to the legend of Irish giants. Colleen, from Virginia in the United States, suffers from a rare genetic condition called acromegaly or gigantism.
NOTE: According to the UK’s NHS at: https://bit.ly/3aQQgpY:
“Acromegaly is a rare condition where the body produces too much growth hormone, causing body tissues and bones to grow more quickly. Over time, this leads to abnormally large hands and feet, and a wide range of other symptoms.
“Acromegaly is usually diagnosed in adults aged 30 to 50, but it can affect people of any age.””
The gene caused Charles Byrne, born in 1761 near Cookstown and known as the “Irish giant”, to grow more than 7ft 6in (2.3m) tall.
Medical researchers have previously identified Mid Ulster as a “hotspot” where one in 150 people have the genetic mutation, compared to one in 1,000 in Belfast and one in 2,000 in the rest of the UK.
Colleen first developed symptoms when she was eight, but the condition was not diagnosed until she was 20. Doctors in the USA told her it was rare to develop acromegaly at such a young age.
“Through the years I kept trying to find somebody that had the same condition, get more information about it and I couldn’t.”
That was until she began to research her family history during the lockdown. When she looked at her family tree she realised her ancestral home was in fact Clonoe, near Coalisland in County Tyrone, the centre of the giant gene “hotspot”.
You can read more in an article by Julian Fowler published in the BBC News web site at: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-61726811.