Mary Murphy


Mary Murphy was also known as the ‘Portrush Giantess’ and was born in Portrush in 1673. She stood at 7’2” (2.2m), which is tall even for today’s standards. The average height for a man at the time was around 1.7m (approx. 5’6”), so Miss Murphy would have been quite the anomaly as a woman![1] She is reported to have had a “very handsome face” and an exceptional figure so that she had many suitors from near and far. One of her suitors was a hermit called MacGilladhu (or ‘Black’) who lived in Portcoon cave at the Giant’s Causeway. Mary married a French fisherman and sailed off with him, leaving her spurned lover to fall sick and die of a broken heart.

Mary became somewhat famous and her new husband advertised her as the ‘Portrush Giantess’, even presenting her to King William III and Queen Mary II in London, where she sang and danced an Irish jig. By 1701, she was reported to be in Montpellier in France as an exhibition in fairs, and little is known of her after this.

[1] Gregori Galofré-Vilà, Andrew Hinde and Aravinda Guntupalli, ‘Heights across the last 2000 years in England’ in (Oxford, 2017)