“It wasn’t until he took a sip from one of the rejected cocktail glasses, by then just a pool of melted ice, that he realized the source of the foul taste. “l looked down at that and I realized, it’s fucking shitty ice. That’s what that is. The ice is fucking up all of my cocktails. Every one of them.”—
King George VI: I’m not … here to discuss … personal matters.
Logue: Why are you here then?
King George VI: Because I bloody well stammer!
Through his sessions with Logue, Bertie grapples with the debilitating fear that so many of us, whether or not we stutter, can relate to utterly—the fear that you don’t deserve the life you have. That you have somehow fooled the world and the people around you into giving you things—a kingship, a wife, a husband, a graduate degree, a home, a dog—and that soon, when you slip up just a little, those things will be taken away from you. I know there’s a lot of talk these days about “entitlement,” but its opposite (disentitlement? unentitlement?) can be just as big of a problem.
While she waited for the results, a man with a particular curiosity about Byrne, 58-year-old Irish businessman Brendan Holland, had got involved with TV documentary-maker Ronan McCloskey. Brendan, like other members of his family, had been affected by a pituitary tumour as a teenager. It was removed but left its mark. Holland is 2.06m (6ft 9in) tall, though still a foot shorter than Byrne, whose real height was 2.34m (7ft 8in). Both Holland and McCloskey came from Tyrone and were fascinated by the number of actual giants in the area, and by the way they figured in Irish folklore not as freaks, but as kings, seers and poets.
Holland was tested and found to have the AIP mutation. Then Korbonits’s results came back – Byrne carried the same mutation. “I always wondered, ‘Why me?’” says Brendan. “I’ve wanted to know all my life. And the connection with Byrne was a bonus.”
But was Byrne the first of his kind? Modelling work by Korbonits’s team, just published in the New England Journal of Medicine, showed that both Byrne and today’s patients inherited their genetic variant from the same common ancestor and that this mutation is some 1,500 years old. There really were giants in Ireland in far-off times.