So the sepulchre was opened and the reasonably uncorrupted body taken to the laboratory of a medico named Hall. But Dr. Hall was a member of the Fancy. Instead of thanking the slavering Sack 'em Ups, he recoiled in horror when he recognized the illustrious Beetlejuice they had just dragged in.
"Take him back!" the physician prescribed. But first he went for his hacksaw and detached Dan Donnelly's strong right arm. Thus was created one of Ireland's most ghoulish souvenirs.
All this was public knowledge 174 years ago. In a letter to Carrick's two days after the funeral procession, a man named Burrowes delineated the whole affair and added:
I am conscious it will raise the tender feelings of the Fancy, to know that that arm, the object of their highest admiration, and the terror of England, is subject to scoffs, and flung ingloriously into a filthy sink.
According to the only biography of the champion written in the past 170 years—Dan Donnelly, His Life and Legends, by Patrick Myler—the arm soon found itself at the medical college of Edinburgh University, where it was disinfected and lacquered and used in anatomy lessons. It then played out the 19th century as an exhibit in a traveling circus.
In 1904 a Belfast bookmaker and barkeeper named "Texas" McAlevey purchased the limb and displayed it at a pub called (aptly) the Duncairn Arms. Later it was relegated to the attic of McAlevey's betting shop on Winetavern Street, where it was dismissed as just another commonplace severed human body part. Then a wine merchant named Donnelly (no relation) bought it just for fun, and he gave it in 1953 to a man named James Byrne, who owned the Hideout in Kilcullen, the nearest village to the rolling Curragh where George Cooper's mandible had been shattered so many decades before. And there it has remained.
Most guidebooks to Ireland don't mention Donnelly's Arm or the fight with George Cooper or the Hideout Olde World Pub. However, the wonderful mummies in the crypt at the Anglican Church of St. Michan's in Dublin, just a block from Dan Donnelly's Greek Street deathbed, draw tourists by the busload. And the detached, yet still miraculously undecayed, head of St. Oliver Plunkett, who was executed in 1681, draws myriad supplicating pilgrims to the town of Drogheda, north of the capital. So it is not an aversion to the public display of whole or dismantled dead Irish people that is to blame for the arm's relative obscurity.
Neither, to be sure, is it the fault of Myler, a boxing columnist and assistant editor at the Evening Herald in Dublin. In fact, it is Myler who has labored most diligently to keep the expired champion alive. Across the street from the offices of his newspaper is a small restaurant called, undeservedly, the Ritz, and it is here that Myler and I meet one afternoon to drink tea and talk about Dan Donnelly. The journalist seems alternately bewildered and delighted that a foreigner should be interested in such parochial arcana. His eyes ask, Why aren't you off driving the Ring of Kerry or kissing the Blarney Stone? But we've done that already.
"At the launching of my book in 1976," says Myler, a benign and bespectacled man (like me), "Jim Byrne brought the arm to Dublin. I wanted to take it home, lest it be stolen, but my wife refused. She said, 'I'm not letting that thing in my house. What if the rest of him comes looking for it?' "
"Has there been much written about Donnelly?" I ask.