SKINNINGROVE’S famous November 5 bonfire on the beach is this year themed around the “Yorkshire Giant” who was the tallest man on Earth.

He was Harry Cooper who was born somewhere on the North York Moors – sources say anywhere from Swainby down to Malton – in 1857. It is said that he contracted a fever at the age of 16 which caused a growth spurt, and he grew to be 8ft 6ins.

That would mean he finished just a little below Robert Wadlow, from Missouri, who was measured at 8ft 11.1ins in 1940 and is the tallest man ever to walk the planet. It would mean that Harry was head and shoulders above the current tallest living man, Sultan Kosen of Turkey who is 8ft 2.8ins.

The Northern Echo: Fire marshal next to a bonfire in the shape of a Christmas sleigh filled with presents during the Skinningrove bonfire celebrations in North Yorkshire. Picture: PA WireFire marshal next to a bonfire in the shape of a Christmas sleigh filled with presents during the Skinningrove bonfire celebrations in North Yorkshire. Picture: PA Wire

Harry kept his height under a bushel, working on a farm in Scugdale on the moors, where he was known as “Long Harry”. He then went to work in the Rosedale ironstone mines from where he transferred to the Fogga mine at North Skelton. This man who liked to light his pipe from gas streetlights spent most of his life underground doubled up.

Visiting a travelling circus in Brotton in the 1880s, he was spotted by the ringmaster, who took him on tour as a freak. Legendary showman PT Barnum signed him up, and took him over to the US, where, in what was called “the largest show on Earth”, he was billed as “The Yorkshire Giant – the tallest man in the world”.

His hands were 13 inches long; his feet were 17 inches. When his wife Minnie – herself a very tall person – gave birth in New York in 1886, their baby weighed 17lbs.

Harry died in Calgary in Canada in 1898, aged 41, when he weighed 29 stones.

Skinningrove’s bonfire will have a big top theme in his honour. It is lit on the beach at 6.30pm on November 5.