The Hartpole Doom

There is a tradition concerning the Hartpole family of Shrule Castle in the Queen’s County (called the castle on the bloody stream, from the sanguinary deeds of the owner) that every male member of the family is fated to utter three screeches terrible to hear when dying.

Shrule Castle 2002.

As to the origin of this doom the story goes that Sir Robert Hartpole, in the time of the Elizabethan wars, committed many savage acts against the people.

One day a priest, named O’More, having come to the castle on some friendly mission, the savage Hartpole ordered his retainers to seize him and hang him in the courtyard.

Good God!” exclaimed the priest. “Give me at least a moment to pray!

Go on then,” said Hartpole, “you may pray.”

O’More knelt down apart from the crowd. But Hartpole grew impatient, and ordered him to rise. “You have prayed long enough,” he said, “prepare for death.

When the priest heard the order for his death, and saw the man approach to seize him, he swayed from right to left and gave three fearful screams.

Why do you screech?“” asked the tyrant.

So shall you scream, and all your descendants in your last agony,” exclaimed O’More, “as a sign of the doom upon your race. You have murdered my people, you are now going to take my life; but I lay the curse of God on you and yours – your property shall pass away; your race shall perish off the earth; and by the three death screeches all men shall know that you and your posterity are accursed.”

The words of O’More only made Sir Robert more furious, and the priest was hung at once in the courtyard.

But the prophecy of doom was fulfilled – the knight died in agony, his descendants writhing of hunger, the property perished, the castle became a ruin, and the whole tainted family finally became extinct.


According to Lewis (1837), Sir Robert Hartpole was constable of Carlow castle and governor of the Queen’s county; “his extensive possessions have since passed through female heirs into other families. The castle, once of some importance ……. is now the residence of Hasting Herring Cooper.

Brewer says “It will be recollected that the name Hartpole occurred among the seven tribes, already noticed as having obtained vast possessions in this country.Among these, Sir Robert Hartpole appears to have been the founder of the most considerable, though not the most durable, family. He died in 1594, leaving issue Sir William and Sir George Hartpole, both successively of Shrule Castle; and three daughters, viz. Ellenor, married to Francis Cosby of Stradbally, who was slain in 1596; Margaret, to Gerard Grace, of Ballylinch castle, who died in 1619; and Ellen, to Sir Thomas Loftus, of Timaho, who died in 1635. The descendants of these ladies …… still possess considerable property ….. The representatives, however, of the Hartpole family are named Bowen and Lecky, to which gentlemen the two co-heiresses of the last male propietor of Shrule Castle were married.

Purcell records that “Robert Hartpole, an English Papist, forfeited 7,175 acres in Shrule, Clonebeckane, Ballinagall, Gurteen, Farnane, Doonane, Garrendenny, Ballahide, Rossmore etc., in 1674. He is given as the owner of one-quarter of his former estate, the remainder being in the hands of adventurers and soldiers.”

Elsewhere it appears that Richard FitzGerald, shot in a scandalous 1776 duel with the Earl of Kingston, was the son of Gerald FitzGerald of Coolenawle.and Mary, daughter of Sir Robert Hartpole of Shrule Castle, whose descendants also include  James Edward FitzGerald, a talented and multi-faceted New Zealand politician, regard by some as the country’s first Prime Minister, who died peacefully in his bed at the age of 78 in Wellington in 1896.

Dr. William Edward Hartpole Lecky, son of John Hartpole Lecky, a Ballon (Co. Carlow) landowner, was a very eminent historian whose statue stands in Trinity College, Dublin.

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