By Carmel Hayes
A MOVING statue was seen in Laois this week but it was no miracle.
The headless effigy of Robert Hartpole, a familiar figure at the People’s Park in Portarlington, has been removed and relocated to Carlow Museum where it will be put on display.
Laois County Council made the decision because of Hartpole’s close links with Carlow and because he had little or no connection with Portarlington.
In fact, Portarlington will probably be glad to see the back of Hartpole, an English soldier who led a campaign of land acquisition from the Gaelic Irish and had a reputation for cruelty. He was involved in the notorious massacre of the leaders of the Clans of Laois at Mullaghmast.
Cllr Aidan Mullins says that, considering the history of Hartpole and his effigy, it is “correct and fitting” that it was taken back to Carlow.
He said today: “It will be properly protected and preserved in Carlow, as some significant aesthetic and material damage was caused to the stone in the People’s Park.
The Portarlington councillor would like to see Hartpole replaced with some other more relevant sculpture and intends to make such a proposal to the county council for consideration, as part of the planned People’s Park upgrade in the town.
Cllr Mullins says it is important to know the history behind the effigy, as Hartpole was an English soldier who was posted to Carlow in about 1549 to defend planter families from Gaelic tribes.
He led a campaign of land acquisition from the Gaelic Irish and had a reputation for cruelty. In 1570, he was granted Carlow Castle and was made Constable. He also owned Coolbanagher Castle and was made High Sheriff of Queen’s County (Laois) and Carlow.
He died in 1594 and was buried at St Mary’s Church in Carlow with an elaborate tomb and a carved stone effigy, a life-size sculpture of himself.
The church was replaced in 1635 and the tomb was lost. When it was rediscovered in 1809, local anger at memories of Mullaghmast led to the effigy being damaged and the head cut off.
It was removed to Kilnacourt in Portarlington for safe keeping but parts of the tomb remain in Carlow.