2000 years of history, myth, legend and local stories
Distributed in Ireland and the UK by Irish Book Distribution.
Distributed in North America by Syracuse University Press.
Also available from the author at Richard@RichardMarsh.ie
The Naming of Baltinglass – An incident in the 1st-century BC story about the Demon Swine of Drebrenn is set in Baltinglass and gives the town its name.
The Melodies of Buchet’s House – Buchet, an inn-keeper involved in the Demon Swine story, is famously generous.
Saint Kevin and Glendalough – Migratory folk tales and local legends have become attached to the 6th-century historical founder of Glendalough.
Fingal Rónáin – 10th-century historical fiction - a tragic soap opera - set in the 7th century.
Feagh McHugh O’Byrne – The last of the Wicklow kings; subject of the ballad “Follow Me Up to Carlow”.
Michael Dwyer – Rebel leader Dwyer prolonged the 1798 Rebellion in Wicklow by remaining at large until 1803. He survives in popular historical legend in Southwest Wicklow but is nearly completely unknown elsewhere.
The Hanging of John Moore – Moore murdered a landowner in 1798; the story survives in oral tradition in the Rathdangan area where it happened.
Hempenstall, “The Walking Gallows” – The facts behind the widely known (in Wicklow) ghost tale featuring an 18th-century vigilante.
The Vale of Avoca
Thomas Moore and the Meeting of the Waters
The Avoca “Non-leprechaun”
The Tigroney Ghost
The Cherrymount Fairy
The Avoca Púca
“Me and Thee”
The Mottee Stone
The Fairy Tree
The Violation of a Fairy Fort
The Moving Statue
The Big Snow
Toss Byrne’s Stroke
A Redcross Púca
The Ball Moat
“Ned Sheehy of Dromin”
A Mysterious Incident in Rathdangan
The Gates of Heaven
Saint Bridget’s Head Stone
Baltinglass Bell Tower
The Athgreany Stone Circle
“The Night We Riz the Tan”
A Bray Ghost Story
Saint Patrick in Wicklow
A Rathnew Stroke
The Glenmalure Man
Hempenstall – “The Walking Gallows”
Amongst the monsters which the Insurrection Act, passed in 1796, called into loyal activity, none have surpassed “the Walking Gallows” for atrocity.
The Irish Magazine, January 1810
Lieutenant Edward Lambert Hepenstal (known as “Hempenstall” in Wicklow oral tradition) was born about 1776 in Upper Newcastle, County Wicklow, and “bred an apothecary” in Dublin.
Towering almost to seven feet [The Irish Magazine says “7½ feet”], with chest and muscles in proportion, [he] dispensed with the formalities of assembling juries and erecting gibbets, and on encountering a supposed criminal threw a rope round his neck, and swung him over his own shoulders, as he would have done a young deer or a rabbit, there to dangle till he was dead.
He was given a commission in the Wicklow Militia through the influence of his brother, a clerk with the Dublin police, and commanded a “flying party” to Moyvore or Mysores in Westmeath in 1796, where he simultaneously hung two brothers from his shoulders. He killed six men in cold blood in Gardenstown and Moyvore in 1797.
In 1795, Hepenstal half-hanged a prosecution witness named Hyland to encourage him to give false evidence against a man for an armed attack. Hyland retracted his statement in court and was arrested, indicted, convicted, sentenced and hanged on the same day.
During a trial in 1796, Hepenstal admitted that he had not only “used some threats, and pricked him with a bayonet” to obtain testimony from a prosecution witness, but the prisoner himself had also “been pricked with a bayonet, to induce him to confess: a rope had been put around his neck, which was thrown over his (Hepenstal’s) shoulder, he then pulled the rope, and drew the prisoner up, and he was hung in this way for a short time, but continued sulky, and confessed nothing”.
The defence attorney put it to Hepenstal:
“Then you acted the executioner, and played the part of a gallows?”
“Yes, please your honour;” was the reply of Lieutenant Hepenstal.
The Solicitor-General, Mr. Toler, who tried the case, in his charge to the jury regretted the treatment of the prisoner, “but it was an error such as a young and gallant officer might fall into, warmed by resentment.” … The prisoner was found guilty.
The Irish Magazine, a racy Dublin nationalist monthly branded “scandalous” and “scurrilous” by its detractors, reported that Hepenstal died in bed in St Andrews Street in Dublin in 1804 “of the most shocking distemper: his body was literally devoured by vermin; and the agonies of his sufferings were aggravated by the most awful expressions, declaring the tortures of a soul apparently surrounded with all the impatient messengers of hell ...” (continuing in a similar vein). He was buried in St Andrews Street, but “so secretly has the spot been concealed, lest some disloyal hand should violate the valuable shrine, that no enquirer, however ingenious, could accurately say, ‘Here lies the Walking Gallows!’”
However, Mrs O’Toole, whose grandfather Larry Byrne was a companion of Michael Dwyer, reported in 1934 that Hepenstal was killed along with two companions in Aghavannagh about 1798 when he attacked a group of rebels. She said he is buried “across from Aghavannagh” with flagstones at his head and feet to show his size.
Here lie the bones of Hepenstal,
Judge, jury, gallows, rope, and all.
(by “a clerical gentleman of the name of Barrett”)
A local tradition says that Hepenstal hanged his last man at the gate to the Aghavannagh youth hostel, and his gigantic ghost has been seen there during the day by non-local people who had never heard the story before.