Thursday, 8 August 2013

The Grave of Robert Spreull (1628 -1689)

Robert Spreull, who died in 1689, is thought by many Sproule family historians to be the original Sproule settler in Tyrone. His gravestone in Castlederg was recorded in old family histories but the stone itself was thought to be long gone.  Last week the great folk of the Castlederg & District Family History Society assured me that the grave still existed, and guided me straight to it.

The Importance of Robert's Grave

The gravestone of Robert Spreull was for a long time the earliest record of a Sproule presence in County Tyrone. Because of this, most Sproule family historians believed that all branches of the Sproules in Tyrone were descended from this single ancestor. I am not so sure about that, but I will go into this in a later post. 

Indeed, some stories have gone as far as suggesting that this Robert and his brother Captain John Sproule were the ancestors of all of the Sproules in Ireland. This is definitely not the case, as there is plenty of evidence of earlier Sproules, and of several different Sproule families rather than just one. However, Robert Spreull is certainly a vital part of the Tyrone Sproule story.

The Gravestone in Castlederg


The grave lies in a beautiful old churchyard in Castlederg, County Tyrone. The first thing that is striking is that it is a double grave. The stone to the right is Robert, but the stone to the left is also a Sproule grave. The wording on the second stone seems to be gone, but it is worth further visits to explore this.

The Wording on the Gravestone

The gravestone of Robert Spreull is crumbling in places and the wording is fading or missing. It has been recorded in the past as:
SPREULL
HERE LYETH THE BODY OF ROBERT SPREULL WHO DEPARTED THIS LIFE THE.......DAY OF SEPTEMBER  ......DM 1689.......OF HIS AGE ... HERE ALSO LYETH......OF JEAN DENISTON.....OF THE SAID ROBERT.......WHO DEPARTED THIS.....THE 8 DAY OF SEPTEMBER ANNO DM 1712 IN.....OF HER AGE 81.....WO.....AW AND ALX..... .ULE .....

Another version was taken thirty years ago when all of the gravestones in this churchyard were recorded in order to preserve the information. The wording was then noted as:

Here lyeth the body of Robert Sproule departed this life …day of September DM 1689 in the year of his age 61 Here also lyeth the body of Jean Deniston wife of the said Robert who departed this life the 8 Day of September D.M. 1712 in the year of her age 81.

On the day we visited, only the last line became much clearer:

AW AND ALX SPROULE

This line was actually very easy to read, and looked as if it had been added much later. It is interesting also that this line has the more accepted spelling of the name, whereas the main text has the Spreull spelling. This supports the idea that the last line was written at a different time period. It is likely that two unmarried sons were interred in this grave, possibly named Andrew and Alexander, and that their names were added after the death of Jean.

Key Facts

The key facts gleaned from this stone are:
·         Robert Spreull was born in 1628 and he died in September 1689 aged 61
·         Jean Deniston was born in 1631 and died on 8th September 1712 aged 81


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