Ballymacpeake Mass Rock 

Fr O'Donnell PP. Fr McLaughlin and altar servers at the Mass Rock 2003 AD

Photo above Courtesy of WJ McCann


Mass - Sunday 17th August 2003 AD

The Ballymacpeake Mass Rock restoration Project. 


How 'Mass Rocks' are renewing the Faith in Ireland - The Tablet

Fr O'Donnell PP says Mass at Ballymacpeake June 2000 AD.

Video of Mass 2000 AD


'How many and varied the places where Mass has been offered - in stately medieval and in splendid modern cathedrals; in early monastic and in modern churches; at Mass rocks in the glens and forests by "hunted priests" and in poor thatch-covered chapels for a people poor in worldly goods but rich in the things of the spirit; in "wake-houses" or "station-houses", or at great open-air hostings of the faithful - on the top of Croagh Patrick and at Lough Derg. Small matter where the Mass was offered. For the Irish, it was always the Mass that mattered'.

Pope John Paul II, Dublin, 29th September 1979.

The Story.

The existence of a Mass Rock in Neil Birt's garden has always been part of local legend in Ballymacpeake. With this in mind a number of locals met one summer's night and decided on a restoration Project. A new Millennium was about to dawn and many believed that the Mass Rock would be a fitting memorial to the sufferings of the The Penal Laws as well as a local feature. A Committee was thus formed and a plan of action drawn up.
The first task was to contact the local owner of the land on which the stone lay. He was immediately enthusiastic and has since personally taken on the building work associated with this memorial. The next task was to remove a large Beech tree which had grown over the stone for many years and was at this stage embedded in it's roots. The tree bounded a small country road and with the aid of a professional chainsaw operator and a heavy tractor it was felled one wet and windy day into an adjoining field. An excavator then pulled the tree root out leaving the stone completely intact. The landowner agreed to locate the stone in its existing postion and thus a foundation was dug out to accommodate a memorial. A few days after, a local JCB arrived and using ropes the stone was slung into postion on a newly built plinth.
An engraved memorial tablet has now been put in place. Paving stones have been put on the floor of the memorial. A small Penal Cross found some years back in the vicinity of the rock has now been traced after Peter Hughes (RIP) suggested an appeal in The Irish News.

Ballymacpeake Penal Cross.

Local people have contacted the Committee about memories of the Altar Stone, one of these a man in his nineties recalls his teacher, Master Toner taking him and his class from Ballymacpeake school to the site of the stone. .
The Committee would be grateful for any information or stories about this stone. If anybody has anything of interest to offer then please email me.

Mass Rock Inscription stone arrives. (22nd April 2000)

The Mass Rock Inscription stone was put in place by John Joe McNally and Donal McAtamney. The text was inscribed by Jim Gaul, monumental sculptor, Portglenone, Co Antrim. The day was fine and sunny after a particularly inclement week of typical Irish spring weather

Donal and John Joe survey the results of a good day's work. A small holy water font has also been placed next to the Mass Rock.

Mass Rock Tablet is placed.


During the existence of the Penal laws, the notion of building such a thing as a chapel for Catholic worship, would have consigned those who could dream of, much less attempt such a project, either to transportation or death. Within my own memory there was nothing in existence for the Catholics for the worship of God except the mere altar, covered with a little open roof to protect the priests from the rain, which it was incapable of doing. The altar was about two feet in depth, and the open shed which covered not more than three, so that when the wind rain or snow blew from a particular direction the officiating clergyman had nothing to cover him or protect him from the elements. In my early life such 'altars' were the only substitutes for chapels in my native parish, which is one of the largest in the diocese. There was always a plot of green sward allowed to be annexed to the altar, on which the congregation could kneel; and as these plots and little altars were always on the roadside, they presented themselves very strange and egnimatical to such as did not understand their meaning, for the following reason. During the winter months and wet weather in general, those of both sexes who attended worship were obliged to bring with them small trusses of either hay or straw on which to kneel ... Indeed, I must say that during the winter months the worship of God was in one sense a very trying ceremony. These small trusses were always left on the place of worship, lying within a foot of each other, and as I said presented an unintelligible sight to any person ignorant of the custom. The places of Roman Catholic worship, therefore, were very properly called altars, as it would have been impossible to apply any other term to them.

Extract from the autobiography of William Carelton, Ireland, (1794 - 1869)

Mass Rock Recovery.
Mass Rock Tasks.

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