Loughatorick Mass Rock


From the mass at the rock 2000 (provided by Margaret Hickey)

Loughatorick Mass Rock is situated about six miles from Woodford.  The Mass Rock was the original Altar Stone in a Penal Church the outline of which can still be seen at this site.

The Penal Laws were enforced in Ireland in the early 1700's in contradiction to the Tready of Limerick in 1691.  The aim of these laws was to keep Catholics in a state of subjection.  At the time Catholic property was confiscated and priests and religious were forced into hiding.  A Catholic could face imprisonment if they failed to state when they had attended Mass.  The ban on religious ceremonies and the destruction of churches meant that Catholics gathered in out of the way places to hear Mass.  Throughout Ireland Mass Rocks are to be found - large stones with flat surfaces used as altars.

The church in Loughatorick was at that time in the parish of Ballinakill.  Built of stone with a thatch roof and more than likely a mud floor its high location and south facing door made it possible for people to see the enemy approaching.  The congregation would disperse and the priest could be spirited away to avoid arrest.

Local people believe that the priests vestments were stored in Fergus Kavanaghs house in a secret cubbyhole in the chimney.  A Mr. Fahy of Loughatorick (granduncle of Michael Fahy and the late Mary Hickey) told Fr. James Shiel PP that he once served Mass in this church.  Local families also  remembered the remains of the church when the walls were still up and the thatch had begun to fall.  In Marian Year 1954 the Mass Rock was placed at the Bay in Woodford where it remains to this day.

In 1980 Fr James Hickey SMA (a native of Loughatorick) and Fr Paschal Donohue CC (Woodford)  encouraged the local people to re-awaken the tradition of celebrating Mass at this site.  Since then on the Feast of the Assumption August 15th Mass is celebrated here.  It is a very special day for people in the locality whose ancestors attended mass here.  This is borne out every year by the big congregation and the presence of many people with local connections that come to celebrate Mass.

To mark the new Millennium in the year 2000 people in the Loughatorick area improved access/parking to the Mass Rock while still maintaining the site of the church in its original state.  This work was carried out with assistance from all the community under the guidance of Fr. P Naughten PP Woodford.  On the 15th August 2000 Mass goers walked the last mile to the site from the Woodford direction where they were met by people coming from Ballinakill who also walked the last mile with their priest Fr. Brendan Lawless PP to celebrate Mass there.

Many people continue to visit this site - a very important historic part of our heritage.

"I'm proud that I am mountain bred
This is my native place
These mountains glens have ever been
the stronghold of our race.
Twas here our fathers carved the right
To bear the name of men.
When they kept the faith for Ireland
By the Mass Rock in the Glen"
taken from the song 'The Mass Rock in the Glen'


Loughatorick Mass Rock is sited on the ruins of a former Penal Chapel. The outline of the chapel can be identified on the ground. A Mass Rock was erected there possibly using the original altar stone from the Penal Chapel. This stone was moved to Woodford Village in 1954 and placed beneath a Marian Shrine erected near ‘The Bay’ for the Marian Year. The local community in Loughatorick restored the Mass Rock and replaced the altar with a slab of sandstone from the locality. Mass is celebrated here each year.

Christy Cunniffe