By Michael Kearney, (Leixlip and formally of Inchigeela).

The Mass Rock on the South Lake Road about a mile from Inchigeela is well known by most people in the Parish, and indeed by many outside of it.

What is not well known though, even by most locals, is that there is another Mass Rock Site on the same stretch of Road about a mile and a half to the West.

This can be found in the Townland of Coornahahilly, beside the Road as it makes it's way close to the Lake.

The surrounding land was once owned and farmed by the Kearneys who lived here for nearly 200 years. My Father, Batt Kearney, was the last of the line to work the land there. He gave up farming completely, and moved to Cork City in 1963 with his family, for a new and different life.

I was nine years of age at the time we left, however I can clearly remember being told by him on different occasions about the Mass Rock on the land as he worked close by to it.
The site of the Mass Rock even then had been planted with trees. This was before the farm was sold to the Land Commission. The good land near the road and the Lake,
along with land close to the farmhouse was in turn sold to some of the neighbours. The remainder was planted.

The present owner of the fields adjacent to the Mass Rock site is William Dan Kelleher, who has spoken to me on a number of occasions about this place. He has related to me much information about the site, which was in agreement with what had been told to me by my Father.

Another neighbour - Johnny Twomey of Gortaknocane - who is now 85 years old, and a mine of information about local History, has told me details of the site of which I was unaware.

Heading west towards Ballingeary, the Mass Rock site is on the left hand side of the Road. Past the entrance to Denis Jack Lucey's farm, the road goes downhill, and then levels out.
About a hundred metres further west, the Road begins to rise. Here on the left hand side is a gate, which was once the entrance to the Kearney Farm. The road continues to rise for about forty metres, and then levels out. Here on the left is a large outcrop of Rock covered in Trees. Behind this is the Mass Rock site.

The Altar howeverno longer exists.


What Johnny Twomey has related to me, was told to him by my Grand Uncle, Jim Kearney, who was a mason, and a bachelor who lived in Coornahahilly.

About eighty years ago, a quantity of stone was removed from around the Altar and broken up for use on the road. It is unclear as to whether the Altar was standing at the time, or whether it was in a collapsed state. Johnny thinks that it is possible that the Altar collapsed while the stone was being removed from around it. In any case the Altar stones were removed, and broken up.

Permission had been given by my Grand Father, Mike Kearney, for the removal of the Stone for the road. It is not clear if this included permission for the removal of the Altar stones.

According to William Dan Kelleher, the Altar was located under a rectangular area of rock, sticking out from the South side of the aforementioned large outcrop of Rock.
This meant that it was hidden from the Road, and yet close to it for easy access.
I have obtained and read with great interest most of the Ballingeary Cumann Staire Journals, but one article in particular, in one of the issues put me on the road to writing the one that you are now reading. It referred to the names given to fields, especially those in Irish, which are common in this parish, and elsewhere. The article referred to fields that were associated with Mass Rocks. They were usually called Pairc an Aifreann, or Clais an Aifreann.

This really struck a chord with me, as it reminded me of facts, with which I was once familiar, but had long since forgotten.

I was aware that the area around the Mass Rock site was called Carraig An Aifreann. My Father always referred to it by that name. Many of the fields on what was once our land also had names, and I was reminded of these by Johnny Twomey. During my time in Coornahahilly, there were three fields on the same side of the Road as the Mass Rock site.
The dividing hedges were subsequently removed, so that now it is one big field. The original field next to the River was called Pairc An Atha, and the next one was Moinin Mor.
The third field was beside the Mass Rock site, and it was called - guess what? - Clais an Aifreann.

Obviously this is a place that was once used for religious worship, but the passage of time, and of the generations has meant that it has been almost lost in the memory of the local inhabitants.

It makes one wonder how much local history and knowledge as been lost, and is still being lost today, because no written or taped account is kept of the vast reservoir of information which elderly people so frequently have.

Too often when these people die, so much information dies with them, and I believe that we are all the poorer for it.

That is why it is so important that a forum like the Cumann Staire is available to the people of the Parish, as it gives the people themselves an opportunity to put down in writing for posterity any information that they have concerning local history, and indeed local characters.

When one thinks about it, the possibilities are endless.